Glasgow and Edinburgh travel report
Brewster Scholarship Travel Report – Beatriz Moreno Garcia
On July 2018, I travelled to Scotland to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Wednesday, 25 July
We departed Oxford on the 9.39 train towards Glasgow Central, changing trains at Birmingham. Once settled in our accommodation, close to the Kelvingrove Park, we started our adventures in Scotland walking to the city centre. Our initial excitement lowered down when we arrived at the Glasgow School of Arts to find that it was closed for construction, probably due to the recent fire in the nearby iconic Mackintosh Building. However, we made the most of the sunny day and explored the main streets of Glasgow before dinner, amused to meet a group of Morris dancers on our way.
Thursday, 26 July
Second day in Glasgow. We were off to an early start towards the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Since it was still too early to visit the museum, we took a stroll through the Kelvingrove Park and arrived at the University of Glasgow. This was a delightful discovery, not included in our initial plans but nice to visit, mainly the West Quad. Once at the museum, we particularly enjoyed the Scottish Colourists Gallery and especially Samuel Peploe’s work. Knowledgeable about Salvador Dali, we found Christ of St. John of the Cross impressive for the depiction of the crucifixion from such a contrasting angle.
After lunch, we followed a route towards Merchant City with a few stops from which we would highlight George Square, full of life and activity. We visited St. Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art. This is a small museum dedicated to the importance and evolution of religions, in which I relished an exhibition of the most important religions. It was interactive and informing, assembled with objects and audio-visual aids that showed the most characteristic features and events of each religion. You could feel that each item would tell a story and that the exhibition would in turn narrate the history of human civilisation.
We then visited Glasgow Cathedral, right behind the Museum, from which we would highlight the gothic architecture and stained glass. Just across the road, there is the Glasgow Necropolis, a huge Victorian cemetery that gets you goose bumps once you understand its magnitude and importance in Glasgow’s history. It is also one of the oldest and largest cemeteries in Europe. Definitely worth the stopover for a rest after a day of tourism!
Friday, 27 July
Our last day in the Glasgow area consisted of visiting Loch Lomond, the boundary between Central Scotland and the Highlands. It was warm enough for some hiking. More notably, we cruised the lake with one of the many local cruising companies. This was a wonderful experience, learning about the stunning buildings ashore. We then took the train towards Edinburgh, where we were quickly amazed by its beauty! We had dinner and walked to our accommodation, located 20 minutes away from the city centre, on the way towards Leith.
Saturday 28 July
This was our most touristic day, and by far the rainiest! We spent most of the day at the Royal Mile. The day kicked off with a visit to the emblematic Edinburgh Castle. I was impressed by how well preserved it is and especially the lovely 12th Century chapel – St. Margaret’s. It was still raining and crowded but we followed the Royal Mile a bit further and visited St. Giles cathedral. It is an astonishing building and, as in Glasgow’s cathedral, I particularly enjoyed the beautiful stained glass.
A brief respite in the rain let us have a nice lunchbreak at the Meadows. We then walked towards the Scottish Parliament building and visited the Holyroodhouse Palace. Here I discovered what I would consider as one of the highlights of the trip: the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. This place is truly magical. The lack of ceiling filled the space with light, which makes the grey stones, covered in moss, gorgeous and shiny!
They day was not over yet. Being so close to Arthur’s Seat, we decided to take up the challenge and climb to the top! The climb was hard for the knees but a nice contrast after a full day at the heart of Edinburgh city. The wind was blowing extremely hard as we reached the top so once we had enough of the excellent views we headed back into town for dinner. We went to bed with umpteen images about Scotland’s history and full of bliss after such a complete day at the beautiful Edinburgh.
Sunday 29 July
We had rain for the entire day but still managed to follow our plans! We visited the Scottish National Gallery and were fascinated by Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen. I would totally recommend the visit even if just for that canvas!
In the afternoon, we went to the Royal Botanic Garden and fully explored the site. It is definitely worth visiting, holding around 100,000 plants. The walk around the gardens is lively and the widespread glasshouses offer good shelter from the rain. These were stunning buildings, filled with the most exotic plant species. A delight for a plant scientist!
Monday 30 July
Departure day! It was very sad to leave Scotland behind. We took an early train, non-stop to Oxford. The train travels by the East coast until it reaches Newcastle. This part of the journey was stunning, with the sun shining over the coastal towns. I discovered some places I would like to visit in the future. This train was really a great closure to our trip to Scotland!
Food highlights and other tips
You won’t be surprised to read that we enjoyed haggis, fish and chips, katsu curry, schnitzel, cakes, and (many) donuts… except they were all vegan versions of these classics! We were delighted to find an amazing variety of not only vegan options in regular restaurants but also vegan pubs and cafés. We also discovered jackfruit, a popular Asian fruit that has become widespread as a vegan mock. I would totally recommend Glasgow and Edinburgh for some incredible vegan and vegetarian options! The food was delicious and the accompanying music that usually goes with it in Scottish pubs is a great addition to the meal.
As previous scholars, I would recommend taking the train if you are visiting Glasgow or Edinburgh. The journey is beautiful, especially towards Edinburgh. The Royal Mile was crowded so if I would suggest visiting the main historic sites during the week rather than the weekend if you can.
I would conclude that Edinburgh and Glasgow are great places to visit, each with their own features. Edinburgh is beautiful and full of history, but Glasgow holds many treasures as well. My trip to Scotland this summer was an experience that I will never forget. I am immensely grateful to University College for continuous support and the funding of this trip. I would also like to thank my travelling companion, Juan, for sharing the experience with me and making the trip even more enjoyable.