Glasgow in full glory
Lots of cities in the UK like to profess their ‘Irishness’ but Glasgow has to be right up there with places like Birmingham, Manchester and London when it comes to being – at least in part – an Irish home from home.
Glasgow owes much of its Irishness to the mass migration of Irish Catholics during the 19th century who sought a better life in what was then an industrial boom town and two centuries on that influx still has a considerable influence on the character and feel of the city.
Glasgow Celtic FC, arguably Ireland’s biggest football team, is based in the city and the club founded by Irish Catholics in 1888 has now become Scotland’s pre-eminent football club by some considerable distance.
While there’s a not so pleasant side to football sectarianism in Glasgow, Celtic’s success remains something to be celebrated by both its Scottish fans and those spread throughout the Irish diaspora.
And whilst the demise of bitter rivals Rangers was cheered by Celtic fans the reality is that Scottish football is all the poorer without that famous rivalry being re-enacted on a regular basis as Rangers languish in the lower reaches of the league.
A visit to Parkhead to take in a match is one of the highlights for any visitor with Irish connections to the city and even if it’s not an Old Firm derby the atmosphere and passion is something that needs to be experienced first-hand to be fully appreciated.
But there’s a lot more to Glasgow than just football – it’s a buzzing and vibrant city that has plenty to offer visitors looking for a short break and next year it will host the Commonwealth Games.
Although it’s part of the UK Glasgow does have a different feel to cities south of the border, almost continental in a way.
Go back a few decades and it probably had a reputation as a tough and grey place, more gangs and The Gorbals than culture and cappuccinos.
But Glasgow has had something of a rebirth and as Scotland’s culture capital there’s plenty of that in all its forms for the visitor to experience.
Its architectural heritage is impressive, from the grand Gothic style of Glasgow Cathedral to Merchant City, an area filled with 18th and 19th century mercantile buildings anchored by Merchant Square with its array of bars and restaurants.
It’s also a city with an abundance of well-preserved Victorian architecture which enhances its grandeur and character.
Any serious architectural enthusiast will no doubt want to take in some of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
There are a dozen or so buildings designed by one of Glasgow’s most famous sons, including Glasgow School of Art, which really is well worth a visit.
Others include The House for an Art Lover (home of Digital Design Studio), The Willow Tea Rooms and the Lighthouse – now Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture.
Glasgow also boasts quite a collection of landmark new buildings too, such as the Armadillo Concert Hall and Conference Centre, the Science Centre and the Royal Concert Hall.
Perhaps the most spectacular of all is acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum, which contains an array of transport displays spanning a century, as well as painstakingly recreated streets of Glasgow from different historical periods.
Art galleries including the Gallery of Modern Art, the CCA, the Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and The Burrell Collection.
I’ve always wanted to see Salvador Dali’s famous Christ of St John of the Cross painting in Kelvingrove but sadly haven’t made it as yet.
History lovers might also enjoy a trip to Tenement House, which offers an insight into Glasgow life in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Glasgow has a reputation as a top retail destination and is certainly the sort of place where you can shop till you drop and for anyone with any energy left its nightlife is also legendary, from a rich variety of pubs to music venues and nightclubs where you can dance until dawn.
Each year it is the location for the hugely popular Celtic Connections, a winter festival that provides a platform for Celtic music in its many modern forms.
In addition the city is of course famed for its legendary humour and talking of famous sons there’s probably no one better known than comedian Billy Connolly, who is of course descended from Irish Catholic immigrants who made the city their home.
* To find out more about what Glasgow has to offer visit www.peoplemakeglasgow.com.
* One of the easiest and quickest ways to get to Glasgow is via train. Virgin Trains operate services between Birmingham New Street and Glasgow Central. Journey times vary, the quickest being just under four hours, with return fares starting from £54. Services have recently been expanded to offer even more trains. To find out more visit www.virgintrains.co.uk.