The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

Duelling Blog Posts: Glasgow vs. Edinburgh Part 1


As part of the Team Kilt Burns Festivities, I'd like to welcome Fraser to The Mountains of Instead.  Fraser once from Glasgow, now living in America is joining me to debate the merits of Glasgow (Scotland's biggest city) in comparison to Edinburgh (it's capital).  I'll be back later with the Edinburgh side but for now, let Fraser tell you all about Glasgow:

Let me just start by saying this: I like Edinburgh; I really do.  It’s a lovely looking city, great arts scene, fantastic views from its many, many hills.  But compared to Glasgow?  Sadly lacking.  And here, in no particular order, are some reasons why it compares badly to the biggest city in Scotland.

The people
Now before you go on about how you visited Edinburgh once and everyone was really friendly, think for a minute: how many of those friendly people that you encountered in shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs were actually Scottish?  There’s a reason for the old joke; go anywhere in the world and you’ll find a Scotsman.  Except Edinburgh.  It’s true.  Glasgow people though, are generally from that area and I know that they sound scary but they’re some of the friendliest, funniest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.  You will never be alone in a Glasgow pub, and will probably find yourself invited to a party at closing time.

The “Patter”
Glasgow practically has its own language.  If you can find your way past the speed that Glasweigans talk at, you’ll still find yourself wondering what some words mean.  Ask and we’ll explain them to you.  Then you’ll start using them ‘cos you recognize how great they are.  I still utter words that my (American) wife doesn’t know after two years of us knowing each other.  So by the time you leave after a visit to Glasgow, you’ll have expanded your vocabulary.

It’s the funniest place you’ll ever visit
I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said that the people were funny: in Glasgow, if you strike up a conversation with it’s natives, they’ll gladly and without prompting tell you anything about themselves.   And it’ll be funny.  Take the night bus and you’ll see people both scary and funny.  I love my friends that I have here in the US but no-one can make me laugh like my friends from back home.  That big, hearty laugh that bursts out and seems to come from the toes.  Have you ever seen Billy Connolly tell a story?  He is not alone in having that talent: he grew up amongst the people that told the same kinds of stories.  And as Connolly said himself, “Glasgow has an Irish-Scottish mix that makes them funny....Edinburgh has an Anglo-Saxon/Lowland mix, which isn’t funny”.
“But Edinburgh has a festival every year Fraser, featuring comedy from all over the world”.  Aye, that’s my point: Edinburgh has to import it’s comedy.  Glasgow just has it.  Connolly, Rikki Fulton, Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle, Still Game, Burnistoun.  I’m sure Edinburgh has comedians, but I’m willing to bet that many more have come from Glasgow.  Check out some of those guys, by the way.

The Sounds Of The City
Just as Glasgow produces some of the best comedy in the world, it also produces some of the best music.  And like comedy, if you can win a Glasgow audience, you can win any audience in the world.  So many acts have come from Glasgow and Greater Glasgow, like Arab Strap, Travis, Belle And Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Del Amitri, Biffy Clyro, Teenage Fanclub and even Angus Young from AC/DC.  And that’s just the ones I can think of now.  Even the music venues are above most other cities.  The Barrowland Ballroom is world-famous amongst musicians, frequently cited as a band or artist’s favourite venue and Glasgow their favourite city to play.

It reinvents itself

Glasgow was built around the river Clyde and for decades, heavy industry and shipbuilding provided work for thousands.  When the shipyards closed, Glasgow fell into decline and spent much of the Eighties that way.  Then the city picked itself up and set about finding other ways to create jobs and make money.  It now has a thriving business sector and is the base of many national and international companies, not to mention shopping centres that contain many big-name designer brands and superb nightlife. 

The Culture
Edinburgh is a cultural capital, as well as an actual one.  I will not try to tell you that Glasgow contains a better arts scene when it’s going up against the host of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  However, I will tell you what Glasgow has to offer in this sense.  The museums are superb, the pick of the bunch for me being the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  Where else could you see stuffed animals, historical displays, fine paintings AND Elvis?  Head over to the People’s Palace and learn Glasgow’s history.  While you’re at it, take time to stroll around the fantastic parks both of these buildings are located in, just two of many parks in the city.  By the way: these museums, and every other?  Free.  Just stroll in.  Not like some other cities I could mention, where they charge you an arm and a leg to get into some castle.  There’s a book festival, a film festival, comedy festival, Celtic music festival, Jazz music festival.  No need to cram it all into one event, in one month.  You’ll find loads of great theatres and libraries and you can even visit the Scottish Football Museum and find out a little about Scotland’s national obsession.

There are a lot of good places to see in Scotland and several cities, each with their own personality.  But if you can see only one place in the country, make it Glasgow.  If you want the tourist-y, shortbread and tartan experience, you can find it there.  But it’s not in your face.  Edinburgh knows you’re a visitor and it can’t wait to sell you some plastic bagpipes.  If you think Edinburgh is the best example of Scotland, you probably think Washington DC is the best example of AmericaGlasgow is much more honest and gives you a flavour of actual Scottish life.  All while buying you a drink and telling you a great story about a wee guy it grew up down the street from.  And you won’t have to climb up any hills.

Good points, well made, Fraser.  You have set down a worthy gauntlet and I shall be back shortly with several reasons that, depsite the above, Edinburgh is just BETTER!


Jeri said…
Glasgow FTW. But I'd like to take several more in-person samples of each city before I make my final decision. ;)
Heather said…
I'm genuinely shocked that he restrained himself from going off on how impossible it is to drive in Edinburgh. For those who don't know him, Fraser is the most laid-back guy I've ever met, and I've seen him enraged maybe 3 times. The worst of those was when trying to figure out how to get out of Edinburgh to get back home. When we got to one intersection after a sign that said "ALL POINTS WEST RIGHT LANE" (Glasgow is west of Edinburgh)we got into the massive line of cars in the right lane, only to see an iiiiiitty bitty sign AT the light that said "Glasgow Left Lane." I really thought his head was going to explode.
Fraser said…
I forgot to mention: Glasgow has real TARDISes. Proper-shaped ones. Edinburgh has Police Boxes but they're weird, elongated ones. So for the Doctor Who, there's really only one choice.
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