Glasgow the overlooked cultural gem of Scotland

When mentioning tourism in Scotland, capital city Edinburgh features as possibly number one destination and the priority on the list of things to do.

You don’t, however, hear the same clamour to visit Glasgow which tends to be overlooked and has been well and truly overshadowed by its more high-profile neighbour.

Thanks to hosting the Commonwealth Games, however, that may be about to change as the sporting event has provided a world stage to promote the city which it certainly has done. There have even been temperatures hotter than the Med which have helped, though they are the exception rather than the rule as Scotland’s weather is usually cool and inhospitable.

But with temperatures in the high eighties at times, that has certainly been a massive help in showcasing the city in a favourable manner.

I have always preferred Glasgow to Edinburgh as I believe it is the heart and soul of Scotland as well as being rich in culture as proved when it was chosen to be the European City of Culture in 1990. There are jewels like the Burrell Collection of art and also the world renowned Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

And though sport has been predominantly the focus in Glasgow in the last week, it ought not to be overlooked that over 1,000 cultural events have or are taking place.

For once the world-renowned Edinburgh Festival, which is about to start, has been well and truly overlooked by events in Scotland’s second city.

It was back in the mid-eighties when I first visited Glasgow and fell in love with its charm and also its splendid architecture as the merchants, who had made the city so prosperous in the past, has built some masterpieces which tended to be overlooked as the splendours of Edinburgh invariable became centre stage.

Like so many other British cities, Glasgow has also undergone a huge transformation in recent times just as has Liverpool, Manchester and London with the development of Docklands.

Glasgow once offered great contrasts – prosperity and poverty – yet considerable funds have been invested in transforming many of these problem areas.

Scotland’s National Hockey Centre, for example, has been built in the East End which has undergone huge improvements. As one Glaswegian journalist reflected, it was once an area renowned as ‘bandit country’ such was its fearsome reputation.

There is a totally different perspective of the East End today and also the waterfront where some of the world-renowed shipyards were once found. They have disappeared and replaced by attractive residential developments.

The city centre has also been revitalised due to simple things like pedestrianisation of areas such as Buchanan Street which is the cultural heart of the city as street entertainers make a wonderful spectacle when taking a leisurely stroll.

The investment of recent years has also seen the creation of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Clyde Auditorium and SSE Hydro, the main hub for the Commonwealth Games, and a hugely impressive complex with a futuristic design.

One of the great beauties of the Commonwealth Games it that Glasgow used existing stadia as well as building impressive new structures.

Instead of spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a main stadium, they invested a modest £14million to remodel Hampden Park, the national football stadium, as a special track was installed but suspended above ground. It was a gamble as something of this scale had never been attempted before, but has been a resounding success.

The Celtic and Rangers football grounds, both highly impressive stadium, have also been utilised for the opening ceremony and rugby sevens respectively.

But there has been impressive new creations like the Emirates Stadium which includes the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and the sports hall where the badminton is staged.

The mix of old and new has been blended tastefully making Glasgow a city which ought to be on the wish list of places to visit alongside more glamourous European destinations as it has been a somewhat hidden jewel for far too long.