The Old Fogies go to Glasgow

Like many grandparents, we have our grandchildren for a period over the summer holidays. Generally we try to take them on a traditional British seaside holiday, however the eldest granddaughter who is ten has decided that beach holidays are ‘boring’.

Looking for places to visit with plenty of variety led us to decide on Glasgow. Although for many, this may not be an obvious choice, we have previous experiences in the city that led us to believe that Glasgow is a family friendly city with plenty of attractive options. Flying from London to Glasgow takes around an hour which provided an easy travel option for the children and reduces our stress levels. A short coach ride from Glasgow delivered us to our hotel with the room that had a pleasant view overlooking the Clyde.

The weather forecast for the week was not too encouraging; however we had plans that included both indoor and outside attractions. One of the great attractions of visiting Glasgow is the large number of options in Glasgow and in the surrounding area. The long sandy beaches of Ayrshire, Edinburgh and Loch Lomond are relatively short train rides away.

Our first day was centred on one of the most popular green spaces in the city, Glasgow Green was given to the people of the 15th century and its wide open expanses have been much-loved by the population of the city since. With a number of parks with Glasgow Green it is well attended by families with children. One of the main buildings on Glasgow Green is the People’s Place which was built as a cultural centre for workers in 1898 and now is a museum which tells the history of the city. Attached to the back of the palace is the Winter Gardens which is a huge conservatory where you can enjoy a food and drink break in very pleasant surroundings.

The next day we decided to take the train to Balloch which is situated near to Loch Lomond, the inexpensive train fare called Kids Go Free illustrated the family friendly ethos of the city where children are often allowed in a number of attractions free if you produce your ticket.

The local boat runs a one hour cruise around the south part of Loch Lomond which allows visitors to enjoy the stunning scenery in relative comfort. The loch is not the only attraction, there is a small area with children rides, a shopping area, cafés and a large Sea Life Aquarium.

The threatened rain finally appeared on our third day but we were prepared to use the day to visit some of the Glasgow’s museums and attractions. Before the rain started in earnest, we walked along the riverside and explained to the children the importance of shipbuilding and trade to the city. Across the river from the BBC Scotland building is the iconic Clyde Auditorium which is locally known as the Armadillo.

Our first stop was at the Glasgow Science Centre which is not a museum but features a large number of exhibits that explain the science of the body and other scientific principles. The centre caters for all age groups with plenty of interactive displays that keep entertained for hours. Near to the centre is a planetarium, an IMAX cinema and Glasgow Tower.

Around a half hour walk away from the Science Centre is the new Riverside Museum in a stunning building designed by Zaha Hadid. Although the museum building is ultra-modern, the exhibits are transport relics of the past.

To finish our museum day, we made our way to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and its eclectic collection.

Our final major visit was to Pollock Country Park which situated around ten minutes by train from the City Centre. The Park is built around the 18th century Pollock House and its attractive gardens, however the park offers a wide range of outside delights with woodland walks, cycle paths, heavy horses and Highland cattle.

Glasgow has a number of interesting locations dotted around the city including Merchant City, West End and the area around the Cathedral.

One of the major pleasures of visiting Glasgow is the people themselves, they create a friendly and genuine atmosphere which permeates all aspects of the city. If you are looking for a family holiday with a difference, Glasgow can offer plenty of options which should appeal to kids of all ages.

A Trip to Pollok Country Park

Pollok Country Park is Glasgow’s largest park and the only Country Park within Glasgow. You can take a train from Glasgow Central Station and arrive at Pollokstown West in around 10 minutes, from the station it is a short walk to the Country Park.

This magnificent park was once part of the Old Pollok estate and was the ancestral home of the Maxwell Family for seven centuries. The parkland and house was gifted to the City of Glasgow in 1966 by the Maxwell Family and since then has become a firm favourite with the people of Glasgow and visitors.

Walking along the main path to Pollok House, visitors can admire the Highland cattle grazing in the fields or enter into the extensive woodland walks.

Behind the house and across the attractive bridge is a field that is home to a number of Shire or Heavy horses.

The Park has been the site of castles dating back to 1160 which have been destroyed over the centuries. The main building in the Park is now Pollok House which was built in 1752 and became the Maxwell family’s main residence. Pollok House is considered one of Glasgow’s most elegant family homes and is surrounded by Walled and Woodland Gardens.

The Walled Garden features mature yew hedges which section the garden into compartments containing seasonal bedding, collections of plants such as Hosta’s, Fuschia’s and herbaceous displays.

The Woodland garden contains many Rhododendron species collected by Sir John Stirling Maxwell who was a Rhododendron breeder and expert.

The Country Park also has a play park, a Countryside Ranger Centre, woodland walks, riverside walks, picnic areas and cycling paths.

Also within the parks grounds you can find the world famous Burrell Art Collection, although it is currently closed for refurbishment.

If you have had enough of Glasgow’s urban delights, in ten minutes you can be in the country with a trip to Pollok Country Park which attracts walkers, joggers, cyclists and families. The numerous attractions provide plenty of interest but most people come to the park to enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside setting.

A Trip to the People’s Palace in Glasgow

The People’s Palace is situated in Glasgow Green, the large park in the east end of Glasgow. The Green is the oldest park in the city being established in the 15th century and has often been the place of demonstrations over the last two hundred years.

It was in the park that the People’s Palace was opened in 1898 by the Earl of Rosebery, the Palace was originally designed as a cultural centre for working people but since the 1940s the building has been used as a museum dedicated to the history of Glasgow.

The museum presents the social history for the city of Glasgow from 1750 to the present day. The collections and displays show how the city has changed over time and how the character of the city has been developed by its industrial past.

The Single End is special gallery that tells the story of housing in Glasgow especially the tenements and how they changed from the 18th to the 20th century. There is a reconstruction which shows a typical single-roomed house that a 1930s working class family would have lived in.

Even if the living conditions were basic, Glaswegians knew how to have a good time with dancing at the Barrowlands Ballroom. The display about the venue shows although music and dancing have changed, it still remains one of Glasgow’s iconic buildings.

In the early 20th Century Public Baths and Wash Houses opened across the where women would bring the weekly washing to clean by hand. It was also a place where women could catch up with friends and gossip. The display shows the small stall space, and shows some of the rudimentary equipment used.

There is also displays about some of the prisons in the city, shopping and some famous Glaswegians including Billy Connolly with his Banana Boots.

At the rear of the People’s Palace is the Winter Gardens which is a huge conservatory full of exotic palms and plants, inside the gardens visitors can enjoy a coffee or lunch at the café.

Just outside of the front of the People’s Palace is the Doulton Fountain which is the 46 feet high and 70 feet across at its base and is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. It was originally gifted to the city in 1888 after the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry by Sir Henry Doulton to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

A trip to Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace will give visitors some insights into how the city’s social history has moulded the character of its population. The displays in the palace provide plenty of evidence of the importance of humour for Glaswegians to deal with some hard and difficult times.

A Cruise on Loch Lomond

One of the benefits of staying in Glasgow is that you have easy access to a number of Scotland’s most famous attractions including Loch Lomond. Visitors can take a 50 minute train ride from the middle of Glasgow to Balloch.

Balloch is on the southern shores of Loch Lomond and considered an important gateway for boats entering Loch Lomond. When you arrive at Balloch station, there is a VisitScotland iCentre (opposite the railway station) and boats for loch cruises leave from the nearby bridge to take the short trip on the River Leven before you enter the loch. If you are waiting for a cruise, you can take the short walk to Loch Lomond Stores which is a large visitor and shopping complex.

When you board the small cruise ship, the loch stretches ahead and you quickly become aware of the stunning scenery in the distance. Dotted around the loch is around thirty islands, one of the largest is Inchmurrin, which is the largest island in a body of freshwater in the British Isles. It is suggested that many of the smaller islands are crannogs, artificial islands built in prehistoric periods.

Just before you enter the loch, visitors see The Maid of the Loch which was the last paddle steamer built in Britain. Built on the Clyde in 1953, she operated on Loch Lomond for 29 years and is now being restored.

Loch Lomond has always been an important place in Scottish history and the old castles were gradually replaced by large well built houses for wealthy industrialists and landowners in the 19th century. More recent additions are two world famous golf courses namely the Loch Lomond Golf Club and The Carrick Golf Club.

Loch Lomond is one of Scotland’s premier boating and watersports venues and the loch includes many kinds of watercraft including kayaks, canoes, windsurfers, jet skis, speedboats, cruisers and there is also a sea plane service that operates from the loch.

When you get back to land, a walk to the nearby Loch Lomond Shores offers wonderful views, shopping and lots of children’s entertainment including a large Sea Life Aquarium.

If your time is limited a trip to Loch Lomond gives you a taste of Scotland’s breathtaking scenery within easy reach of Glasgow. If you want to spend more time around the loch, there are plenty of walking and cycling tours or water based activities.

The Old Fogies go to London Zoo

Although Zoos are not normally our favourite places to go, our youngest grandchild wanted to go to the new attraction called Zoorassic Park. So, with grandchild in tow, off Mr Curmudgeon and I went to see this new experience.

Getting to London Zoo is not the easiest in the world, but walking from Camden Town Tube it is not too bad. On the way, our grandchild constantly sang about going to the Zoo, and the passing people all had a little chuckle to themselves, Mr Curmudgeon raised his eyebrows and his blue eyes twinkled as we all walked towards the zoo.

The admission to the zoo is quite expensive, but as Old Fogies we did get a discount, so once inside the zoo we immediately went to the new attraction. Well what a surprise, not an animal in sight, but a lot of automated dinosaurs. Strolling through the attraction was a real joy, for all of us, and after being transplanted back to the land of the dinosaurs you are then transported into the future, and you are confronted with the bones of animals that are alive now but in 2050 are extinct. This was very well done, and little one got to brush the sand away from some bones, although I am not sure she understood the meaning of it all.

Both Mr Curmudgeon and I are ambivalent about keeping large animals in confined spaces, but it is always wonderful (emotionally) to see such wonderful creatures as Tigers and Lions. Tigers are my absolute favourite cat, and all three of us got some wonderful views and photos of these splendid animals.

Seeing the zoo through our grandchild’s eyes made visiting the zoo a valuable experience, in the aquarium she was fascinated by the different types and sizes of fish, especially the brightly coloured ones, and she obviously associated the clown fish with Finding Nemo.

Andy from the CBeebies TV Show was at the Zoo, and he entertained all the little ones, parents and grandparents with his antics with dinosaurs (these were large puppets with people inside, but the children obviously felt they were real), it was a wonderful half hour of fun entertainment.

Having had some lunch, which was fair value, and a quick ride on the carousel, Mr Curmudgeon, begrudgingly gave us a £5 so I could go on with the grandchild, we went through the tunnel into Africa.

Here are larger animals, I do wonder if this is necessary in today’s world, but the grandchild enjoyed the Giraffes, the Zebras and the lonely pygmy hippo.

Although I did like some elements of the Zoo and I do feel they are trying to give animals a better environment, there is still a lot of work to do, and I would question the need to keep very large animals in such small (in comparison of what they would have in the wild) enclosures. However despite these misgivings, we did have an unusual and enjoyable day.

The Old Fogies go to Canary Wharf

You don’t want to go to Canary Wharf we are told, it is a concrete jungle, but Old Fogies think they must try everything, so off we trotted.

Having exited Canary Wharf Underground Station, we were presented with Reuters Square, and the concrete jungle was there in front of us, well maybe everyone was right. Undaunted Mr Curmudgeon said look some greenery, so turning left and going through a small opening in the hedge we stumble upon a spectacular water garden, a series of raised water beds each with its own small fountain meander along a lovely green space. The first raised bed even has some fish we counted 5 plus one goldfish. There is a large golden ornament, perhaps a flower, stretching over 10 feet in height is also there.

Having wandered through the garden, we exit at the back of the station, and see a long glass building about 100 yards to our left.

Wandering towards the building, on the left is another green space, with restaurants and places to sit. The long glass building turned out to be part of the new Crossrail line, but people are invited to visit the roof garden.

The roof garden, is partially open air, and is another wonderful green space for people to relax in. I expect if you are working in this environment you would want some green space.

Leaving the roof garden, we wandered into the shopping mall, Mr Curmudgeon as usual wants to hurry through the shopping mall, but I did note that there was a Waitrose with a small John Lewis above it, and a series of the usual High Street stores, albeit small ones.

Exiting the shopping mall at Cabot Place, you cross the road and wander into another Square, this one has an impressive fountain, and water features around the sides. There are truly an awful lot of public art around the estate, in the fountain square there is an impressive couple sitting down.

Wandering through towards West India Quay, over the bridge there are a whole row of eateries ranging from traditional Browns to Rum & Sugar. Whilst residing in one of the old warehouses is the Museum of Docklands, this is part of the Museum of London and shows the rise and fall of the Docks in the surrounding area.

Finally, we head towards the river to take the Thames clipper back to central London, again the road is lined with large buildings but at the end there is a small garden square. Mr Curmudgeon did not believe that the grass was real, but it was, and like the rest of the Canary Wharf estate is extremely well maintained.

Crossing the road, there is a splendid view of the City standing proud in the distance, is that another concrete jungle?

Yes, Canary Wharf does have many large buildings, and a lot of concrete however, it is interspersed with a variety of open spaces that are a pleasure to visit. Next time I will come without Mr Curmudgeon so I can spend a little more time browsing the shops and having a lovely drink on the water’s edge.

The Old Fogies look for a good view of St Paul’s and visit the Museum of London

Last Sunday the Old Fogies decided to take a stroll around the St Paul’s area of London, taking in the magnificent building of St Paul’s but also looking for the unusual and quirky aspects of London. We started early, always best as you beat the main tourist times which always result in a better experience.

Arriving at London Bridge Underground station, we walked along the river to the Millennium Bridge, there before us was St Paul’s Cathedral, the view across the bridge towards St Paul’s is one of the better views, although the view from Ludgate Hill is probably the best at ground level.

Walking through the grounds of St Paul’s we decided to visit the Museum of London. The Museum of London is quite well hidden, but by following the signs around St Paul’s you do eventually reach it. The entrance is not really inviting but we ventured forth into the museum to see what the museum has to offer.

You are guided through the museum by dates, starting at the prehistoric remnants of London moving through the Roman period reaching the great Fire and Plague sections. Here you will also can find the London Stone. The Stone has many myths surrounding it and it is claimed to be the oldest stone in the City. It is taking a holiday at the Museum while its home in Cannon Street is undergoing building works. If you are looking for old stones, look out of the window to see one of the few remaining sections of the old London Wall.

Moving downstairs into the Victorian section, the streets of Victorian London are on display with bars, grocers etc, but one of the highlights for us was the recreation of the 18th Century Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, this is the most interactive bit of the museum where you can step inside the Pleasure Gardens and with the aid of a film, feel the atmosphere of Georgian London.

Other notable exhibits are the remarkable 1928 Selfridges department store decorative lift doors, these are stunning, as well as the 1908 London Taxi beside it. The Lord Mayors coach is also a highlight of the museum if it is on display.

Having felt we had done enough, we decided to ride the elevator up to the 6th floor of the nearby Number One Change shopping centre. We are not here for the shopping but an unexpected treat, having bemoaned the lack of a beautiful view of St Paul’s, the elevator ride gives a wonderful framed view, but this was surpassed by the view from the 6th floor terrace. Here is London spread at your feet, and it is free as well. St Paul’s stands front and centre and that elusive photograph can be taken.

Descending to the ground floor, we decided to take a Number 17 bus back to London Bridge station and another treat, never having rode on the top deck of a London Bus over London Bridge it was a complete surprise to enjoy, an unusual view of the Thames, Tower Bridge and beyond.

We sat quite smugly, because being London Old Fogies, we have our bus passes and the ride did not cost us a penny.

A Blooming Nice Time at Columbia Road Flower Market

Flower markets have been a feature of London life for centuries, however in the past fifty years they have sadly declined.

Thankfully you can still get a taste of the delights of such markets by visiting Columbia Road Flower Market in East London which is only open on Sundays.

There has been a Columbia Market since 1869, the original Columbia Road flower market began as a Saturday trading market. It was moved to Sunday, by Act of Parliament, in order to accommodate the local Jewish traders. The market was popular with traders from other flower markets who could sell their leftover stock .

The market declined after the Second World War until the 1960s, however in recent years it has become very popular and becomes very busy later in the day.

The market operates every Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm. Traders arrive in early morning and sell a wide range of plants, bedding plants, shrubs, bulbs and freshly cut flowers at very

The market also has shops selling a variety of goods and there are coffee shops, cafes and the occasional street performers.

You can always tell when you are near the market as people wander past with armfuls of flowers and plants. The narrow streets do get very crowded but the market has an atmosphere all of its own and the flower displays are attractive at any time of the year.

The Strange Story of the London Stone

London has had more than fair share of myths and legends, however the story of the London Stone is one of the most remarkable because of its historical significance and the way that it has been ignored for centuries.

Now in a display at the Museum of London, visitors can see the stone, up close and find out more about its strange history.

The stone is made up of oolitic limestone which is a type first brought to London for building and other purposes in the Roman period, it has been suggested that the stone was placed in front of a Great Roman building or was a central milestone from which distances in the Roman province of Britain were measured. However it was first mentioned in Saxon times as ‘Lundene Stane’ in Old English. Since medieval times, the stone stood towards the southern edge of the medieval Candlewick Street (now Cannon Street) opposite St Swithin’s church.

It is possible the stone was damaged by the Great Fire of 1666, which destroyed all the surrounding buildings. By 1720 the stone was covered by a small stone cupola built over it, and was moved on the north side of the street against the door of the new Wren church of St Swithin. In the 1820s, it was built into the middle of the church’s south wall.

Remarkably, although the Wren church was gutted by bombing in the Second World War, the London Stone survived and remained in place until 1960, when it was moved to the then Guildhall Museum until the church was demolished and a new building (The Bank of China) constructed. In 1962 the Stone was placed in the specially constructed grilled alcove in the wall where it has remained until recently. Now that building is being demolished and it has moved to the Museum of London for safe keeping.

Over the centuries, a number of myths and legends have surrounded the stone, in 1720, John Strype, in his 1720 edition of John Stow’s Survey of London, suggests that the London Stone was ‘an Object, or Monument, of Heathen Worship’ erected by the Druids. This idea was taken up by the poet William Blake.

Where Albion slept beneath the Fatal Tree,
And the Druids’ golden Knife
Rioted in human gore, In Offerings of Human Life…
They groan’d aloud on London Stone,
They groan’d aloud on Tyburn’s Brook…

The London Stone played an important role in 1450, when Jack Cade, leader of the Kentish rebellion against Henry VI, entered London and, striking the London Stone with his sword, claimed to be ‘lord of this city’. Shakespeare recreated the scene in Henry VI Part 2.

By the end of the 18th century, writers began to suggest that the survival of London Stone was crucial to the well-being of London itself. The discovery of an ‘ancient saying’ which suggests ‘So long as the Stone of Brutus is safe, so long will London flourish’ seemed to support this theory. This saying was first mentioned in an article for the periodical Notes and Queries in 1862. The article was written by the Revd Richard Williams Morgan who was a Anglican priest who seems to have invented the saying to put forward his own rather bizarre conspiracy theory that he and many others where descendants of Brutus. In more recent times, the stone has attracted the attention of those who believe in leylines and who suggest that its removal will have dire consequences. The stone has also been featured in a number of urban fantasy novels.

One remarkable aspect of the story of the London Stone is considering its history and legend, it has virtually ignored by everyone, it was only in 1972 that the London Stone was officially Listed (Grade II) as a structure of special historic interest.

If you make the trip to the Museum of London, you will not be impressed by the stone itself but you will be fascinated by the surrounding mythology and how over the centuries it taken on a number of symbolic roles. Interestingly, although no one will say they believe the myths, when the new building is completed in Cannon Street, the stone will be returned and placed in a prominent position.

Taking a wander down Brick Lane

One of our occasional excursions on a Sunday morning is walk down Brick Lane, we often begin at the Columbia Road flower market and then immerse ourselves in the various delights of Brick Lane.

East London has been the location of waves of immigration over the centuries and a walk down the Lane gives plenty of reminders of its diverse past.

Brick Lane gets it names from the brick and tile manufacture in the area that began in the 15th century. Brewing was another industry that came to Brick Lane before 1680, one of the most famous brewers was Joseph Truman whose family to establish the Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane.

In the 17th century, French Huguenots bought their weaving skills to Spitalfields, they were followed by Irish immigrants and Ashkenazi Jews in the 19th century and early 20th century. In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis became the major group of immigrants especially from the Greater Sylhet region. Nicknamed ‘Banglatown’, sections of Brick Lane are known for the numerous curry houses that populate the streets.

So what is so special about Brick Lane on a Sunday? Well it is noisy, busy and chaotic which is always the sign of a good market. Street performers entertain the crowds to enhance the vibrant and lively atmosphere. The street art is some of the best in London, even Banksy has been known to daub his paint on the walls of Brick Lane.

Food from all around the world permeates the air and there are plenty of shops and stores to hunt for those unusual bargains.

The Rough Trade store is great for music lovers, up and coming designers can be found all over market and there is plenty of space to sit down and watch the world go by.

Brick Lane is a place where the past and present combine in a number of fascinating ways and illustrates the way how different waves of immigration create a cultural mix that creates a lasting legacy.