Glasgow’s Clyde

Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
A few weeks ago, our Sunday afternoon plans fell through so we took a walk down to the Clyde instead. So many times I have walked in other riverside cities and marvelled at what they have made of their waterfronts. Glasgow always seemed to be lagging behind – in fact there were parts of the Clyde Walkway I just wouldn’t have felt safe walking along at one time. Thankfully, in recent years we have been catching up with the rest of the world and the Walkway is a very pleasant stroll. It also allows for a trip down Memory Lane as you shall see.

We started at the old (1870s) Hydraulic Pumping Station on Yorkhill Quay which used to power a swing bridge over the dock entrance. These Victorians really knew how to dress up their industrial buildings! It’s been used as a restaurant recently, hence the much newer conservatory. From here, you can look back to the Riverside Museum and the Tallship Glenlee.

Across the river, on the south side, is the Science Centre flanked by the BBC building, just visible on the left, and the Glasgow Tower which opened in 2001.

Glasgow Science Centre
Glasgow Science Centre
According to the Science Centre website:

Glasgow Tower is the only structure on earth capable of rotating 360 degrees into the prevailing wind and holds the Guinness-World-Record for the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the World. At 127 metres high, the equivalent of over 30 double-decker buses, the Glasgow Tower is the tallest freestanding building in Scotland.

You should be able to take a lift up to the Tower’s viewing platform. However, it has been closed for about 80% of its life because of a succession of structural problems and the fact that it can’t operate if it’s too windy. To be honest, I’m not that keen to try it…..

Near here, two pedestrian bridges cross the Clyde. We took the Millenium Bridge across the river, pausing in the centre to look upstream to Bell’s Bridge (the blue one) and the Clyde Arc, better known in Glasgow as the Squinty Bridge.

Bell's Bridge and Clyde Arc
Bell’s Bridge and Clyde Arc
This is where Memory Lane kicks in. Bell’s Bridge was built as the entrance to the Glasgow Garden Festival of 1988. I have wonderful memories of this – we had season tickets and visited often over the summer. Once the festival was finished, the site lay derelict for years until it slowly re-established itself as a media quarter. Here’s Bell’s Bridge in 1988 (with a bearded John) and a view of the site from the festival’s tower. Bell’s Bridge is visible at top left.

We only walked a little way along the south bank so that we could cross back over at Bell’s Bridge. We got a good view of the Clyde Auditorium (aka Armadillo) on the north bank and saw a poignant memorial to a firefighter.

The BBC Scotland Building is fronted by a sculpture, Poised Array, by Toby Paterson and displays a fabulous reflection of the other side of the river in its glass walls.

In 1988, Bell’s Bridge would never have been quiet enough to get a shot like this! Once again, we stopped in the centre of the bridge, this time to watch jet-skiers tearing downriver.

Back on the north side of the river we came to the Finnieston Crane – you’ve possibly spotted it already in both 1988 and 2016 pictures. It was erected in 1931 to load huge locomotives, a major export and Glasgow’s second most important engineering industry.

A little further on, we reached the North Rotunda. It and its southern companion mark the ends of the Harbour Tunnel built in the 1890s and long since fallen into disuse. The North Rotunda has been a restaurant for as long as I can remember, but the South Rotunda is boarded up. However, during the Garden Festival it served as Nardini’s Ice Cream Parlour.

Across from the Rotunda is a Hilton Garden Inn with a riverside bar. It was a very hot day, so we couldn’t pass that could we? Behind me, you can see the South Rotunda and the STV building. It seems that drinking beer in the sun was a 1988 pastime too!

Just past the Hilton is the Squinty Bridge. We didn’t cross it, but I’ve included this shot so that you can see why it got it’s nickname. I’ve never heard anyone actually calling it the Clyde Arc.

Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
Squinty Bridge (Clyde Arc)
The next bridge down, we most certainly couldn’t cross. The Kingston Bridge carries the M8 over the river. We could stand under it though and admire the mural by Smug (Sam Bates). It’s one of several around the city celebrating the Commonwealth Games of 2014 which were held in Glasgow. There’s also a memorial to another fire disaster.

From the Kingston Bridge we decided to head for home. First we had to negotiate the bridges and walkways across the M8 and the Clydeside Expressway, both very busy roads.

On the other side, we came across this lovely old building, a former savings bank.

We walked past the splendid new Central Gurdwara and the building it replaced…

….before heading home through the greenery of Kelvingrove Park.

Kelvingrove Park
Kelvingrove Park
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Clydeside stroll. The best bit for me has been looking out my 1988 photographs, though my memory failed me in one thing. I thought we had so many – but there are only 55. For the whole summer! We take more than that in a day now: how times have changed. I also went looking for our Glasgow Garden Festival whisky miniature but, unaccountably, that seems to have gone. I did find our Festival Friends lapel pins and this photograph of me hillwalking the following year in my Festival T-shirt (another non-survivor) so I’ll leave you with that while I go off and nurse my serious hair envy. Can you have that for your younger self?

Ben Chabhair 1989
Ben Chabhair 1989
Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

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Dumbarton and the Denny Tank

Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank
Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank

Ever since our visit to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine in March, John has been itching to visit its other site at Dumbarton, the Denny Tank. The book of Clyde walks we’ve been using recently includes a 5 mile circuit of Dumbarton, so it was conceded that we could visit the tank and do the walk at the same time. But, oh look! It says café. So, of course, we had to have lunch before exploring the museum.

William Denny & Brothers’ innovative, experimental approach made waves in the shipbuilding industry from the 1800s to 1963. (Don’t blame me for the terrible pun, that’s from the museum’s website.) They built the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank which you can still see in situ, along with associated workshops.

Ho hum, that bit wasn’t really for me, but when we got upstairs to the offices I was much more interested. I’m not usually into model ships either, but this is none other than the Cutty Sark which was built by Denny & Brothers. The cat’s head is a genuine carving from the ship.

I got really excited by this next bit, though – a Banda machine! If you don’t recognise the name, you might know it as a Ditto machine in North America or Roneo in France and Australia. Bandas were spirit duplicators, and as soon as I saw this I was taken right back to my school days. The pong. The pale purple print. The primitive technology!

Also in the offices were these large boxes – Deacon Boxes – containing graphs from over 300,000 individual ship model experiments carried out in the tank. Honestly, the whole place looked as though the workforce could come back in and get on with the job at any time.

That workforce was strictly demarcated by sex, although Denny was one of the first shipbuilding firms to employ women. The men would be downstairs doing the experiments, the women would be upstairs in the offices working as tracer / analysts. I love finding out about the history of women’s lives and how things have changed. They all look so happy in these pictures.

If you’re still with me after all that, it’s time to get some fresh air. From the museum, we headed down towards Dumbarton Castle on its plug of volcanic rock where the River Leven flows into the Clyde. The riverside path boasted a CD tree and some fairy doors!

From here, we looped back into town to the Municipal Buildings. The archway is all that remains of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, founded in 1453 (although the arch has moved twice since then). The statue is Peter Denny, one of the shipbuilding brothers.

Our route then took us down to the River Leven. From the bridge we got a view of Dumbarton Rock again, this time from its other side.

On the other bank of the Leven we walked through Levengrove Park.

The view to the Rock and Castle was stunning.

Dumbarton Rock and Castle
Dumbarton Rock and Castle

Next, we retraced our steps to the bridge. Some of the boats looked as if they needed some attention…..

Our car was parked near the red sandstone ruin in the gallery above, the last remaining part of the former Inverleven Distillery. We returned home tired but happy after a good mix of culture and exercise.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. This week she has a lovely garden for you, plus her usual international band of cyber-walkers. All welcome!

The Greenock Cut

Greenock Cut
Greenock Cut

The Greenock Cut was built in 1825 to carry water into the town from Loch Thom reservoir. These days a tunnel carries the water supply, and the Cut is part of Clyde Muirshiel Park forming a 6.5 mile circular walk above the Firth of Clyde with spectacular views. First, you look down at Inverkip (for context, the red vessel and Kip Marina are both in the first picture if you enlarge it enough).

The path then passes 23 stone bridges, a couple of workers’ bothies and some drainage equipment (this was explained in more detail by the engineer, but don’t ask me. It’s a bucket with a hole in it, basically.)

As the path meanders over the moorland, there are grand views of the mountains.

The houses of Greenock then come into view. We spent quite a while here looking down and trying to identify where my Grandad used to live – somewhere on the road running up the middle of the first picture I think. My other grandfather used to walk his whippet up here.

More of Greenock –

When the path met a minor road, we turned and climbed upwards to a ridge from where we made our way down to Loch Thom.

At the bottom we discovered a memorial well and benches. Where’s a bench challenge when you need one?

From here, it was a short walk back to the car which we’d left at the Greenock Cut Visitor Centre. We’d hoped to get a coffee there, but it was shut (4pm). However, there is also a little café at Ardgowan Fishery at the other end of the car park which, although basic, is a better bet – we’d had some tasty lentil soup there before we started the walk so we couldn’t complain. In fact, we’d had a lovely afternoon all round.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks where there are lots of goodies as usual.

Bothwell and Blantyre

River Clyde at Bothwell Castle
River Clyde at Bothwell Castle
The 13th century remains of Bothwell Castle are the starting point for this 3.5 circular walk. We’ve visited the castle many times, so didn’t go inside but dropped straight down onto the Clyde Walkway below. We followed the wooded banks until we could see Blantyre on the other side of the river.

Here, we made a detour over the Livingstone Memorial Bridge. What a beautiful house next to it!

Blantyre is the birthplace of David Livingstone – although the David Livingstone Centre wasn’t yet open for the season, we enjoyed the surrounding park and garden. The statue of Livingstone and the Lion is spectacular.

We also liked the fountain, even if it had no water in at the moment, and the giant stone frog in the pond.

Crossing back to the other side of the river we walked through Old Bothwell to Bothwell Bridge, scene of a battle in 1679 between the Covenanters and Charles II’s army (the Covenanters lost). A memorial to them was erected in 1903.

From the memorial, it was a steep climb up the road to the centre of Bothwell after which we definitely deserved lunch – which we ate outside. In Scotland, in March! We were amazed too (though I confess I did feel it a little nippy).

After lunch, we stopped to admire this lovely memorial outside the Parish Church. Joanna Baillie was a renowned poet and dramatist who was born in Bothwell in 1762.

Another garden next. The Gilchrist Garden was donated to the residents of Bothwell in 1940 by Marion Gilchrist who was born in Bothwellpark Farm in 1864. Despite the education of women then being considered a waste of time, she went on to qualify as a doctor becoming the University of Glasgow’s first female graduate in 1894. The memorial sculpture, by Adrian Wiszniewski, was added in 2013. The cut-out shapes represent organisms seen under a microscope, the black represents Marion’s inner strength and the pink her femininity and sensitivity.

Bothwell used to be a mining village, and our final stop was this replica coal hutch which has recently been placed on the way out of town by the local Historical Society to commemorate the miners of Castle Colliery.

Miners Memorial, Bothwell

From here, it was about a mile back to the castle where we had left our car. So – scenery, history and art! I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll through Bothwell which I’m linking to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Elder Park and Govan

Like many major cities, Glasgow has grown by incorporating surrounding towns and villages. Govan was a separate burgh until 1912 – it once had a population of 60,000 when shipbuilding on the Clyde was at its height. Now it is more like 16,000, and is a sadly rundown district of decaying historic buildings and boarded up shops. In the 19th century it was dominated by the Elder family – they lived across the river in Glasgow, but John Elder (1824-1869) was boss of the Fairfield Shipyard in Govan employing 4,000 men. He was known for good worker relations and, after his untimely death, his widow Isabella (1828-1905) carried on his good works. In Govan itself, she provided a park, a library and a hospital and in Glasgow she contributed to the University, including providing a property for the fledgling Queen Margaret College for the education of women. Today’s millionaires, including the shower in the UK cabinet, could learn a lot from such Victorian philanthropists.

Govan is only a few stops on the Subway from us, so yesterday we went over to have a look at Isabella’s legacy. On the way to Elder Park, we passed the Aitken Memorial Fountain, the Pearce Institute and the old Fairfield Shipyard itself.

Although funded by Isabella, Elder Park Library was opened by Andrew Carnegie in 1903 – he later funded several others in Glasgow himself. We could only visit the outside as it was closed for the Easter Weekend.

Elder Park has statues to both John (erected 1888) and Isabella (erected 1906).

Other features of the park include two memorials to shipping disasters, the K13 submarine which sank during trials on the Gareloch in 1917 and the SS Daphne which capsized during her launch in 1883; “The Launch” by George Wylie, a sculpture of the bow of a ship complete with champagne bottle; and the portico of the former mansion-house of the Linthouse Estate.

We used Glasgow City Council’s Elder Park Heritage Trail – if visiting Glasgow, check out the council’s excellent page of this and similar trails. They are usually well illustrated and packed full of historical information – highly recommended.