Following her visit to Glasgow, Alexandra Bertrand offers an insight into this vibrant city’s museums and art galleries
There’s a lot to see in Scotland’s largest city, with something to suit all tastes and interests. If a cultural break would suit your group, there’s a good selection of internationally acclaimed art galleries and museums to visit — there are nine in total.
To get your bearings on the city, climb the Glasgow Tower from which you can get panoramic views of the city, the river Clyde and the landscapes beyond. It holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world.
Plan your visit, which could be included as a day out alongside the Glasgow Science Centre (with discounts for groups of 10 or more) at www.glasgowsciencecentre.org. Glasgow Tower has a coach drop-off point at the main entrance and has parking for up to 11 coaches.
The Gallery of Modern Art at Royal Exchange Square in the city centre is famed for being the most visited gallery in Scotland. It’s the main gallery of contemporary art in Glasgow and comprises five separate levels with a café located on the ground floor.
The top floor houses the studio where various classes and are events are held. The gallery is open daily and guided tours can be arranged. See the website for details of forthcoming exhibitions – www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/GoMA. When I visited, a screening of artist Phil Collins’ film Tomorrow Is Always Too Long was available to watch in the Exhibition Hall. The film is a modern-day symphony and musical love letter to Glasgow in which visitors learnt about the artist’s influences and how he created the pieces that are exhibited in the gallery.
Currently showing is The Ballet of the Palette, an exhibition of 20th century paintings from Glasgow Museum’s collection chosen by contemporary artists. The Ballet of the Palette is scheduled to run until January 24 2016. Another exhibition – Ripples on the Pond – has been created as a conversation between works on paper by women and moving image, and is due to run until February 2016.
The Riverside Museum is Scotland’s museum of transport and travel, with over 3,000 objects to see including a variety of trains, trams, boats, cars and bicycles. Full of interactive exhibits, it has a designated learning centre that caters for educational groups of all ages. Located at Pointhouse Place, it can be accessed via a free ferry from Govan during the school summer holidays. Groups are welcomed and guided tours are available (groups of seven-plus must book at least six weeks in advance). There’s a coach drop-off point and designated parking for tour operators and schools. Refreshments can be taken at a coffee shop or café in the museum or there’s a picnic area outside.
Moored in front of the Riverside Museum is The Tall Ship – the UK’s only floating Clyde-built sailing ship. Here, you can explore The Glenlee and learn about the maritime history of the area, along with maritime-themed events and activities staged on board. Groups must book their visit in advance and there’s a small charge of £2 each for groups of eight or more. For details, including information on guided tours, visit the website www.thetallship.com or call the Learning and Access Officer on 0141 330 9077.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has a vast collection of art and artefacts, making it a hugely popular attraction in Glasgow — and the most visited museum in the UK outside of London. It is located in Argyle Street in the West End of the city, just 15-minutes walk from the Riverside Museum.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum boasts around 8,000 objects and 22 themed galleries which include one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world, a vast natural history collection and artworks by the Old Masters, French Impressionists and the Glasgow School. There is something of interest to all ages, including young children. They even have a real Spitfire aircraft. A Century of Style Costume And Colour 1800-1899 is being staged until February 14, 2016. It showcases rarely seen examples of women’s wear, men’s wear and children’s clothing, and considers how they were made with information about who wore them. Entrance to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is free, although there are fees for specific exhibitions. For more information and to book a tour visit www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/kelvingrove.
The Lighthouse – formerly the Glasgow Herald building – offers fantastic views of the surrounding area. It is Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture and houses regularly changing exhibitions as well as a permanent collection, including the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre. An informative 40-minute tour provides an insight into specific design and architectural features of the building, which was Charles Rennie Macintosh’s first public commission. Tours run throughout the week and must be booked ahead. For more information visit www.thelighthouse.co.uk or call 0141 276 5365.
The Glasgow School of Art holds the Charles Rennie Mackintosh exhibition, which includes one of his most famous furniture designs — the Willow Tree Chair. Explore the galleries and the historic school itself on a selection of guided tours conducted by students or recent graduates daily, departing in the morning or evening. Unfortunately due to a fire, part of the building is currently being rebuilt and won’t reopen to the public until 2018. For more information on visiting see www.gsa.ac.uk/visit-gsa.
Glasgow boasts a couple of smart shopping centres, including the Buchanan Galleries with its 80 shops, but if museums or shopping malls don’t float your boat, scenic spots include parks to relax and walk in — Kelvingrove Park (home to the above museum), Glasgow Botanic Gardens with its glasshouses and Glasgow Green in the East End with the People’s Palace museum. The centre of the city has plenty of entertainment value for visiting groups — there are three different theatres where you can see local and touring shows. The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall is home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. For details on upcoming shows, visit www.glasgowconcerthalls.com/glasgow-royal-concert-hall.
Glasgow is easily accessible by motorway, train and by air. Once in the city, it is easy to get around. Many attractions are within walking distance, or you could take a bus or underground train on the Glasgow Subway. The website – www.glasgowlife.org.uk – offers a wealth of visitor information about the city and its attractions, as does www.visitscotland.com.