Since moving to Glasgow ten years ago, one of my favourite things about living in this beautiful city has been exploring all of the exciting literary secrets the city has to offer. From beautiful libraries with astonishing carpets, to second-hand bookshops that would melt the hardest of bookish hearts, this city is a veritable wonderland for those of us with a literary bent.
Here are a few of my favourite spots in the city:
Alasdair Gray is one of Scotland’s most acclaimed authors, responsible for the glorious epic Lanark, he is also a talented artist who has illustrated many of his own works as well as creating a number of pieces of public art around the city. The most recent is this mural for the newly refurbished (in 2013) Glasgow Subway at Hillhead.
Every time I walk past the mural I like to stop and check out another of the illustrated archetypes that Gray populated his mural with, I particularly love the Literary Squirrels and the Fabulous Prancers.
When you’ve finished gazing at Gray’s mural in the Subway station then you could head up the road to the converted church Oran Mor. Now a gig venue, bar, restaurant and event space this beautiful church contains a number of fine murals done by Gray. I particularly love his beautiful lions that adorn the entrance to the bar, but the ceiling in the upstairs hall is a gorgeous array of constellations that will make you swoon.
University of Glasgow
Not only do Glasgow University’s buildings look a little bit like Hogwarts but the campus is home to one of the biggest and best University libraries in Europe. I love the building, which was supposedly designed to resemble the medieval Italian hill town of San Gimignano.
Perhaps most significantly the Library’s Special Collections are truly breathtaking and include such gems as the papers of the artist James Whistler and more than 1,000 incunabula (a book printed before 1501). Some of the books from their collections have been digitized and can be found here in case you’d like to explore from afar.
The Glasgow University Campus map even stood in for a map of the Federal Police Corps in Batman Year 100 by Paul Pope!
Voltaire and Rousseau
If second hand bookshops are your favourite thing in the world then this is the spot for you. A west-end institution for more than forty years this shop is tucked down a lane and situated next to the cosy Tchai-Ovna tea house. Towers of books are stacked in every corner and on every surface and if you’re really lucky you might even spot a cat in the vicinity!
The Mitchell Library is one of Europe’s largest public libraries and has more than one million items of stock. It is a bustling hub for the city and holds host to numerous events, readings and even weddings throughout the year. I particularly love it when Aye Write Glasgow’s Literary Festival is on!
The library is host to one of the world’s best collections for researching your family history and has excellent online resources to explore the history and streets of the city. My favourite part of the library, however, are the amazingly patterned carpets that can be found throughout the building, just look at these colours!
Aye Aye Books
I love spending a lazy afternoon winding my way from the city centre to the west end, popping off into my favourite book shops along the way. Aye Aye Books is always on my itinerary for such days. Housed in the Centre for Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall Street, Aye Aye Books is a specialist art book shop where you will never fail to find something beautiful to tempt you. Once you’ve finished browsing and buying then you could even grab a bite to eat in the CCA’s Saramago Café-Bar.
If you enjoy visiting a graveyard (I do) then the Glasgow Necropolis is a truly excellent example of such a place. Opened in 1832 after a local businessman dubbed the location as “admirably adapted for a Pere LaChaise” the site now plays host to more than 50,000 graves. Situated to the east of the city centre you could spend a happy hour or two wandering the grounds and looking for monuments to and graves of notable Scottish writers, such as John Knox and William Miller (author of Wee Willie Winkie) not to mention the tomb of the Blackie Publishing Family.
Glasgow Women’s Library
Glasgow Women’s Library was established in 1991 and has since become one of the city’s most valuable resources. Now housed in a beautifully converted building in Bridgeton the library offers an amazing space in which you can access information by and for women and explore the often hidden histories of women. They even have the National Museum of Roller Derby! The library hosts events and offers guided tours of Glasgow’s history, with a focus on stories about the women of the city. This is a truly special place and well worth a visit if you are ever in Glasgow.