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Glasgow's Stars Come Out....

The second of two blogs based on a recent trip to Glasgow, where I had had a slightly underwhelming first day followed by a more promising start to the second. You left me on the subway having just left Ibrox station from where I was travelling the few minutes to Bridge Street....

The train came to a stop, and I headed up the steps out of the station into the still rainy weather. I looked around, the bridge over the Clyde was off to the left, whilst across the road was a junction beside a low railway bridge. Diagonally opposite across the road was the low building that was The Lauriston, one of the pubs I had on my list. It hardly looked open though from the distance, hard to tell if the lights were on, or if the door was open. Better cross the road to take a closer look. I pressed the traffic light button, a double decker bus gleefully splashed the contents of a large puddle in my direction as it turned the corner, and I waited. A guy was shuffling down the pavement on the other side of the road and when he got to the Lauriston, he disappeared into a doorway. Well, that's a good sign! Finally, the lights changed and I crossed the road. It was still hard to tell if the pub was open, but when I arrived at the doorway, I turned the door handle and it let me in.

I walked into a low, two room bar with a central bar. I turned into the right hand room, but it was deserted and the bar area was fairly small, so I followed the bar round and emerged in the larger of the two rooms. A few guys were dotted around the room, some watching the racing on TV. A few hand pumps were strategically placed around the bar, with Fyne Ales clips on them. I ordered a pint of Jarl and sat at one of a number of small tables ideal for lone drinkers. The beer was easily the best of the trip so far, refreshing and hoppy (NBSS 4), and reasonably priced by local standards. Cash only taken if you get there. I looked around the room. Photos, memorabilia, and CAMRA awards covered one wall, there was conversation from unseen tables around the corner and the usual behind the bar paraphernalia. It was a classic, timeless scene. Somebody had a winner in the 2.55 from wherever, a round for his mates followed. I followed by ordering my second pint of Jarl, enjoying this wonderful slice of real Glasgow pub life. A must-visit if you are in the city.

The Lauriston: a must-visit

I crossed over the Clyde as a watery sun emerged from behind steely clouds, bringing a few patches of blue sky in its wake. I was heading for the next pub on my list, the Scotia on Stockwell Street. I turned a corner and I walked past one of the attractive murals that seem to crop up on so many Glaswegian gable ends.

After about 15 minutes' walk I arrived at the Scotia, one of the contenders for oldest pub in Glasgow, originally dating from 1792. From the outside it was similar to the Lauriston, an unremarkable low building on a corner, but inside it is clearly pretty old. Separated into several rooms and areas by dark wood panelling and glazing, with plush upholstery. The bar featured 4 hand pumps, but my face fell when no beer was available on any of them. There was a distinct Irish flavour to the place and I noticed a number of the clientele were drinking Guinness, but I was so disappointed I just went native and ordered a pint of Tennants,  retreating in shame to a little side room. I drunk the lager pretty quickly and left. The Scotia is worth a visit for its history, its musical heritage - a stalwart of the local folk scene, a young Billy Connolly played here - but be warned, real ale may not be available.

The Scotia, possibly Glasgow's oldest pub

I took a break from the beer and went for a pizza at one of the restaurants of a Scottish institution, Tony Macaroni, which I have to say was pretty good. Resuming the tour, fortunately the next pub had some real ale on although that wasn't the main attraction for so many visitors to the Pot Still on Hope Street. As the name implies, whisky is in the mix and the pub has a mind-boggling number on the neck-cricking shelves behind the bar. From a humble beer drinker's perspective, there are some decent cask beers available, served by the now uniquely Scottish albeit declining method of air pressure, almost a reminder of the old days of electric pumps used in the UK during the 70's and 80's. I ordered a pint of Goldihops from Kelburn who are based at Barrhead, which I'd passed through 24 hours or so earlier on my disrupted journey. As with all the beers I have had before from them, it was pretty enjoyable and I rated it 3.5 on the NBSS scale. As I was enjoying my beer, I realised the sheer number of folk who had come for a dram and suddenly I felt I should try a whisky whilst I was here. Now I am not a whisky drinker, although I have two brothers and a brother in law who are, but hey, it would be boring if we all liked the same things. I asked the girl behind the bar as a non-whisky drinker if there was anything she could recommend for a whisky novice. She impressively selected a few bottles which involved scaling a ladder to bring me a few options. I tried a couple, and then picked one that was in my view acceptable, which I can't explain in any detail as I am not an expert! But a great pub and brilliant, knowledgeable staff. 

A break from the beer: a wee nip at the Pot Still

I didn't bother with another whisky, but I did order another half of the Goldihops before I left, and then decided to head further up Renfield Street to see if the Raven was open. Unfortunately, as the night before it was most definitely shut. So it was back to the hotel and some of the Champions League on TV....

The sun was shining as I left the hotel the following morning in search of breakfast. I walked past the Scottish Museum of Modern Art. Someone had strategically placed traffic cones on the heads of the horse and rider statue that stands outside. After a few minutes walk, I came to Cafe Wander, a lovely place in a basement not far from Central Station, where I leisurely enjoyed a spot-on full Scottish complete with haggis and potato cake alongside the usual stuff. A great place to fuel up for the day, and with a steady stream of customers both eating in and taking away, it seems lots of folks think the same.

Modern art indeed....

I had no fixed plans, other than loosely aiming to visit a couple of pubs at lunchtime before catching the train home. I spent an hour or so looking around the Museum of Modern Art, after which I set off walking in the sunshine towards the West End, with the grand old buildings of the city centre gradually giving way to Georgian houses. Eventually I passed a small green at the top of a steady incline, and then the road dropped down slightly again as I approached Holland Street, on which the State Bar was situated. I spotted that the door was open, and I went in. It had a stunning interior with an island bar, dark wood, glass panelling, and a healthy display of hand pumps. A couple of guys were already in place with a pint. A lady got up from reading her paper at the bar and went behind, ready to serve me. I spotted a beer from Fallen brewery, who are based in Stirlingshire, and whose beers I had enjoyed very much when I had been in Edinburgh a couple of years ago. I ordered a pint of Odyssey, their 4.1% American Blonde, and went and found a seat opposite the bar. I took a sip. Wow, it was fantastic. Light, crisp, and refreshing it was one of the best beers I had had in ages and in immaculate condition, worth a rating of NBSS 4.5. I looked up the ingredients - a light lager malt base with Saaz, Citra, and Mosaic hops. I decided I should move on to the next pub, but the State deserves a lingering visit. With old pictures of Glasgow adorning the walls, it felt authentically Glaswegian, and with beer as good as this, an essential stop for any visitor to the city.

The superb traditional island bar at the State

The final pub of my brief introduction to Glasgow was around 10 minutes walk away, situated on North Street in the Charing Cross area of the city. This was the Bon Accord, another Glaswegian classic situated over a bridge on the other side of the M8. The pub was busy when I walked in, with many people tucking into food. I was only after a beer, mind, and from a decent selection was pretty much Scottish, I selected a beer called Bevvy from a brewery called Hybrid who I had never come across before. It turns out they are based in Grangemouth and started brewing in 2016. The beer was another cracker, a 4% session pale and very drinkable (NBSS 4). I loved the atmosphere here, it wasn't yet one o'clock, but there was a real mix of people, diners, lunchtime pinters, and a few having the odd nip from a large range of whiskies. I calculated the time I needed to be back at the hotel to check out and then have time to walk to catch my train. I ordered another pint of the same, and with my glass nearly empty, I booked an Uber. The Bon Accord is another place you should visit.

Bon Accord...another classic

After a disappointing start to my visit, Glasgow had started to reveal its stars. The Lauriston, the State, Bon Accord - all classic pubs which in their own individual ways brought something different to the trip. I had barely scratched the surface in terms of exploring the city and its riches, though, and as the southbound train pulled out of Glasgow Central, I decided I would have to make another visit sometime soon....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic

The title of this blog was inspired by the line "He sees the stars come out tonight" from the classic song 'The Passenger' by Iggy Pop, which was co-written with Ricky Gardiner from 70's Glasgow prog rock band, Beggar's Opera.


  1. Some great pubs there Chris. I hope you had a scotch pie from the 1960s hot pies cabinet on the counter at the Laurieston. I assume one of the elderly brothers in white shirt and tie who run the pub were there. Never both there at the same time. Dermot


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