We’re changing hotels in Glasgow today to take advantage of a free night, but before we move, we have time to visit one of the landmark designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The building is known as the Lighthouse. It’s situated in one of those notable red sandstone buildings I mentioned earlier. This building was a commission for the architectural firm for which Mackintosh worked, for a building for the city’s newspaper.
The newspaper printing operations long ago moved to another location and the building eventually came into use as the Centre for Design and Architecture. The entrance is on an alleyway off one of the main streets in central Glasgow.
It is a seven story building (plus the tower height) and the reason it is called the Lighthouse is because it has a tower that provides a singular view of Glasgow, if you’re willing to climb the winding stairs from the third floor to the tower of the observation deck. Mackintosh’s design influences are clearly seen in the building and his influence on architectural design, the Modernist and Art Nouveau design movements and (later) interior design were marked.
The observation deck is a small walkable deck around the top of the tower and provides a 360 degree view of the city if the weather is clear, as it was today. We entered the building as soon as it opened and there were probably only half a dozen people (including us) who had climbed up to the deck when we were there, which is good because that’s about all it would hold.
There’s also a museum on the third floor and, of course, a gift shop on the ground floor. From the vantage point of this view, it’s possible to see the mixture of Victorian architecture and the modern buildings.
From the Lighthouse , we left to return to the hotel to check out and move to our new location, a bit further from central downtown, but located in a more traditional building (rather than the modern structure that was our first hotel). Downtown is hilly in places and the distance from one hotel to the other is about half a mile, but dragging suitcases uphill at times.
We did not expect our room to be ready at noon, but had a short wait before being able to have access to the room, which is very nice and more traditionally furnished. As we entered our room, which sits one level above the street, we heard a loud commotion and looked out to see the climate change protest winding its way past and towards central downtown. It was peaceful (not quiet) and well attended by a broad age range. There were climate change protests across the nation (with 15 just in Scotland) today.
We planned to take a power boat ride down the River Clyde, much as we had done in London going up the Thames. It’s a good ways over to the docks from here so we’re going to take the city bus. We walked downtown to catch a bus. While waiting for our bus, I was struck by how many busses there were! Not only that, but there are multiple bus companies, not one municipal bus line. I think there were at least four different bus companies. We saw a bus for Paisley, but with this traffic, it’s no wonder that the trip would take an hour (vs 10 minutes on the train). Our bus came and about nine stops later on the other side of the River Clyde we exited the bus to go find the boat.
The area where we were is a large development of new office buildings clustered along the river, but the science museum is also out here along with BBC Scotland (in Gaelic Scotland is “Alba“). On the opposite side of the river (the downtown side) is what’s called the IFSD – International Financial Services District (a big growth segment for Glasgow), some large hotels to accompany all those offices and two meeting venues– including the one nicknamed the “Armadillo”
It wasn’t obvious where the dock with our boat was, so we ended up walking completely around the exterior of the Science Museum before finding we’d already walked right past it. We walked past the tower you see in the back. Not sure it was open today but it would provide an amazing view, as it’s 416′ tall.
By the time our appointment for the boat ride came due, there were other people to join us on the RIB (rigid inflatable boat). The River Clyde was hugely important to the growth of Glasgow during the 18th-20th centuries as trade developed and ship building became a major industry. The port would have been where cotton from the US South came in to supply Paisley’s textile industry.
We were given life vests, then all piled into the boat and given our instructions (don’t stand up) and off we went; the boat didn’t hold more than about 8-10 people.
The speed of the boat is of course regulated by the waterways and whether there are other vessels nearby, but except for a few sections where the front of the boat tilted up as we zoomed ahead, it wasn’t really a high speed trip. Unlike the trip down the Thames, there is no battleship, historic bridges or castles, just an industrial waterway. We knew this when booking the trip, but for unknown reasons, at the midpoint of the trip, we dock and go up the walkway to a Krispy Kreme building. Why?? Brits seem big on Krispy Kreme (there’s one in Glasgow Central Train Station), though they are more expensive (1 dozen is £9.95 or $12.40) than in the US. The Krispy Kreme was surrounded on both sides by several large buildings whose purpose I don’t know. The “Hot” sign was on, but the plain glazed doughnut weren’t among them. 😔
We returned to our original departure point in much the same fashion, a paddle wheel ship docked next to the Science Museum.
From here, we’ll catch the return bus back to city center and walk back to the hotel.