Edinburgh to Glasgow with the Great City Swap

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A couple of days ago I took part in the Great City Swap – a new campaign led by Scottish train company Scotrail that encourages residents of Edinburgh and Glasgow to swap their hometowns for the day. According to research only around 30% of residents in Edinburgh and Glasgow travel to the other city for leisure – which doesn’t sound like a lot to me considering that it’s only a 50-minute train journey that separates the cities! Although I am a bit ashamed to admit that I’ve lived in Edinburgh for 3,5 years and only visited Glasgow properly once…You can read about it here.


So on Tuesday morning myself, Lana and Matthew headed to St Andrew Square where we met up with my friend Olli and her 2-year old son Leo who were also going to explore Glasgow for the day. Olli’s got a great Instagram account called @myedinburgh that you should definitely check out!

We met a Scotrail representative who took us through the Swap-A-Tron website that would create us an itinerary for the day based on our likes and dislikes. We chose arts & culture and got some interesting suggestions we were keen to visit. The suggestions came with a couple of sentences explaining what the Glasgow attractions were about and a link to the website as well as the location. You can create your own itinerary too, and if you’re not sure what you’re looking for you can just click the “inspire me” button!


With a couple of itineraries with 4 suggestions each in our email inboxes we walked to Waverley train station to catch a train to Glasgow. Waverley with its glass roof is pretty both from the outside and the inside!


Before boarding we had to get some snacks for the little ones and some much-needed coffees for the adults! An off-peak adult return ticket costs only £12.60 and kids up to the age of 16 go free, so it really isn’t very expensive at all.


Lana came down with a wee cold the night before, so I was hoping that would’ve slowed her down a little bit…but I was wrong and she kept running up and down the carriage like a little boss. Thank god Matthew was there too to run after her!


We arrived in Glasgow around 12.30pm and I instantly felt like I was in a larger city and Lana instantly fell asleep. While Edinburgh centre seems to be made up of only old buildings, in Glasgow old meets new everywhere you look. This photo is from Ingram street.


We started walking along George Street to get to our first destination, and we didn’t get far before we started seeing the most beautiful murals. I later discovered that there is actually a mural trail that takes you to these amazing pieces of public street art. I just have to go back to do it!


They were everywhere, making buildings, that weren’t noteworthy before, insta-worthy.


This one was my favourite out of the ones I saw – it is just so touching somehow.


After a 15-minute walk we arrived at the Provand’s Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow (built in 1471) and one of only 4 surviving medieval buildings. The house was part of St Nicholas’s Hospital – hence the garden is called St Nicholas Garden.


We went out into the pretty garden first to snap some photos.


Some autumnal vibes here. I was expecting it to rain (because it always rains in Glasgow right?) so was pleasantly surprised to enjoy a bit of sunshine too!


A very friendly staff member called Ryan told us about the history of the house and how it’s the only remaining house out of 32 canon (priest) houses that surrounded the castle where the bishop lived (that no longer exists either). Between the 18th and 20th century the houses were demolished and the bricks were mostly used to build Merchant City from 1750 onwards. Provand’s Lordship survived because it was a profitable inn where pilgrims came to stay back in the day.


Gary also told us how this house was considered luxurious back then and that ceilings in common houses were only 168 cm or 5.6 feet – exactly my height!


The ceilings on the 1st and 2nd floors were a bit higher and the rooms brighter and less claustrophobic. It is believed that Mackintosh drew some of his inspiration from the furniture in this house.


Lana is obsessed with hats and if she sees one she insists on trying it on. It’s serious business as you can see!


On our way to have lunch we passed some more fantastic murals – just imagine how dull this car park would be without this lovely artwork?!


It was Leo’s turn to nap just before we had lunch. Lana’s just making sure he’s asleep.


We had lunch at a place called Arisaig at Merchant Square. We had to wait for the food for ages so perhaps not the best option…It feels like I can’t take a photo of food or anything else for that matter without having a curious little hand in the photo nowadays!


Lana was enjoying running around in the indoor square – although no idea what happened here as I was enjoying a glass of wine with Olli whilst Matthew was looking after Lana hihi.


Our next destination closed at 5pm and as we only managed to leave the restaurant at 4pm we had to hurry through the streets of Glasgow…


…and only stop briefly to take some photos! This is Buchanan Street, one of the main shopping streets.


Right off Buchanan Street is Mitchell Lane and The Lighthouse where we were headed. The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture, is a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue in the heart of Glasgow.


We got there around 4.20pm so we didn’t have much time. The girl at the reception told us to go up to the 6th floor to see the views and then down to the 3rd floor to visit Mackintosh House, so that’s what we did. And the views didn’t disappoint!


The Lighthouse was actually Mackintosh’s first major architectural project (1899), although it was known as the Glasgow Herald Building back then. You can see why it’s called the Lighthouse!


We took a fair few photos up there!


A very nice touch was the live piano music played by this gentleman. Lana loved it and kept dancing, swaying and just staring at the guy.


Eventually she got to play a bit of piano herself – it was beautiful.


On the 3rd floor you’ll find the Mackintosh (or “Mack”) Centre where you’re first greeted by some of his famous chairs. Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868 – 1928) was a Scottish architect, designer, water colourist and artist – I guess he is to Scottish people what Alvar Aalto is to us Finns.


His career as an architect was brief but influential. This is Hill House, Mackintosh’s finest domestic work. His most famous work is Glasgow School of Art that I’m yet to visit too.


This is a photo from the Mackintosh House that is part of the Hunterian Art Gallery. It is a reconstruction of the principal rooms of Mackintosh’s and his wife Margaret’s home between 1906 and 1914. I have to admit I’m not a fan of the chairs, but this room looks pretty modern to me. It’ll definitely go on my “to visit”-list!


The Helical Staircase was a showstopper but unfortunately we were too late to be allowed to climb up to the top of the tower 🙁


After a quick stop at Sainsbury’s to stock up on snacks (aka entertainment) for the wee ones we caught a train back to Edinburgh. The sun was setting and the views from the train were very nice to look at. We got home just after 7pm, knackered but determined to visit Glasgow soon again!

Thank you Scotrail for this wonderful initiative!

x Nina x