Beside the Kelvin

The River Kelvin rises at the east end of the Campsie Fells to the north of Glasgow. Its lower reaches flow through Kelvingrove Park past the University of Glasgow (established on High Street in 1451). The Kelvin temperature scale (with “absolute zero”) takes its name from William Thomson (1824-1907, ennobled as Lord Kelvin), a mathematician and professor at the university for 53 years, who made notable advances in the mathematics of energy and worked to create the first undersea telegraph cable across the Atlantic. The ancient Burgh of Partick, now an area of Glasgow, lies to the west of Kelvingrove.

Kelvingrove Park

Take the subway to Kelvinbridge. There is a café outside the station. Cross the car park to reach the river and turn left onto the Kelvin Walkway. Keep the river on your right, passing beneath Eldon Street bridge. Continue along the riverside, passing two bridges. Pass a play area on your left, then turn right. Pass tennis courts on your left, then after crossing Kelvin Way, bowling greens on your left. Turn left then right to reach the entrance to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, with one of the finest municipal collections in the country. Continue ahead to cross the river on Dumbarton Road and reach Kelvin Hall subway station. Two of my grandparents (maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather) lived nearby, and as a child, I often wandered solo in the gallery before making my way to their homes.

Byres Road and the Botanic Gardens

Take the subway to Hillhead. Turn right and follow Byres Road to Great Western Road. Cross over to the Botanic Gardens (another place I would roam solo as a child, catching the tram or bus to my grandfather’s flat in Anniesland). After looking round the gardens, return to Byres Road and follow it downhill. Just beyond the subway station, Ashton Lane goes off to the left. Here, where once there was an optical lens factory, is the Ubiquitous Chip, one of Glasgow’s finest restaurants for Scottish food.

Farther down Byres Road, turn left onto Ashton Road, and follow it to University Avenue, where the 1960s Boyd Orr building stands on your left. One of my father’s friends, a consulting architect for the project, could not understand why the foundations kept slipping until my father told him about a disused coal-pit (which was marked on no maps). The pit tunnels were filled with concrete and the building stabilised. Continue to the quincentenary gates (1451-1951) to the University, where turn right to look at the main campus building, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott (who also designed St Pancras station) with echoes of the great Cloth Hall of Ieper in Belgium. The only Victorian Gothic building in Britain bigger than this one is the Palace of Westminster. Do not forget to look at the cloisters.

Return to University Avenue and follow it, keeping on the left to join University Place (the former line of University Avenue) to Byres Road. Cross over and turn left to reach and cross White Street (where my grandmother once lived) to find the University Café on the right — a Glasgow institution since 1917, and still in the original Verrecchia family. The interior has not been changed in my lifetime. It is the classic Scots-Italian café, with ice-cream, fish and chips, and breakfasts. Continue to the bottom of Byres Road and turn right to reach Kelvin Hall subway station.

Riverside Museum

This is Glasgow’s museum of transport, and is housed in a striking building designed by the late Dame Zaha Hadid (1950-2016). The museum, which is situated where the River Kelvin flows into the River Clyde, is not easy to reach on foot: take the 100 bus from the south side of George Square. All kinds of transport are featured with their related technologies, and there is a Tall Ship moored on the river.

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