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Glasgow Harbour's Tall Ship

A pleasant walk by the last of the Clyde-built sailing ships.

Distance 4.8 miles (7.7km)

Minimum time 3hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 98ft (30m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Pavements and footpaths

Landscape Riverside, city blocks, park, botanic gardens

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 342 Glasgow; AA Street by Street

Start/finish NS 569652

Dog friendliness Locals walk dogs on part of route, on lead on busy streets

Parking SECC car park beside Clyde Auditorium (Armadillo)

Public toilets SECC


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) car park go on to the Clyde Walkway and turn right, following signs to Pier 17, The Tall Ship and Museum of Transport (leave the route along here to visit the Glenlee). At the roundabout with the Tall Ship on the left, go over a pedestrian bridge to cross the Clydeside Expressway. Turn left and head west along the pavement beside a derelict building.

2 Follow the footpath when it branches right and goes uphill, eventually coming to a junction. Go right under a railway bridge and continue on the pavement beside a high stone wall. Go right when you get to the next junction and along Old Dumbarton Road ignoring signs pointing both ways to the Kelvin Walkway. Cross the road, go over a bridge and turn left into Bunhouse Road.

3 Pass the Museum of Transport on the right and, at the junction, cross the road via the pedestrian crossing and continue along a lane around Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, through a car park and on to the T-junction with Kelvin Way. Turn left, go over a bridge and go right through a set of green gates on to the Kelvin Walkway.

4 The route is waymarked through Kelvingrove Park. Cross a bridge then pass the memorial to the Highland Light Infantry. Shortly after this there is a large bridge on the left and the path forks. Take the left path next to the river.

5 This eventually goes uphill. Just before the top of the hill look for a narrow path on the left through some bushes, which is easily missed. Go left here and under a bridge. Turn left at the next waymark, go over a bridge and past a café/bar then continue along the walkway.

6 Cross another bridge, go left at a junction, still following the river. Go through a tunnel and then go left across a humpback bridge leading to the Botanic Gardens. Head up the steps to reach the gardens. When the path reaches a three-way junction take the second on the right. Pass the Kibble Palace, turn left and follow this drive to the gates and exit the gardens.

7 Cross Great Western Road at the traffic-lights and walk to the end of Byres Road. Cross Dumbarton Road and take the right fork. Take the second left, go along this street, cross a bridge and continue past a junction to the end of the street and under the railway bridge, turning left to return to the SECC.

When she was towed up the Clyde in 1993 the Glenlee was a sorry-looking sight. Little more than a derelict hulk, she had been saved from destruction by a group of forward-thinking enthusiasts. Today, restored to her former glory, she is an important part of the regeneration of Glasgow's harbour area.

Built in 1896 by Anderson Rodger & Co of Port Glasgow, the three-masted steel barque was one of the last sailing vessels launched on the Clyde. She had a long career as a cargo vessel, circumnavigating the globe four times and sailing over a million nautical miles under a British flag. Towards the end of her cargo career, engines were fitted to help keep her on schedule. Three times she ran aground and once almost caught fire, but on each occasion she was rescued. Then in 1921 she became a sail training ship for the Spanish Navy and remained in use until 1981. She sank at Seville, when her sea cocks were stolen to sell as scrap. With her engines drowned and rusted solid it looked like the end.

The Clyde Maritime Trust received a letter from the Spanish Navy giving the ship's details and history and asking if the Trust would like to collect the Glenlee and save the ship from being broken up. The Trust had very little money but managed to raise enough to purchase, raise her and have her towed back to Scotland. After a short spell in dry dock at Greenock, where an inspection revealed the hull to be sound, the Glenlee was towed up the Clyde to Yorkhill Quay.

For the next six years volunteers and enthusiasts took on the seemingly impossible task of turning the Glenlee back into a sailing ship. The interior cargo holds and accommodation were lovingly re-created. Decking was fitted and Jamie White, a rigging expert from the National Maritime Museum in San Francisco, was called in to restore and reinstall the original rigging. White already looked after the rigging on the Balclutha, another Clyde-built sailing ship so he knew what he was doing. When work was nearly completed in 1999, the Glenlee was towed back down the Clyde to Greenock for the final paint job, known as Gunport when dark patches were painted on the side to look like gun ports. In days gone by this 'deception' was thought to increase the safety of cargo ships. Old photographs of the Glenlee show that she was painted in Gunport at one time.

Fully restored, the Glenlee went on public display for the first time when the Tall Ships Race came to Greenock in 1999. Then it was a last tow up the Clyde to her permanent moorings at Yorkhill Quay.

Where to eat and drink

Take your pick from the riverside café passed on this walk, coffee bars within the SECC, the restaurant in the Italianate pumping house that forms the visitor centre for the Tall Ship, any one of a number of fine restaurants in Byres Road or the famous art deco University Café on the same street.

While you're there

Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery is an exciting place for the whole family to visit and needs at least half a day. Exhibits include period armour dating from medieval Europe to the body armour of a trooper from the Star Wars films, an extensive art collection and quirky exhibits like the Lakota Sioux Ghost Dance Shirt and the skeleton of a horse, once the subject of a court battle.

What to look for

The massive glass Kibble Palace in the heart of the Botanic Gardens was not always here. Built at Coulport on Loch Long by the engineer John Kibble it was originally part of his own garden. In 1873 he gifted it to the Royal Botanic Institution who had it dismantled, shipped up the Clyde and rebuilt at its present site where it houses plants from the temperate zones.


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