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Lesser-Known Facts About Glasgow

By wizu | 10 April 2023

As Scotland’s largest city by area, Glasgow has the largest population, with over 590,000 people! Yet, the city has fewer tourists than Edinburgh, though it’s catching up with more tourists finding this beautiful city each year. The city is home to Glasgow Cathedral, the Riverside Museum of Transport, and so much more.

If you’ve never been to Glasgow, you don’t know what you’re missing! We’ve put together some lesser-known facts about Glasgow that cover history, people, and more!


1. Glasgow’s Connections Go Back to Ancient Rome

The city has connections with the River Clyde that go back to ancient Roman times. For thousands of years, the river was the main fishing site for the country’s ancient tribes. When the Romans arrived 2,000 years ago, the tribespeople were not happy with the outposts the Romans built along the Antonine Wall.

For this reason, the Romans had to spend a huge amount of resources to man the wall. Only 23 years after it was completed, the Romans decided it was easier to leave Scotland rather than waste more resources along the wall.


2. Founded in the 6th Century

Glasgow was officially founded in the 6th century, hundreds of years after the Romans left. St. Mungo was established as a church on the Molendinar Burn, on the site where the Glasgow Cathedral now stands. The church was a place of pilgrimage for those who wanted to visit St. Mungo’s final resting place.

You can probably figure out what happened next. Over time, the religious place of pilgrimage attracted market traders who eventually built shops and permanent homes near the church.


3. The Meaning of “Glasgow” & the City’s Name of Endearment

The name “Glasgow” first appeared in the early 1100s as “Glagu” or “Glascou.” In the Gaelic language, the name means “green hollow” and probably refers to a ravine that’s located to the east of Glasgow Cathedral.

The city is also known as “dear green place” by city residents, referring to the city itself.


4. Gaelic’s Still Spoken in the City

Gaelic is spoken in Glasgow today, and the use of this language is one of the highest in Scotland, outside of the Highlands.

The only city in Scotland with a higher percentage of Gaelic speakers is Inverness, which is usually thought of as the capital of the Highlands. The Gaelic-only TV station BBC Alba has its studios on the River Clyde.


5. The Oldest Public Holiday Started in Glasgow

The Glasgow Fair is one of the oldest public holidays in the world. It started in 1190 in Glasgow and started as a way for people to meet and sell cattle and horses. Over time, however, the event turned into a festival that included amusements, theatre shows, and more.

While the fair was originally held near Glasgow Cathedral, it was moved to Bellahouston Park in the 1800s.


6. Glasgow Cathedral One of the Oldest Buildings

Glasgow Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in the city; however, not many visitors know that the oldest house is located nearby on Castle Street, just a short distance from the cathedral.

The house, Provand’s Lordship, was originally built in 1471 as part of St. Nicholas hospital. It’s one of only four mediaeval buildings still standing in Glasgow today.


7. Glasgow’s Museums

The city has over 20 museums, and almost all are free to visit, including the Hunterian Museum (the oldest in the country).

The Hunterian was founded in 1807 and moved to its permanent location in the middle of the University of Glasgow in 1870.


8. Oldest Industry in Glasgow—Can You Guess?

If you weren’t able to guess, that’s OK! We’ll share that information with you. One of the oldest industries in Glasgow is shipbuilding. The city’s location on the River Clyde is perfect for this industry.

Shipbuilding on the Clyde started in the 15th century and continues today. However, the industry has been greatly reduced from its peak in the 1900s. Over 30,000 ships were built across all the shipyards on the River Clyde.


9. Shallow Riverbed

While the shipbuilding industry in Glasgow was one of the largest in the world, there was a time during the industrial revolution when the riverbed was too shallow. In some places, it was possible for people to walk across the river!

However, the Glasgow residents were able to come up with a solution. They dredged the river over the course of 53 years, removing 108,000 tonnes of sediment.


10. St. Valentine’s Relics – or Part of Them

Not many people realise that some of St. Valentine’s remains are kept in Glasgow, at the Church of the Blessed St. John Duns Scotus.

The church is home to a Franciscan order of monks and is the only remaining Catholic church in the Gorbals area of the city. Here, you can find St. Valentine at the front of the church in a 3-foot wide, ornate chest that contains one of his forearms.


11. The Only City to Have an Underground Railway System

Another less-known fact about Glasgow is that it’s the only city in Scotland to have its own underground railway system. The system is called “clockwork orange” due to the colours used on the trains. The underground metro is the third-oldest in the world, following behind London and Budapest.

In addition, the subway route is circular and has only two lines that connect 15 stations across 7 miles of track.


12. The Most-Visited Tourist Attraction in Scotland

Glasgow’s also home to one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Scotland – the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The museum was built between 1888 and 1901.

You may hear about an urban myth involving the museum. It’s said the building was built back to front by mistake. Having noticed his mistake, the architect leaped to his death from one of the museum’s towers.

The reality is that the museum was built to face the park to coincide with the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition. So, we’re not sure if the architect really leaped from one of the towers or not. At least it makes for an interesting story!

The Kelvingrove Museum is also home to Sir Roger the elephant, who lived in Glasgow in the 1800s.


Summing It Up

So, there you have it! These are some of the lesser-known facts about the ancient city of Glasgow. There’s much to see and do here! We hope you’ll come for a visit soon!

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