September 27, 2015

A Weekend in Scotland

After I finished all my stuff on Friday, I packed a small backpack and went to the northern United Kingdom. Because nothing will ever happen when one just sits at home, that’s why…

Well, the real reason for this trip was to check out the universities of Stirling and Glasgow, as I am considering Scotland as a possible place to move into. So I took a late-night bus from London, and after a crumpled night, I arrived in Stirling the next morning. Just in time to get on the campus, register and join the program.

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Once I finished, it was already four in the afternoon, so I had to rush to catch my next plan: check out a local landmark, the Wallace National monument. Have you seen Gibson’s Braveheart? Yes, “that” Wallace.

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It is a 67 meters (220 ft) tall sandstone tower, built in 1869. I got there just in time before their closing time, which made me happy, for sure. The tower has three stories of an exhibition that shows the W. Wallace story and a bit of other Scottish heritage. However, as the monument was about to close in just 20 minutes, I skipped the display and just ran up around 250 steps to the crown, an observation deck on the top.

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Since the tower is situated on the top of a hill already, there is a sweet view from up there on Stirling, the Ochil Hills range, and the Loch Lomond/The Trossachs National Park in the background.

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Oh, the view on the Scottish landscape was very appealing to me. I can totally see purposefully losing myself somewhere amid the countryside like this. Surrounded in the morning fog, waiting on the sunrise on the top of a seemingly inhospitable peak with all civilization left far behind, and then possibly bike my way down on forgotten goat paths… sounds like a plan!

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Click to enlarge.

From the tower, I walked towards Stirling’s downtown, where I planned to spend the night.

Sure, I could take a bus, but why when I could choose trails like this.

Sure, I could take a bus, but why when I could choose trails like this.

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In Stirling…

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…I went to a local hostel to book me a night. With hostels, it is a hit or miss situation: one is a great, clean place while the second is a dump with rats and crap (looking at you, St Louis!). Thankfully, the Stirling hostel was the first option, and I met a bunch of nice people there. It is sort of easy to make friends in hostels, as everyone is “on the same boat” –comfortable with traveling and strangers. After listening to some cool stories (there’s never deprivation of those when your peers are from Canada, Mexico, Germany, Slovenia, Poland, Italy, and I’m sure I forgot some..) I played chess for the first time in three or so years, and we had fun until late hours.

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The next morning, I left to the local train station…

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…took the last look on the hills..

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..and boarded a train to Glasgow.

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I opted to explore pieces of the Scotland’s largest and the third-largest city in the UK, and while on the train, I put together a list of some spots I’d like to check out. The first point of interest I set off to see as soon as I’ve arrived was a bit unusual: The Necropolis.

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The necropolis, a massive Victorian cemetery.

It is totally the best cemetery I’ve seen in a long while. - Kind of an odd sentence, but what can you do. It is very atmospheric place...

Unfortunately, after some walking around, I met groups of shouting Germans and Asians taking a selfie in front of every stone, which took away the genius loci. It would be interesting to visit this during the early morning to catch misty, soft light, and nobody around. I had better things to do than to be bothered with anybody, so I left to see the Glasgow Cathedral, a Gothic temple dedicated in 1136.

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..And what a magnificent site it is.

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Later I walked towards the city’s center, while enjoyed dozens of interesting views.

People Make Glasgow

People Make Glasgow

In the downtown, I visited the Gallery of Modern Art, situated in an appealing building..

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..and its exposition lived up to the “modern art” standards, with all its pros and cons.

Then, I checked out the Glasgow Central, a cool rail station over 100 years old...DSCF7499

...and booked me another night bus to get me back to London.

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Continuing west, the historic buildings were soon replaced by modern developments.

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it felt so good to walk there!

What a relaxation, exploring a new place, and capturing frames that catch my eyes. I can’t express enough how much I enjoy doing this.

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It didn’t take long, and I entered the Kelvingrove Park…

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…where I took a 30m nap, and was ready to enter the University of Glasgow, another main location of my trip.

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The uni was used by filmmakers who restricted some access; therefore, I saw more lenses of the size of my leg than the splendid campus. This in account, I moved to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum soon:

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I expected just to check out the building’s architecture, but the fact that inside are pieces by names like Dali and Brueghel, I spent there much longer than I anticipated.

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When I got outside, I realized that my next location to visit, the Glasgow Science Centre, is closing in less than an hour. The reason I wanted to go there is that the centre is home to the Glasgow Tower - a place offering a spectacular view of the city. I’ve repeated the situation from the previous day, going to see an observation point and running late. But just as in the previous day, after some sprinting, I made it in time.

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As you can see, it doesn’t look like an ordinary tower - and it isn’t. The 127m (416’8”) structure can rotate 360 degrees, as the whole thing sits on a 65 cm (25.6”) wide bearing. Pretty awesome!

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Nothing else of this height can achieve this feature, so the tower is marked in the Guinness World Records book. And I got to see Glasgow from a bird’s eye. Sweet!

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The Science Centre represents impressive modern architecture, and the surroundings fit nicely to this theme.

However, sharp shapes of concrete and glass are accompanied by reminders of local history, which, in this neighborhood, is purely industrial.

The most recognizable is the Stobcross Crane, which used to lift Glasgow-built steam locomotives onto cargo ships.

It is great that they left it here and didn’t demolish it, as many other cities did with their industrial heritage.

My last goal for the day was to see the Riverside Museum, a building by one of my favorite contemporary architects: Zaha Hadid.

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It is on the opposite shore of the river than where I was, but as there are ferries operating across, I planned to take one to get there. However, I missed the last one, so I had to walk a couple of miles further and cross the river by the Clyde Tunnel.

Well, technically, I didn’t have to. Later I found out that I could simply take a subway to get there. That’s what you get for not doing proper research of a location before the trip..
At least, the diversion wasn’t dull; there was always something to look at.

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Once I got from the tunnel on the other side of the river, it was raining. But that didn’t prevent me to truly enjoy the museum’s building, although just from the outside.

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From there, I headed back to the bus station. The rain was still going on, but on the positive note, soaked, reflection-filled streets were cool to look at.

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The darker it was, the heavier the rain was. Still, I had a blast.

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I boarded a bus, and after a couple of hours, I got back to London. See you soon, Scotland!


Edit, 11/2015: I made another trip up there already. Click for Edinburgh and Dundee.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories

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