As my home city of Christchurch continues to rise from the ashes, I have become a fan of the many street art murals that have appeared on the bare walls of new and old buildings alike. With varying styles, themes and colour palates, they grab your attention and make you smile or make you think. So when, after 3.5 years, I made a return trip to the city of my birth in Scotland, I was surprised to discover that the country’s largest city, Glasgow has its own share of street murals.
A great resource for walks in Scotland, both urban and country, is the Walk Highlands website which gives detailed descriptions as well as maps to highlight the route and sights on the way. It was here that I found out about the murals trail and decided to integrate it into a day of sightseeing that I had planned in the city. It’s been 10 years since I lived in Glasgow, and sometimes I think it is just pure fun to play tourist in your own home town, so armed with the directions, I set off.
Having caught the bus into Buchanan Bus Station, it was an easy walk to the recommended starting point on upper Buchanan Street. There is no mural here, but it is a good central place to start and end the trail due to the locality with transport, shopping, and refreshments all nearby. Turning onto West George Street, and heading past George Square, Rogue One and Art Pistol’s Hip-Hop Marionettes adorn the wall near Strathclyde University’s student union. Just beyond here, the walls of Strathclyde University itself have become a massive canvas with a myriad of murals covering the many walls, some at eye level and others spanning the huge multi-floored expanse of the gable-ends.
Where George Street meets High Street, a short walk to the left revealed one of my favourite murals on the trail, that of an exceptionally realistic painting of a man with a bird on his hand. Retracing my steps back down to High Street, I turned onto Ingram Street, where a little along the way, a massive mural, Fellow Glasgow Residents, overlooked a car park. As beautiful as this mural was, the fact that it was part of an active car park made it difficult to look at it properly, or take photos of it, as there were vehicles parked everywhere. With multiple images within one mural, I feel that it could be looked at multiple times and still not notice every detail.
At the end of the car park, turning left onto Candleriggs in the heart of the Merchant City, one of the murals painted for the Commonwealth Games of 2014 is very prominent about a block down on the right. At the bottom of the street, turning right onto Trongate, a laneway near an old-fashioned sweet shop hides a very large and colourful spaceman. Turning left on Stockwell street towards the River Clyde, the Clutha bar, unfortunately well known due to a tragic accident involving a helicopter crashing through its roof in 2013, has its outer wall adorned with murals too.
Following a brief walk along the Broomielaw, the trail turns up Ropework Lane and onto Howard Street which has a massive mural that curls around the lower portion of the building, round onto Dunlop Street. Again, the parked traffic made it a little difficult to appreciate it all, but it was certainly colourful. Back on the Broomielaw, and over onto the Clyde walkway which forms a promenade along the north bank of the River Clyde, the trail heads west past a large tiger and the amazingly realistic Five Faces that adorn the road side of the five pillars supporting the railway bridge.
Backtracking slightly to head up Jamaica Street, along Argyle Street to the east, and up Mitchel Street, is a mural of a taxi. However, on closer inspection, the mural is not just of the taxi itself, but indeed all the bricks of the wall have been painted on too. Immediately up from here is a large mural of a woman with a magnifying glass and beyond that, the almost ironically placed Wind Power which was partly hidden by the rubbish and refuse of the local businesses. Detouring along Mitchel Lane, a hidden panda appears, and then the trail continues up Mitchel Street further before heading along Gordon Street.
Passing Central Station, the train station serving the south of the country, turn left down Hope Street and then right onto Argyle Street where a clever mural appears on the left, almost looking like a noticeboard to begin with until you notice the extras. This one is expansive, along not just one wall, but wrapping around onto York Street. Returning to the Clyde Walkway by the Broomielaw, the supporting structure of the broad M8 motorway is adorned with a massive mural of a swimmer, another piece created for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. This one is so large, it is best appreciated from the other side of the road.
Heading north, keeping the M8 to the right, the Clydeside Expressway is crossed via a footbridge, and there is a section of the trail with no murals, this route serving merely as a connector between the south and north sections of the trail. Always with the motorway to the right, eventually crossing the busy Sauchiehall Street, a detour past the bank uncovers a crocodile underneath a footpath. Following Sauchiehall Street east until Rose Street, the Cowcaddens underground station is reached via an underpass which is decorated with a mural, as is the underpass on the far side of the underground. From here the trail returns back to Buchanan Street.
According to the website, the distance covered is 9.25km, or 5.75miles. It can be walked in half a day, or can be interspersed with refreshment stops to make it longer. On this particular day, I was playing tourist and visiting some of the city’s major tourist attractions. I incorporated this walk into my sight-seeing, taking detours to attractions where necessary, and therefore I easily made this trail into a fantastic day trip. Since that day, I’ve found so much more street art in Greater Glasgow too, but this trail is definitely a very good starting point. Even without going off the trail to visit attractions, this trail actually offers a reasonable overview of the city, and I think it is a fantastic way to discover the city of my birth.