It has now been just over three weeks since my arrival in Glasgow and it already feels like home. To top it off, I’ve managed to tour quite a bit of this enchanting city and meet the most wonderful people.
For the first few days after my arrival, I stayed at the EuroHostel. It was located right beside the River Clyde, a waterway that is not just a splendid view from a hotel balcony but an historic and integral part of Glasgow’s development. Traveling alone can be daunting, but Glaswegians (indeed the Scots) have lived up to their reputation as the friendliest, most hospitable people—my initial stay was a delight, close to great eateries, attractions and Glasgow’s vibrant city centre.
Afterwards, I moved into the university accommodation at Strathclyde; a six-bedroom flat I am sharing with other international exchange students—a medley of six nationalities! With time on my side (owing to a much reduced course load), getting the essential to-do items ticked off (opening a bank account, purchasing a phone plan, getting registered with the National Health Service) was simple and straightforward. Things were taking off on a great projectile thanks to our master orientation team who filled us with all the ins and outs of the “Glaswegian way.” And then there is food—that all-important cornerstone of a successful semester! There are plenty of grocery stores within a short walking distance of residence, accommodating most shoppers’ needs. (And yes, that includes a decent pick of organic, vegetarian options.)
The University of Strathclyde is right in the heart of Glasgow’s city centre, I couldn’t have asked for a more serendipitous encounter than happening upon Gary Brown of “Student Tours Scotland,” an inspiring and passionate local tour guide running walks and day-trips across Scotland—the cherry on top being their affordability! The very first one of these was a welcome walk, touring local cafes, eateries, pubs and the historic George Square, housing the monuments dedicated to many important Scottish figures, including Scotland’s “favourite son,” Robert Burns.
“History” is Scotland’s middle name—with the Battlefield Monument and Queen’s Park the highlight of our second walk. For the history buffs, this is where Queen Mary of Scots watched her army lose the 1568 Battle of Langside. An impressive number of well-tended historical structures remain; it truly is surreal facing a centuries old church standing (albeit converted to a bar!). A marvel for photographers, you don’t have to be the history-buff type to appreciate Glasgow’s charm! For a touch of Scotland’s pagan past, a walk to the Sighthill Park Stone Circle was all it took, a recreation of a 3000-year-old Pagan Stone Circle, built to perfect astronomical alignment. The oldest and arguably most picturesque of Glasgow’s many parks is “Glasgow Green,” guarded by the majestic 18th century McLennan Arch; a true beauty. The jewel on the crown being Doulton Fountain, a work of wondrous craftsmanship and the largest ceramic fountain in the world; I wasn’t the only one gawping.
Latest stop: a day-trip to the Trossachs National Park, and its endearing villages of Killin and Callander. The sweet rush of the Falls of Dochart welcomed me to the quaint highland village of Killin, a spectacular location for hiking, fishing, even ski mountaineering—all a 90-minute drive from Glasgow. We ended this magical day with a hike up through the wooded hills to the breathtaking Bracklinn Falls, a series of five stunning cataracts gushing wildly from a week’s worth of rainfall.
There truly is nothing like the richness of a culture and history so proudly exuded by the Scots and their monuments; I hope this post has resonated the pulsating exuberance of my first three weeks in this wonderful country!Add this article to your reading list