For COP26 attendees, a granite city with a heart of gold
Glasgow is ready to show off its stunning shift from gritty to trendy.
As part of our special COP26 coverage, today we’re sending our readers stories about Glasgow and the people who will make an impact at the conference, both at the event and from afar.
. . . . It’s not lost on the locals that Glasgow, Scotland, where the COP26 climate conference is taking place through Nov. 12, is an example of global warming. After all, according the British Meteorological Office, the city has in recent decades transitioned from harsh and snowy winters to ones where temperatures rarely go below freezing and snow is now infrequent.
But even if the weather were bitter — it’s likely to average about 45°F. when the attendees are there — the welcome is going to be warm. Glaswegians, as the locals are called, are a friendly bunch, with few of the airs and graces of those in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital about 50 miles to the east.
And they are proud of their city, with its sometimes-muscular Victorian architecture dating back to its industrial heyday as a manufacturing and transport hub. Unusually for urban Britain, the center is on a grid pattern, a sign of Glasgow’s relative modernity, and contains famed thoroughfares such as Argyle, Buchanan and Sauchiehall streets, which anchor a retail area second only to central London as the U.K.’s most vibrant. Most buildings are built of granite and other Scottish stone, giving it a solid and stately feel.
The original city center immediately to the east is laid out in a more medieval manner, with winding streets and some of the oldest buildings in the conurbation, such as the 15th century Glasgow Cathedral and the Provand’s lordship, a medieval mansion. Also in the area was the University of Glasgow, founded in 1451, which relocated to the city’s West End in the 19th century.
Outside the conurbation’s core are contrasting areas of workers’ modest row houses and elegant suburbs, such as Kelvinside and Dowanhill, where the accents are much more refined than in the working-class areas, where many people, even from other part of Britain, often have difficulty understanding the local brogue. Apart from the residential areas, there are also industrial zones, though much diminished in number after manufacturing moved overseas, as well as the docks that once imported and exported goods to North America and other locations around the world.
But it will be at the ultramodern Scottish Event Campus, to the west of the city center on the River Clyde, where the COP26 delegates will gather to use about 10 event spaces, including meeting rooms, temporary offices and a large conference hall.
Of course, it will not be all work. Those wanting to relax and continue conversations in more informal settings, can take a train or shuttle to the city’s center and its neighborhoods to sample its many fine restaurants and lively pubs. Regarding the watering holes, visitors should not expect many of the bars to be stereotypes of Olde Scotland, for the city’s late-20th century revival — which led it to be named the European Capital of Culture in 1990 — has created a mix of ancient and modern, ranging from the unchanging Doublet and the Allison Arms (opened in 1884) and the trendy Nice’n’Sleazy and Stereo, the latter being one of the most-happening alternative venues in the city.
As for food, the city’s best restaurants could not be more varied, a reflection of its burgeoning multiculturalism. Apart from well-regarded Scots eateries such as The Finnieston and The Ubiquitous Chip, there are top-rated are eateries serving Malaysian food, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Italian, among others. And, of course, Indian, considering that curries have now ousted fish and chips as Britain’s national food. But leave it to French-inspired fare to have grabbed Glasgow’s only Michelin star, with the Cail Bruich restaurant serving Scottish ingredients with Gallic flair. Don’t expect to choose your entrée, however — you can either pick a five-course tasting menu or a seven-course extravaganza (both including dessert and coffee) — and don’t forget to stuff your wallet, prices for the feasts having recently been hiked to about $103 and $145 respectively.
Overall, though, costs for entertainment and culture will not be through the roof; after all, Scots are renowned for liking a bargain. And let’s hope the locals’ genial ways will extend to the goings-on COP26, where the world’s future is very much in the balance.
Cheers! Or, in Scottish Gaelic, slàinte mhath! . . .