Once the thriving hub of the industrial revolution it’s now a celebration of the north’s heritage, an urban playground, a wonder of wildlife, green space and hub of creativity with a community spirit. So what better way to start your visit to this part of the city than on its very own water pathway?
We kick off your journey through the north, just a short walk from the city centre, on the banks of Speirs Wharf, once the bustling industrial heart of the neighbourhood. The buildings here (some of which are in Georgian style) were previously grain mills, warehouses and sugar refineries, and a huge buzz of commercial activity in the 18th and 19th century. It’s now a more tranquil place where you can enjoy some peaceful canal side stroll or a cycle (or even a boat along – if you are enjoying the Scottish Canal routes), great panoramic views of the city and some fantastic food. Right in the corner of one of the 18th century buildings you’ll find Ocho, a cosy, laid back delicatessen where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city to enjoy freshly cooked, locally source food in serene surroundings. In the evening (Thursday-Saturday) Ocho turns into Tomillo, a hip new vegan sit in and takeaway that continues to add to Glasgow’s accolade as 'vegan capital of the UK'. New to the canal restaurant scene and just a stone's throw from the Maryhill lock is The Botany. Developed by a team behind a host of the city’s best-loved institutions, The Botany will deliver comfort food at a high level using locally-sourced ingredients within its restaurant, glasshouse conservatory and outdoor terrace.
It may be the place to escape the buzz of the city but in the summer the canal between Speirs Wharf and Applecross Basin bursts to life when the Glasgow Canal Festival takes place. The inaugural event took place last year and it’ll be returning this summer (August 25, 2018) for another full day of festivities on the canal with street theatre, street food, canoe taster sessions, guided cycle tours, craft workshop, heritage and wildlife tours, live music and a behind the scenes look inside local landmark. As per last year the highlight of the festival will be the Glasgow Canal Festival Dragon Boat race, with racers getting behind the oars and battling to become the Boat Race Champion!
If its urban adventure you’re looking for then this is the neighbourhood, just along the road from Speirs Wharf, on North Canal Bank Street, is Pinkston Watersports also home to Outdoor Pursuits Scotland and the Glasgow Wake Park. Yes, you read correctly, you can do wake boarding, whitewater rafting, river boarding, kayaking, canoeing and even river bugging (with Splash White Water Rafting who are the only providers of this adventure sport in the UK!) all in the heart of the city.
It’s this reputation as an urban playground that has meant the canal has been host to the famous Red Bull Neptune Steps, an open water adventure race, in the spring time for the last few years.
So if you are looking for a city break with some adrenaline filled adventure sports, north Glasgow is a must visit!
After some fun in the water, the adventure doesn’t stop there, you can enjoy some exciting spectating at Glasgow Tigers Speedway. Born in this neighbourhood in 1946 the Tigers Speedway has been in its current home, Peugeot Ashfield Stadium, deemed “one of the best speedway tracks in the UK”, since 1999 and the team have won numerous trophies in recent years.
Whether you’re a Speedway fanatic or this is a sport you’ve never watched before, this is an experience for anyone (especially the whole family) who enjoys watching nail-biting, edge of your seat style live sports. The Speedway season runs from March to October so be sure to check out the fixtures when you’re planning your trip.
In complete contrast and one of the charms of this neighbourhood is that in amongst all the urban adventure you can also immerse yourself in its rich history and heritage. And a great place to learn about the history of the area is with a visit to Maryhill Burgh Halls, a spectacular building right in the centre of the north. This municipal building and public halls first opened in 1878 and was designed by a local architect, Duncan McNaughtan, to resemble a French hotel of that time, a popular style in the 1870s. It has gone through refurbishment and new developments to now become a centre for community activity and pride and is the ideal place for you to learn about the building’s history, and the neighbourhood both through tours and wonderful self-guided walking trails.
Then if you stroll along Maryhill Road you’ll come to Mackintosh Queen’s Cross, one of the city’s hidden architectural gems and an absolute must-see. The only church designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most celebrated architect and designer of the 20th century; this is a magnificent example of his work. Now an arts and heritage venue the building is a wonderful example of his simple yet inspiring design. As Glasgow is the only place in the world with a concentration of his work, a trip to one of his historic venues is a must on any visit to the city and luckily every neighbourhood has a Mackintosh must see. And it’s here in the north!
When this venue wins you over you’ll no doubt want to explore even more Mackintosh and luckily just a 15 minute walk north from Mackintosh Queen’s Cross you’ll find a slightly lesser known hidden gem, Ruchill Free Church Hall. This hall dates from 1899 and is deemed more conservative than some of Mackintosh’s later designs but definitely, a Mackintosh must. It’s still a working congregation but visitors are welcome to pop in, so it’s worth stopping by.
Stood proudly between these Mackintosh gems is Firhill Stadium, a football ground which was previously a rugby and greyhound racing stadium before it became home to Partick Thistle Football Club, affectionately known as The Jags, in 1909. The club is the football pinnacle of this community, so no visit to the north would be complete without going along to a match (for the footie fans amongst you) or at least a stroll past this iconic football ground to cast your eyes on the street art that dons some of the walls around the ground.
On route, there are some great places that are definitely worth stopping by for a bite to eat. Just a stone’s throw away from Mackintosh Queen’s Cross and Firhill is Café D'Jaconelli, a cool, artisan ice cream parlour and cafe that’s been in this neighbourhood since the 1920s, making it a well-loved favourite of the locals, as well as being featured in the cult movie Trainspotting. With its 1950s style and music (from an original jukebox), it’s a great place to immerse yourself in a bygone era with classic café food as well as plenty of ice cream to indulge in. So make sure this is a food pit stop during your visit to the north.
Whilst we’re in the mood for food, another ‘under the radar’ eatery in this neighbourhood is the Black Sheep Bistro, a family run restaurant situated along a cobblestone pathway just off Maryhill Road. A lovely little place that prides itself on fabulous homemade food and a warm welcome. So this neighbourhood really does have a whole range of foodie styles and pit stops to suit your tastes as you spend the day exploring its sights.
The north is mostly definitely a thriving creative hub weaving through from its historical attractions to today’s arts communities, events and talent. And with Glasgow’s well established reputation as a cultural powerhouse, obtaining accolades such as European City of Culture and UNESCO City of Music, it’s no surprise that many of Scotland’s leading cultural organisations have their rehearsal space and headquarters in the city (five out of the six to be exact). Two of them are based in this very neighbourhood – National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera - who are world renowned and critically acclaimed for their work. So the creative arts are entrenched in the north and that’s only further reiterated by the fact that four out of the seven Turner Prize winners that have been based or lived in Glasgow were from the north of the city!
In addition, the north is also home to wonderful collaborative creative spaces such as The Whisky Bond, originally a whisky bonding warehouse (clue’s in the name) for Highland distilleries in the 1950s, it’s now home to Glasgow Sculpture Studios - a unique centre for research, production, presentation and the dissemination of contemporary sculptural practices.
Close by, just on the other side of the canal is The Glue Factory, an independent arts venue and workspace, which is housed in the former Scottish Adhesives Company warehouse in Speirs Locks. Both are a community of businesses, designers, makers and artists. Often hosting a mix of events both for the arts and local community it’s worth checking out if there are any events or exhibitions that might take your fancy during your time in the north.
Within and around the north is nature’s very own creative space, from its canal ways, to the beautiful surrounding parks and nature reserves, this neighbourhood boasts wildlife in abundance and is the reason it’s often labelled as ‘the countryside in the middle of the city.’
Just across the canal is Glasgow’s very first inner city nature reserve, Hamilton Claypits Local Nature Reserve. Once home to an area of claypits that produced clay to line the canal and keep it watertight, this reserve is renowned for its viewpoint and breathtaking views over the whole of the city. On a clear day you can even see as far as the Isle of Arran, 40 miles away, as well as the wonderful wildlife, flora and fauna that can be enjoyed in this reserve.
Another place for great viewpoints of the city is in Ruchill Park, north of Firhill Stadium, if you take the pathway that leads the way to the flag pole, marking one of the highest spots in Glasgow, you can enjoy even more stunning views of the entire city. Further north from the park is where you’ll find Lambhill Stables, built around the early 1800s this was one of many stables that had been built along the canal when the main mode of pulling goods along the canal way was via horse. It’s now been restored into a creative community space, garden and heritage displays.
And if you head further north once again, along a towpath near Lambhill Stables, you’ll find one of the oldest nature reserves in Scotland and a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, Possil Marsh and Loch. With a well signposted circular walk around the reserve you can leisurely meander around this home to rare plants and 150 species of birds. On this walk is where you’ll also come across a plaque commemorating the Possil High Meteorite which fell nearby in 1804. The earliest of only four recorded meteorite falls in Scotland, the largest surviving fragment is housed at the Hunterian Museum within the University of Glasgow in the west of the city.
This is just a taster of the countryside that resides in the north, from the canal side, local parks to nature reserves its plain to see why its green space is integral to this neighbourhood; it’s a tranquil interlude to its urban playground and is intrinsic to its historical roots. With such a diverse offering this neighbourhood is just waiting for you to explore.
The canal, urban adventure and rich industrial heritage.
Off the beaten track eateries, beautiful green spaces and the community atmosphere.