My friends all reacted similarly when I decided to visit Scotland yet ignore such notable spots as Edinburgh and the Highlands: Glasgow! Why?
Why? Because I'm a fan of internationally renowned architect, artist, and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), the Glaswegian native largely responsible for the so-called "Glasgow Style."
At least a dozen buildings in and around Glasgow are either original Mackintosh or Mackintosh influenced, and spending several leisurely day-outings visiting them is just my kind of holiday. That's why I decided not to purchase the ticket for the Mackintosh Trail (£ 10), which would have allowed me to visit any or all of a dozen sites in one day.
Several Mackintosh sites were on the Doors Open list, so I saved them for the Doors Open weekend, which gratuitously coincided with my visit.
Doors Open Days is an annual celebration of heritage held in September when buildings of historic and architectural interest are open to the public on specified days free of charge. Glasgow had its first Doors Open in 1990, and it soon spread to other European countries, Canada, and the USA.
It was easy enough getting around on Glasgow's good bus and subway systems, and I got plenty of exercise walking from transportation stops to and from sites.
I discovered Mackintosh influences everywhere. His characteristic black squares, stained glass, and roses adorn everything from greeting cards to litter bins and street benches. Some say there's Mackintosh, Mockintosh, then there's Schlockintosh.
A 50-minute train trip to Helensburgh, followed by a mile-long uphill walk brought me to The Hill House, said to be Mackintosh's domestic masterpiece. It was built in 1902 for a Glasgow publisher and is now in the hands of the Scottish National Trust. The house illustrates the wonderful diversity of Mackintosh's talents. The architecture, the furniture, the paintings, the draperies everything in the house is Mackintosh designed.
Helensburgh was a seaside town worth a walk-about, and a fish and chips lunch on a bench by the seafront seemed particularly suited to the setting.
Mackintosh entered the drawings for the House for an Art Lover in a competition in 1901, but it was not built until the original drawings at last inspired its construction in 1989 to 1996. Now the house is a center for graduate study and a venue for special events.
The Mackintosh House, at the University of Glasgow's Hunterian Gallery is a reassembly of the interiors of the terraced house remodeled and lived in by Mackintosh from 1906 to 1914. The campus, the nearby food shops, cafes, charity shops, and restaurants make nearby Byers Road one of the most interesting browsing areas of the city.
The Willow Tearoom (Mackintosh designed several tearooms) is an ideal place to enjoy Sunday brunch while appreciating the Mackintosh furniture and the selection of Mackintosh goods.
Considered Mackintosh's crowning achievement, the Glasgow School of Art is not to be missed. Churches, houses, schools, tearooms, hotels, museum displays after I was fully steeped in Mackintosh, I still had time to see other sides of Glasgow.
I took a bus tour of the city, walked the streets, shopped, climbed hills, visited the Burrill Collection (Glasgow's best known art gallery), and went to Paisley to see the fabrics in its museum.
One rainy day I spent a reflective afternoon at the Scottish National Trust's Tenement House. Built in 1892 and unaltered since, the tenement was inhabited by Miss Agnes Toward from 1911 until she died in 1965. Her home remains as it was when she lived there, an example of the way in which so many ordinary Glaswegians lived. No Mackintosh furnishings here!
I became a fan of Marks and Spencer's food hall. After a day out that included a hearty lunch, I would stop at M&S just before climbing the hill to my Argyll Street hotel and pick up a take-away dinner that I could eat in my room. I became very creative with M&S products, a kettle, and a few dishes and cutlery brought up from the breakfast room. After a day of wonderful but wearying sightseeing, I was happy to spend the evening planning the next day, reading, and watching TV.
No doubt Glasgow has attractions I did not see, but I went with a specific purpose, and it was totally realized. Did Glasgow meet my expectations? Absolutely. The title of one glowing article I read says it nicely: "Glasgow: It Has Style"
Information: Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.
Tourist Information: Visit Scotland Glasgow.