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Glasgow, now a City of Culture, City of Architecture and Design, UNESCO City of Music and Creative City as well as Capital of Sport, wasn’t always lauded with awards, even in its ‘powerhouse of industrial Britain’ days. Amazingly and in a very short time, Glasgow has reinvented itself and is now one of England’s most-visited cities for its cultural and musical events, great shopping, dining and nightlife, museums, parks and transport hubs for the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Set on the River Clyde, and famous for its shipbuilding industry in earlier days, Glasgow’s oldest district is Merchant City, with its medieval core, grand Victorian buildings and Glasgow Cathedral all reminders of its former industrial might.
Who to Book With
There’s a good selection of car rental companies serving Glasgow, both at Prestwick International Airport and in the city centre. National, Hertz, Europcar, Avis and Alamo are five of the best, and local firms can also be accessed online. Hire cars are always in demand here due to the many events and conferences which take place over the year, making booking your selected model online in advance the best idea.
Best Time to Go
Summer is the best time to visit the city, unless you’re arriving for a specific sporting fixture or cultural event. Although Scotland in general has cooler weather than most of England and Wales, summers here are pleasant. Winter, however, can be very chilly and overcast, and the seasons here aren’t as distinct as in many Northern European cities on the same latitude due to the city’s westerly location near the Gulf Stream.
Need to Know Essentials
When collecting your hired car, you should show the following documents:
- Your valid UK or EU driving license or an International Driving Permit
- Your passport or an alternative photo ID
- The credit card used for your online booking
- A printed rental confirmation and receipt if possible
Glasgow is conveniently set on the M8 motorway with its connections to the M80, M73 and M77, giving easy access to Edinburgh and the north. Rush hours in the city centre are packed with traffic, occasionally spilling over into the motorway network. Driving in the centre isn’t necessary and is usually slow and stressful, although car parks are aplenty and reasonably-priced. As in the rest of the UK, seat belts must be worn by all occupants, mobile phone use without a hands-free kit is prohibited and drink-driving is a definite don’t unless you can afford a hefty fine and the loss of your license. Petrol stations are easily found and take card payments, and warning triangles must be carried.
Part of Glasgow’s regeneration was its creaky transport system, now replaced with an efficient network of suburban rail, subway, bus and taxi travel. Outside the city, self-drive is the most efficient way to explore Scotland’s wild places or visit Edinburgh for its history and famous summer Edinburgh Festival and Fringe.
Suburban trains run from Queen Street and central stations to nearby towns as well as the suburbs, for in-town travel, Glasgow’s subway system rings the city centre and inner suburbs, operated by STP and useful for visitors for its Roundabout Greater Glasgow all-day ticket including use of the overground rail network at a cost of around €7.
Glasgow taxis come in two varieties, the traditional London black cabs operated by Glasgow Taxis or private-hire minicabs. Black cabs can be hailed from the roadside if their taxi sign is lit, and taxi ranks are found at the airport and the main rail and bus stations. Most inner city journeys cost around €7, and suburban destinations cast around double. Minicabs are booked by phone, are licensed, with the best found at Glasgow Private Hire. Unlicensed minicabs should be avoided at all costs.
Bus travel in Glasgow is provided by First Glasgow as well as by STP, offering visitors an extensive network both in the city centre and the outlying areas during the day and a slightly less impressive line-up in the evenings. Bus travel is the least expensive, but is subject to traffic jams during rush hours in the same way as cars. All-day passes for exploring the city cost around €5.
Glasgow is well situated as a base for exploring the wild west coast of Scotland or heading across to Edinburgh and up along the North Sea coastlands or inland to the Highlands. Lovely Loch Lomond, immortalised in song, is under an hour’s drive away and the history, heritage and architecture in the cities of Edinburgh and Stirling make for great days trips.
Scottish Highlands - The drive from Glasgow through the majestic Scottish Highlands to Inverness takes in Loch Lomond, Loch Ness, Fort William and endless stretches of dramatic beauty. Beginning in Glasgow with the A82 to Loch Lomond and winding through rolling hills, the road continues along the lakeside with pretty views of Lomond’s 60 islands and on to Fort William with its stunning vistas of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. From Fort William, still on the A82, your route leads you to Loch Ness with its fabled Nessie water-monster and passes through spectacular, rugged scenery before reaching Inverness.
Edinburgh - For a short, scenic drive through gentler but no less lovely countryside to Edinburgh and a day exploring one of Britain’s most fascinating cities, the M8 motorway is the route to follow, with the drive taking less than an hour. Majestic Edinburgh Castle towers over the historic city from its perch on a volcanic plug and the city’s main street, Royal Mile, runs through the old town with its Georgian and Victorian buildings, St Giles’ Cathedral, museums and quaint side streets to Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence. The first high-rise buildings in Britain, Edinburgh’s soaring tenements, are now beautifully renovated, and both the Old and New Towns are now UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Hadrian's Wall - The drive from Glasgow south to the border between England and Scotland runs through the border country to Hadrian's Wall, built by the Romans to keep out marauding Scots tribes. The route follows the valley of the Tweed River and connects with the wall at Jedburgh. Hadrian’s Wall ran from the east coast to the west coast of the country, and several sections are still able to be seen, along with ruins of Roman forts, temples, bathhouses and small settlements. The interesting Roman Museum at Corbridge is worth a visit.