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Tom Shields

Author chooses his top 11 must-visit places from his book

February 05, 2020

Glaswegian author and journalist Tom Shields uncovers hidden gems and brings new takes on well-known places in '111 Places in Glasgow That You Shouldn’t Miss'. Tom has chosen 11 of his favourite entries to share with us.

1. The Arboretum

Flowerbeds in bloom sit in front of the domed glass-panelled Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens.

The Arboretum is a quiet corner of the Botanic Gardens where most of the top 20 trees in the Botanic’s tree trail can be found. The collection of trees from all over the world were gathered by plant hunters over the past two centuries. Find out more about the tree trail at

"Seek out the small but perfect Paperbark Maple. Of Chinese origin, its name comes from its coppery-cinnamon bark, which peels into translucent swirls."

2. Cup Tea Lounge

The city centre based Cup Tea Lounge, known for its yummy afternoon tea, features a stunning Victorian tiled interior. Designed in 1888, the building includes tiled walls and pillared archways, which were hidden behind plasterboard for decades. Visit Cup Tea Lounge's website to book a table.

"One of the city’s most glorious tiled interiors can be studied at your leisure, for the price of a pot of one of their 48 varieties of tea."

3. The British Film Institute (BFI) Mediatheque

A close up of a circular stone building with a silver sign saying Olympia

The only BFI Mediatheque in Scotland is housed in the former Olympia cinema in Bridgeton in the east of the city. Devoted to all things film and video, the extensive archives, including the Scottish Reels, which celebrate over a century of Scottish culture on film, are well worth exploring and cannot be found online. For opening hours, visit Bridgeton Library website.

"Put on the headphones, select your film, and you are in your own private movie world."

4. The Glasgow Police Museum

Image Credit: Glasgow Police Museum

The free-to-visit Glasgow Police Museum (winner of the 'Best Day Out Award' at The Glasgow Awards 2019) tells the story of the UK’s oldest police force – Glasgow’s police force predates the London Metropolitan by 29 years! Visit

"This fascinating collection of artefacts from over 200 years of police history was put together by former police officers, who also take turns to be on duty, imparting information to visitors."

5. St Nicholas Garden

Image Credit: CSG CIC Glasgow

St Nicholas Garden can be found within the oldest part of the city, beside the Provand’s Lordship. The name comes from a former 15th century hospital on the site, with the garden servings as an oasis of serenity. Visit Glasgow Life's website for details on Provand's Lordship.

“Its imaginative design and use of materials make it evocative of medieval times without descending into pastiche.”

6. The Mitchell Library

Image Credit: CSG CIC Glasgow Museums

The Mitchell Library is one of Europe's largest public libraries, with a brilliant collection housed in a beautiful building. There is a special collection dedicated to Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns, which includes over 5,000 items. Find out opening hours for the Mitchell Library at Glasgow Life's website.

"Visitors can, for instance, read the words of Auld Lang Syne in the poet’s own handwriting while gazing, should they wish, at a cast of his skull."

7. The National Piping Centre

Set within a beautifully converted old church, The National Piping Centre celebrates Scotland’s national instrument - the bagpipes. Be inspired by seeing Bonnie Prince Charlie’s very own set of pipes and book a place on the Meet the Piper Tour to try your hand at playing this difficult to master instrument. Visit

"The building’s conversion to the home of piping was celebrated with three new stained glass windows, which reflect in visual terms the history, beauty and complexity of the Piobaireachd, a classical form of bagpipe music unique to Scotland."

8. Fairfield Heritage

A red sandstone building with rectangle windows.

Image Credit:

For over half a century, the River Clyde was the undisputed centre of world shipbuilding. Fairfield Heritage tells the story of Scottish engineers, innovators and local shipyard workers, known for their humour and hard-work, who launched 30,000 ships on the River Clyde. Visit for opening times.

"In the early 1900s, Glasgow's nearly 50 shipyards made one-fifth of the world’s entire annual output. At the heart of this great industry was Fairfield in Govan."

9. Buffalo Bill Statue

Image Credit: Discover Glasgow

Discover a little-known and unsavoury history in Dennistoun. A statue of Buffalo Bill (Whitehill Street), sitting astride a bucking bronco, stands as a marker of the time when Native Americans ended up performing in Dennistoun for 3 months as part of the Buffalo Bill Wild West show in 1891.

"Kicking Bear {part of the tribe that fought the battle of Wounded Knee} ended up in Dennistoun, suffering the indignity of performing his tribal dances in a circus setting."

10. University of Glasgow Cloisters

The University of Glasgow’s main building is a stunning example of gothic architecture, with the atmospheric undercroft beneath the Bute Hall, known as the Cloisters. It’s no wonder that this building was rumoured to be the inspiration behind Hogwarts. For self-guided tours of the Cloisters visit

"The newly graduated gather under its archways of fluted columns and ribbed vaults to celebrate with a glass of something fizzy."

11. Caledonia Road Church

The exterior of Caledonia Road Church

The Victorian architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson has left his mark across Glasgow, with his Greek and Egyptian inspired architecture found in rows of tenements, suburban villas and 3 churches. Unfortunately, the interior of Caledonia Road Church can no longer be accessed by the public, yet it remains standing as a fitting reminder of his classical style.

"Glasgow's most elegant ruin."

You can purchase a copy of Tom Shield’s '111 Places in Glasgow That You Shouldn’t Miss' in many local gift shops. For more ideas of places to visit in Glasgow check out our Glasgow for first time visitors page.
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