One of the activities I requested as part of our Glasgow itinerary back in February was a tour of the street art. Glasgow is known for it’s striking murals and huge colourful art pieces that cover some of the buildings and walls around the city, a quick location search on instagram will show you that, and it’s a secret pleasure of mine to see any sort of street art when it’s encouraged and celebrated rather than mindless graffiti. PeopleMakeGlasgow planned for us to go on the Glasgow Mural Trail, run by locals that showcase the history and meaning behind each one.
Disclaimer: Our entire weekend was planned in collaboration with People Make Glasgow. This is another post I wasn’t contracted to share but thought the Glasgow street art deserved one of it’s own.
We met our guide Caron at George Square, a local Glaswegian she introduced herself and gave a bit of information on the sorts things we could see. After taking our personal preference into account she tailored the tour to match and we set off on foot around the city.
From the offset you could tell she just knew what she was talking about. Her knowledge of the city was incredible, and she had a way of telling it without it being a boring history lesson, and more of a funny account of the past and the meaning behind each part of the city and what it used to be versus how it is today.
Being honest, I’m not usually a fan of guided city tours, but this really didn’t feel like that at all and for an hour and a half she took us around the parts of Glasgow we just probably wouldn’t have ever ventured to. She was honestly brilliant, and every local story and detail followed on from the next so I felt like I was literally walking through a storybook of the city.
Even if you aren’t a fan of guided or walking tours I’d encourage you to give this one a go, if you’re interested in street art. There’s no way you would have the same experience or gain the same knowledge trying to do it yourself. Even if you dont want an in person guide, you can download a mural map to follow yourself to gain the same information.
Now I’m not going to attempt to tell all of the stories and history behind the artwork Caron took us to, I just wouldn’t be able to do it justice, but I will share some of the stand out pieces and where to find them.
St. Mungo by Smug, High Street
This is officially the most photographed and instagrammed piece of street art in Glasgow, and it depicts St Mungo, the founder and patron saint of Glasgow with a robin on a gable end. As we were staying at the Cathedral House Hotel, we had to walk down this street to get into the city centre, so it was the first one we saw and it is seriously impressive.
Smug, the street artist is Australian but lives in Glasgow, and as you can see his creations are all very realistic and almost like photography. The devil is in the detail that he captures, and if you’re interested in the story of St Mungo and the meaning of all the details then as well as taking this street art tour, you could just give it a google. I’d strongly recommend getting a local to tell the tale though, it’s much more effective.
Baby St Mungo & his mother St Enoch, corner of High Street and George Street
Opposite the modern day man of St Mungo, is another huge mural by Smug, this time showing a baby St Mungo with his mother, St Enoch also known as Teneu. Her story is one that saw her exiled by her father after becoming pregnant with him, but again that’s as much as I’m sharing on the tale.
So this second mural showing the patron saint of Glasgow is another on the Glasgow mural trail and this one has received high praise for helping to normalise breast feeding.
Wonderwall, Strathclyde University
Strathclyde University is covered in murals, including the longest one in the UK that covers multiple surfaces, walls and buildings. It’s aim is to celebrate the achievements of the university and it’s students, and includes the giant astronomy telescope, a lecture theatre and the landship used to teach how to use a compass.
It’s another fascinating building to walk past after High Street and towards the city centre.
Fellow Glasgow Residents Mural, Ingram Street car park Merchant City
Coming into the city centre to the Merchant City area this unmissable mural is another by Smug, and shows off the wildlife of Glasgow through what appears to be a broken wall. It’s huge and takes up the entire wall that lines the car park.
I think this was my favourite one as there’s just so much to it and it looks like a children’s story book telling a story as it progresses along with all the different animals.
There are so many other murals that form the Glasgow Mural trail, including famous names like the Glasgow Panda, Billy Connolly, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Take a look at them all in more detail on the People Make Glasgow website here.
We didn’t actually finish the full tail, because of where we were in Merchant City and chatting to our guide we got a bit side tracked along Tontine Lane.
Tontine Lane, between Bell Street & Trongate
This little T shaped alley is an absolute haven for one off street art pieces. They’re everywhere you look and it’s one of the most vibrant little spaces in the centre of the city. It has previously been used to host pop up street food stalls, pop up bars, and a creative space during the Commonwealth Games a few years ago, and you can still see hints at this on the walls.
If you can find it then it’s really worth a look, and we spent a bit too much time down here which is why we didn’t complete the full mural trail. We didn’t mind though it was good to see some off the main trail and our guide was more than happy to oblige with what we wanted to do during our time with her.
Doing a trail like this, especially one that the city of Glasgow is so proud of, and implemented to show off the personality and history of the city and it’s artistic inhabitants was really good to experience, I’m so glad we did it.
Like I said before guided tours aren’t usually my cup of tea at all but this one, even with a hangover from the night before was worth getting up and out for. Each piece really brings the city to life, and rather than being eye sore’s they’re carefully thought out, meaningful murals that compliment the city and it’s people.
It was one of my favourite activities of the weekend.
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