10 of the Best Historic Sites in Glasgow | Travel Guides | History Hit

10 of the Best Historic Sites in Glasgow

Amy Irvine

04 Mar 2021

Glasgow is Scotland’s largest and most populated city and is renowned for its culture, style and the friendliness of its people, as showcased in the city’s caption, ‘People Make Glasgow’.

Situated on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow has a rich industrial history and reputation as having been one of the most eminent shipbuilding centres of the world. From its iconic tenements and shipyards to its modern Hydro and Armadillo events venues, Glasgow is a city soaked in history yet embracing the future.

Here are some of Glasgow’s key historical sights.

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1. The Glasgow Necropolis

Situated on a hill adjacent to Glasgow Cathedral on the eastern edge of the city centre, the Necropolis is a Victorian garden cemetery full of ornate graves, sculptures and stories. Described as one of the most significant cemeteries in Europe, it was modelled on Père-Lachaise in Paris. It’s estimated that roughly 50,000 burials have taken place here, with around 3,500 tombs – amongst which are memorials dedicated to some of Scotland’s great and good.

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2. Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral (also known as St Mungo’s Cathedral) is the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland, and also the oldest building in Glasgow. It is one of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings, and the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact and not ‘un-roofed’. Subsequently, Glasgow Cathedral was used to house several parish kirks.

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3. The Antonine Wall: Bearsden Roman Bathhouse

Built around 142 AD in the reign of the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, the Antonine Wall ran coast-to-coast across Scotland from Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde in the west, to modern Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth in the east – a distance of 40 Roman miles (approx 37 miles).

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4. The Finnieston Crane

The Finnieston Crane (also known as the Stobcross Crane) is a disused giant cantilever crane in the centre of Glasgow in Scotland. It is no longer operational, but represents a symbol of the city’s engineering heritage and proud history of shipbuilding, and is the largest of the 4 cantilever cranes which remain along the River Clyde.

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5. The Titan Crane at Clydebank

The Titan is a 46 m high cantilever crane at Clydebank, in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland – one of 4 cantilever cranes which remain along the River Clyde today. It was designed to be used in the lifting of heavy equipment, such as engines and boilers, during the fitting-out of battleships and ocean liners at the John Brown & Company shipyard. It was also the world’s first electrically powered cantilever crane, and the largest crane of its type at the time of its completion.

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6. Provand’s Lordship

The Provand’s Lordship was built in 1471 and is the oldest house in Glasgow – set in the heart of the most ancient part of the city. It is one of only four medieval buildings to survive in Glasgow, and has been extensively restored.

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7. The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451 and is the fourth-oldest university in the UK. It has more listed buildings than any other British university, and its Gothic architecture is said to be home to some of the finest stonework in Scotland.

The university was founded by a charter (a papal bull) from Pope Nicholas V, at the suggestion of King James II. This gave Bishop William Turnbull, a University of St Andrews graduate, permission to add a university to the city’s Cathedral. Teaching later moved to nearby Rottenrow, in a building known as the ‘Auld Pedagogy’, and the university was later given 13 acres of land belonging to the Black Friars on High Street by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1563.

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8. The Tall Ship

The Tall Ship (the Glenlee) is a 19th-century fully-restored sailing ship and museum. 245 feet in length and weighing 1,613 tons, she is a steel-hulled three-masted ‘barque’.

The Glenlee was built and launched at the Bay Yard on the River Clyde in Glasgow in 1896. She was one of a group of 10 steel sailing vessels built to a standard design for the Glasgow shipping firm of Archibald Sterling and Co. Ltd.

The Glenlee first took to the water as an operating cargo ship. She circumnavigated the globe 4 times in her merchanting career and survived passing through the fearsome storms of Cape Horn 15 times.

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9. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Situated in the centre of Glasgow, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is the focal point of Kelvingrove Park, an 84 acre green area created in 1852 as a place of recreation for the city’s residents.

Kelvingrove houses one of Europe’s great art collections – it’s collection of French 19th century paintings includes works by Monet, Gauguin and Renoir. Further highlights are Rembrandt’s ‘Man in Armour’, ‘Christ and the Adulteress’ by Titian and Salvador Dali’s famous ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’. Scottish art includes paintings by the Scottish Colourists and the Glasgow Boys, as well as the art of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

The museum also has one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world and a vast natural history collection.

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10. The Govan Stones

The Govan Stones are early medieval carved stones, displayed at the Govan Old Parish Church in Glasgow.

It’s thought that the first church on the Govan Old Parish Church site may have been built around the 5th or 6th century. At the time, a fortress, known as Alt Clut, was the centre of an ancient kingdom of Britons in Dumbarton.

When the Vikings destroyed Dumbarton in 870 AD, the kingdom managed to survive, and the new king moved further up the River Clyde to Govan, which became the new heart of the kingdom, earning the new name of Strathclyde. Govan thus gained great strategic importance and the church became an important ecclesiastical centre for this new kingdom, whose rulers were buried there.

The carvings on the Govan Stones themselves have been dated back to the 9th-11th centuries when the Vikings raided the Clyde region. They are thought to have been created to commemorate the power and wealth of those who ruled the lost Kingdom of Strathclyde.

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