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Glasgow's Architecture

From the heart of the Merchant City to where it all started in the Old Town.

Distance 2.5 miles (4km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 82ft (25m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths City pavements

Landscape City

Suggested map AA Street by Street Glasgow

Start/finish NS 592657

Dog friendliness Not best of walks for dogs

Parking Meters on street bays, multi-story in Sauchiehall Street

Public toilets Queen Street Station

1 From the tourist office in George Square turn left into Queen Street and cross the road to the Gallery of Modern Art. Exit the museum and cross to Ingram Street continuing along past the imposing façade of the Corinthian, formerly the Union Bank now housing the most ornate pub in the city. Turn right into Virginia Place and continue through to Virginia Street.

2 From Virginia Street turn left into Trongate, left into Hutcheson Street then left again, back into Ingram Street. The white square building with the spire opposite here is Hutchesons' Hall built in 1805 on the site of a previous hospice built by George and Thomas Hutcheson. It now belongs to the National Trust for Scotland. Continue along Ingram Street to St David's parish church, more often referred to as the Ramshorn Church because of the legend of St Mungo turning a stolen ram's head into stone on this spot. It is now a theatre facility for Strathclyde University.

3 Continue along Ingram Street then, at the junction, turn left into High Street and proceed uphill to pass Cathedral Square Gardens

4 Next to the gardens is the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, and across the High Street from here is Glasgow's oldest house, Provand's Lordship. Opposite Provand's Lordship is Glasgow Cathedral.

5 From Provand's Lordship turn left into Cathedral Street. Turn left again at the junction with Montrose Street and then right into George Street and back to George Square. Finish the walk by having a look at the rich ornamentation of the

The walk begins in the dignified George Square, an apt introduction to the confident architecture of the Victoria era. The City Chambers, which dominates one end of the square, were built by the Victorian city fathers as a symbol of Glasgow's wealth and prosperity. Still the municipal headquarters, its exotic marble interior often moonlights as a film location.

The buildings of the Merchant City were built from the profits from the tobacco and sugar trade, and the finest of them, on Queen Street, now houses the Gallery of Modern Art. The former residence of tobacco lord William Cunninghame. It later became the Royal Exchange.

The theme continues on Virginia Street At No 51 is Virginia Court where the tobacco merchants were based from 1817. Later it became the home of Jacobean Corsetry and although that company has long since departed their sign has been preserved on the wall. Nos 32-35 were the former Tobacco Exchange then the Sugar Exchange, and are now being converted to apartments. Running parallel to this street is Miller Street where at No 42 is the Tobacco Merchants House, built in 1775, recently renovated and now housing offices.

Glasgow Cathedral dates from an earlier era, a medieval building occupying a site of previous places of worship dating back to the founding of Glasgow, when St Mungo first established his cell beside the Molendinar Burn in the 6th century ad. A fine example of medieval Scottish architecture, it is the only mainland cathedral to have emerged intact from the Reformation. Deep within the building, which is more ornate than its stark exterior would suggest, is the tomb of St Mungo surrounded by four columns supporting fan vaulting. High on a hill behind the cathedral a statue of John Knox glowers down from his pedestal in Glasgow Necropolis, one of the great 19th-century cemeteries.

Cathedral Square Gardens contains an equestrian statue of William III, dressed as a Roman emperor. This is 'King Billy' the Dutch-born British monarch still revered by members of the Orange Lodge in Scotland and beyond for defeating the forces of the Stuart kings in the 17th century. The tail of the horse is supposed to move in the wind as it has an ingenious ball and socket joint.

Next to the gardens is the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, where Salvador Dali's controversial Christ of St John of the Cross is on display. This painting caused deep consternation among the prudent citizens of Glasgow, when it was purchased in 1952 for the then enormous sum of £8,200. Across the High Street from here is Glasgow's oldest house, Provand's Lordship. Built around 1471 for the priest in charge of the St Nicholas Hospital, it later became the house of the Canon of Barlanark, who was rector of the Lordship of Provan. Throughout its long history the house has had many uses but somehow survived development to become a museum.

Where to eat and drink

Glasgow is the restaurant capital of Scotland and the only difficulty discerning diners have is making a choice. On this walk however its easy, for the Cathedral House Restaurant in Cathedral Square is an absolute gem of a place. French cuisine with a Scottish twist is the order of the day. Try the black pudding salad or the Toulouse sausage on mustard mash.

While you're there

The Lighthouse in Mitchell Lane, near Buchanan Street is one of Europe's largest architecture and design centres and it also contains the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Interpretation Centre. The renovated building, designed by Mackintosh, was previously the home of the Glasgow Herald newspaper.

What to look for

Just north of the Cathedral Precinct is a pedestrian bridge that goes across the busy road to reach a large red sandstone school. This is the Martyrs' Public School, a traditional Glasgow public school but with one important difference. This one was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.


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