Visiting Glasgow and the Outer Islands (Scotland)

When it comes to Scotland, people often think of bagpipes, haggis, whiskey as well as the breathtaking landscape with lots, mountains and castles. Therefore it becomes a perfect tourist destination. All cities in this country have rich historic architecture with modern prospects, and the countryside here offer from spectacular highlands to craggy coastlines.


Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, is one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture and has reclaimed its fame as a centre of style in the United Kingdom.There’s a real creative energy in Glasgow, which can be found in the windows of art dealers, in the fine restaurants or West End cafes. From museums and art galleries to designer boutiques and chic malls, this city offers the tourist a non-stop agenda for an urban vacation.


With the largest gay village in Scotland located in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City area, the raw energy flows day and night. This neighborhood can easily be found to the southeast of George Square, a tourist landmark in front of the historic City Chambers. Here you will find approximately a dozen high quality gay and lesbian bars, clubs, spas, pubs and lounges within walking distance of each other.


The gay hub at the south end of the village (close to the St. Enoch Underground station) located at 11 Dixon Street is the Glasgow LGBT Center. This venue provides a wealth of information about the gay community and houses a gay bar and cafe. Here you can familiarize yourself with the community, enjoy home cooked food and reasonable bar prices served up by helpful and friendly staff. It’s a great place to plan your foray into gay Glasgow. There are several traditional gay pubs and the Waterloo Pub at 306 Argyle Street claims to be the oldest gay bar in Glasgow. Always busy and packed, this piece of gay history is a good starting point for an evening of fun. Another popular pub is the Court Bar at 69 Hutcheson Street and here you can enjoy music from the seventies and eighties in a small, cosy, friendly pub atmosphere.


This also places you very close to the ohso-stylish Glasgow club scene that is not to be missed. Delmonica’s or Dels as it is affectionately known, located at 68 Virginia Street, has recently been remodeled and is a triumph of glass, mirrors and vistas with frequent cabaret shows, karaoke and dance parties plus bar food served daily. Just around the corner is the stylish Polo Lounge with its leather and-oak ground floor gentleman’s club appearance and three levels of entertainment pleasure. Downstairs in The Trophy Room, it’s more of a mature crowd but kick up your heels and dance in The Club Room where everyone ends up late at night. These are just a few suggestions and Gay Glasgow has much more to offer those who are in search of a diverse and varied nightlife during their holiday. The local ScotsGay magazine is a wealth of local information and is readily available throughout the village.


Most Glasgow hotels and inns are gay-friendly and welcome the GLBT traveler as guests. The Art House Hotel is a large, classy 1911 Victorian terrace house in the heart of the village. Recently restored with striking new colorful design combining the original architectural elements, it boasts two restaurants. This trendy hotel is a little more expensive but worthy of the price for luxury and convenient location. In the West End two guesthouses are more modestly priced-The Glasgow Guest House and the Bellhaven Hotel. Both are restored Victorian-style houses with modern conveniences and only a short distance to everything Glasgow has to offer.

The City boasts one of Europe’s finest public art collections and magnificent architecture from the thirteenth to the twenty-first century. For art-lovers the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, a red sandstone palace of art, has recently re-opened after three years of renovations, with a range of upgrades and improvements. Over two hundred arts organizations make their home in Glasgow giving the city a vibrant arts community akin to any other major cultural European city.


Atmosphere is something the West End has in spades. The cobblestone streets such as Ashton Lane, with bars, restaurants and boutiques come alive at sunset and pulse into the wee hours with a soundtrack provided by street musicians. Shopping is an art form unto itself, with small boutiques and chic malls providing a canvas waiting for shoppers to leave their marks. Browse around Merchant City, Princes Square, Kings Court and the Victorian Village-just a few of the city’s major shopping areas. With an excellent bus and subway public transit network everything Glasgow has to offer is nearby and easily accessible.


After experiencing the Scottish urban landscape you will probably want to head to the Highlands to enjoy breathtaking scenery of mountains and lochs. The sheer variety of content from historic castles and ancient distilleries, vast lakes, tranquil ferry rides to small town destinations provide relaxation and an escape from hometown pressures. With so many choices, you will probably want to plan your tour of the countryside before you leave home.


There are several well-planned excursions available and many have themes like Castles and Gardens, the Victorian Heritage Trail, the Malt Whiskey Trail and even Celtic Pride Tours for small groups of GLBT travelers. You can custom design your own trip or join an organized group of vacationers with similar interests. For the really brave, renting a car or motorcycle (BMW or Harley Davidson) allows the freedom of the roads but remember they drive on the wrong side and on the smaller islands the roads are only one lane wide, requiring considerable skills not learned in North America. Travel by rail and ferry is a popular alternative, allowing you to move freely around the countryside on your own agenda and at your own pace. Whatever your preference the rewards from the Scottish way of life are rich, plentiful and memorable.


My choice included travelling northwest along the banks of Loch Lomond via the eighteenth century village of Inverary to the ferry port of Oban heading for a few days on the Isles of Mull and Iona. Accompanied by a Scottish Blue Badge Driver Guide, Mike Hardie, this tour of the Hebrides outer islands revealed the history and mystery of these natural, unspoiled lands with their small populations plus abundant wildlife.


The castles Duart and Torosay plus the Iona Abbey were some of the finest examples of Scottish heritage which are still standing and functional today. On the Isle of Mull both Torosay Castle (almost 150 years old) and Duart Castle (over 600 years old) and still home of the Maclean Clan today, are occupied by their current bloodline custodians from family lineage. On the Isle of Iona the Abbey, which dates back to AD 563, is one of the most historic and venerated sites where Scottish Kings are buried.


Also, on the mystical Isle of Iona, the Findhorn Foundation operates Traigh Bhan retreat house for quiet contemplation, spiritual rest and renewal. Throughout the year, they offer exclusive gay and lesbian retreats for groups of six to experience the sanctuary and explore the island’s natural beauty.


Back on Mull the small, thriving fishing village of Tobermory with its colorful painted houses is the setting for a BBC Television children’s program and is the hub of the island. High up on a hill overlooking Tobermory Bay is the Western Isles Hotel, a fully restored Victorian mansion with spectacular views, fine dining and a lively bar at nighttime.


The village of Tobermory is a charming collection of small shops, restaurants and pubs with an energetic nightlife during the tourist season. Here you can sample traditional local cuisine including fresh fish (salmon, of course), kippers for breakfast, local game dishes including venison, grouse, pheasant and partridge, haggis (definitely) and desserts such as cranachan or cloutie dumpling. All accompanied by the largest variety of Scotch Whiskey ever available to the discriminating Robbie Burns fan.


If you’re looking for a vacation, which combines the excitement and culture of a metropolis and the peace and tranquility of nature at its most rugged, then Scotland has everything you’re searching to find. By the way, they also have some of the best and most challenging golf courses in the world. Set out to enjoy your own highland games and you’ll return home from the experience of a lifetime already planning your next Scottish vacation.


In case you’re wondering what is worn under a Scotsman’s kilt the answer is nothing is worn-everything works perfectly, like brand new!