Articles - Glasgow Botanic Garden
Though Glasgow is a busy city it’s easy to escape the bustle and find a quiet place to walk where nature thrives.
The Canal tow path of the Forth and Clyde Canal can be accessed from Anniesland Cross or Maryhill Road and many other points along its length. This green corridor stretches across Scotland from Bowling in the west to Edinburgh in the east
Another haven for wildlife near Gartnavel Hospital is Bingham's Pond, or Jury’s Pond as it is probably better known. It can be reached easily from Great Western Road.
Glasgow has long had a reputation as a friendly place. But come November, as dull damp mornings merge into early afternoon darkness, people seem to draw into themselves.
However, in early December, there are occasional mornings when every surface with a coating of frost sparkles in bright sunshine. Such days see a quickening in the streets. The pace continues to pick up, whatever the weather, as we head into the festive season.
The switching on of the Christmas lights is the first notable event drawing large crowds to George Square, in the city centre. To a small child, perhaps being allowed to stay up late, this sudden kaleidoscope of riotous colours in the late evening sky must appear magical.Other youngsters shriek excitedly as they hurtle through the air on the chair-o-plane with its ever changing light show.More sedately, the painted ponies of the carousel move up, down and round in time to the music.
Away from George Square, light spills from decorated shop windows, cafes and restaurants enticing people to venture inside.
On Sauchiehall Street, the bare branches of the trees glitter with points of white light while the impressive displays of lights decorating Buchanan Street, Argyll Street and Exchange Square all add to the cheering glow.
A Sunday afternoon in late November sees Santa’s train moving down Buchanan Street through huge crowds. This time he’s accompanied by his retinue of elves, toy soldiers, dancing dolls and snowmen.
Other events, including Children’s Classic Concerts at the Royal Concert Hall have become Christmas traditions for many families.
The concert goers may arrive to find a band of young musicians playing in the reception area. Some of their audience will sit only a few yards away, on the floor, or stand attentively, listening to the music while parents and grandparents watch from further back.
The actual concert by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is a grand affair. It’s only an hour long but the musicians dress as they would for any other gala occasion, the men in white jackets the women in long dresses. Complete with Santa hats and lots of glitter their enjoyment is obvious when playing from a repertoire that may include the theme from Ski Sunday, Twelve Days of Christmas and the great favourite, the Galop from William Tell. Then the large audience gets a last opportunity to clap in time, wave light sticks, or shake bells as the concert ends.
Should you prefer joining in the daft antics of a pantomime, there’s a choice. ‘Oh yes there is!’
Near the centre of town, the Pavilion Theatre has a production of Pinocchio while Jack & the Beanstalk will be on at the King’s Theatre on Bath Street. As well, there are other pantomimes in smaller venues, such as Cottiers and Webster's Theatre, in other parts of the city.
Glasgow was once known as Cinema City. Back then, there were numerous cinemas where audiences would sit wide eyed watching the film stars of the day. There’s nothing like the same number of cinemas in the city nowadays, but in the run up to Christmas, sit in the dark with a warming glass of wine and the action on the big screen at the Glasgow Film Theatre will be no less magical.
Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in black and white and like most of the audience, you’re sure to shed a tear or two. At the end of the film, you may even be moved to clap or cheer as James Steward’s family and friends rally round to support him in his time of need.
Shopping in Glasgow is now next best to shopping in London’s West End. Wander down Sauchiehall Street and you’ll come to Buchanan Galleries, the shopping mall at the top of Buchanan Street where the John Lewis Store covers three floors. You could spend all day in the Galleries, but further down the street, you may find that exclusive present you’re searching for, in one of the up-market retailers in Princes Square. Then again, you may just want coffee and cake and a seat at one of the terrace cafes from where you can see the fabulous Christmas decorations and listen to one of the choirs of carol singers scheduled to perform here from 1st December until Christmas Eve.
A few doors further down Buchanan Street, the Argyle Arcade built in Parisian style in 1827 sparkles with around 30 jeweller’s shops and diamond merchants.
Near the bottom of Buchanan Street, spend an hour or two in House of Fraser, the “absolutely fabulous” store where you can find Christmas gifts for everyone, yourself included.
Buchanan Street ends at Argyle Street. Cross over the road and take a look at the goods on sale from the wooden, Alpine style huts of the Continental Market. Would someone you know be delighted with a Russian doll or a heavy sweater knitted in Finland?
By now you may be ready to sample French, Italian, or Greek fare in the market, or tempted to try Spanish paella or a German frankfurter.
The Christmas Continental Market is beside St. Enoch Centre, another shopping mall with cafes, restaurants, a toy store and a grotto where a child might wish to visit Santa.
Should you want to leave the crowds behind, stroll further east, passing the designer shops on Ingram Street to the Merchant City, to Merchant Square where the makers at the weekend Craft Fair will happily talk to you about their art work, knitted goods, baby clothes, photography or jewellery. This is another warm, indoor setting where the stalls in the central floor space are surrounded by bars and restaurants.
It’s easy to find your way around Glasgow City Centre. Should you feel in need of a respite from what can be a hectic time, you could make your way, to Glasgow Cathedral on the High Street or St. Andrew’s Cathedral on Clyde Street to spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation by the crib, reminding yourself what Christmas is all about.
If you’re still searching for a gift that’s just a little bit different, take a look in the shop of the Glasgow School of Art.
Only minutes away, a bus or subway will take you near Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery to explore the museum shop. You may arrive in time for the daily organ recital of seasonal music before taking an hour away from the bustle of shopping to admire some of the wonderful paintings on display.
Not far from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Byres Road in the West End has a number of independent retailers and, off the main thoroughfare, a few lanes with arcades and small gift shops. For that person in your life, ‘who has everything’ a jar of Glasgow honey may be the perfect present.
Finally, it’s worth spending a little time in contemplation of nature in the beautiful Botanic Gardens at the top of Byres Road.
First published in The People’s Friend