on August 23, 2010
There are a lot of things that people love about the city of Glasgow – and like many big cities from the industrial age, it has a polarizing effect on the people who visit it. People tend to love or hate Glasgow, and those who love it find favourite haunts on every corner. But which ever category you may fall into in regards to Glasgow, there is one thing that should be taken advantage of and experienced, no matter what your preferences are in travel, and how you end up feeling about this western Scottish city, and that is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Located in a central area, and easy to get to (as easy as anything is to get to in Glasgow, of course. I can not recommend enough that you experience this city by foot, or by bus and avoid driving it if possible. Those who drive it often may not understand just how confounding it can be to a new comer, and even those who are used to driving in Britain and the tiny winding streets with hidden or nonexistent street signs may find Glasgow a bit of a nightmare with it's unfathomable one way systems. It is doable, but I find it completely unduly stressful, and always arrive by bus when I need to visit now, and spend my time in the city on foot.) on Sauchiehall Street, this is a beautiful building, and coincidentally my favourite piece of architecture in the city. Sitting proudly perched on a lone grassy spot near the river and not far from the University buildings and Kelvingrove Park, this astonishing red stone museum is worth making the trip to Glasgow for alone. Because this is being mentioned specifically in view of the Mackintosh Trail in Glasgow as a fundamental piece of that expedition, I’ll talk mostly about that aspect of the museum, but it’s worth noting here that regardless of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, this is quite possibly (probably even) my favourite museum in the world. Certainly to date it is my favourite European museum. If for no other reason, be sure to find your way through the impressive archway and marble floors to escape an inevitable bout of Glasgow rain, as you’re certain to encounter on some part of your stay. This is precisely how I found my way here the first time. Coming to Glasgow for the week to have a look around and see what all the fuss was about with this Mackintosh fellow – I booked a hotel called the Devoncove just a few minutes walk away from the Kelvingrove on Suachiehall Street and set about looking at the local map of ‘Mackintosh’ sights in the city. I had set out on foot preparing to go and explore the architectural works in the area, but very quickly found myself trying to escape a deluge of autumn rain and as it was the closest thing in sight, I ran up to the museum and was soon safely and dryly inside. Possibly my favourite thing about this grand museum is that it is free. There is a suggested donation at the door – which is something I’ve always found very agreeable in museums. I’m happy to offer them some token for their time and the use of their area, but much more so than when the sum is demanded (especially given how pricey many European museums are) The whole place is beautiful, right from the very outset. Grab a free leaflet which explains the lay out of the museum and you are away. I admit, so often in museums, even when I’m quite enjoying them, I find myself meandering to kill time, or looking at things a little longer than I would necessarily like to. But here it was different. I started on this path, walking slowly through the ancient Egyptian exhibit and some of the more recent Glaswegian displays about life in the city – meaning just to kill time until the rain stopped, before it began to dawn on me just how much there was to see here and how little time I had to do it in. This is really a museum to get lost in for a day, and soak up all it has to offer. It has a surprisingly welcoming atmosphere, nowhere does it feel stuffy or formal – children run around the lower floors enjoying the exhibits for them, live music is played out of the pipes on the upper floor in the entrance hall to the museum (I believe at noon) and everywhere people walk around, taking photos and enjoying their favourite part of the museum. As for Mackintosh himself – I highly recommend this as your first stop on the trail – especially if you are not really familiar with his work or his history. The area of the museum dedicated to him inspired me beyond my vague fascination to go out into the city and explore his handy work, and some of the his pieces displayed in the museum are amongst my favourites now anywhere. I could go on indefinitely about this museum – but suffice it to say that if you are on the Mackintosh trail, then make this your first point of call, and if at all possible allow more time to come back and visit again as you may very likely want to. On my week long stay I ended up spending three days just reveling in the Kelvingrove. And if you are just visiting Glasgow for other reasons, still take the time to pay a visit to this absolute gem in the heart of this industrial city.
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