Category Archives: Hidden Gems

Glasgow Central Station Tours

Glasgow Central Station Tours

 Glasgow Central Station Tours
Sometimes the best exhibitions and tours are the ones that fire your imagination.
The Glasgow Central Station underground tour isn’t a Burrell Collection. There’s no pretty artefacts, tapestries or sculptures to admire, but it’s no less fascinating. What it is, is a reflection and appreciation of one of Glasgow’s many faces, and its past. Like most industrial cities, it’s a bit dark and gritty.
Glasgow Central Station Tours
As we step underneath the bowels of the station, it’s deathly quiet and mysterious underground, and we’re oblivious to hundreds of people above us. They’re running for trains. Arriving, departing, seeking destinations, for work or pleasure. They’re going to meetings, night outs, going home, going out, perhaps they’re having secret assignations like the movie Brief Encounter … saying hello and waving goodbye …
It might all be going on upstairs, but downstairs on the Central Station Tour we’re being entertained by Paul Lyons, our tour guide. He actually looks and sounds like he’s been spirited in from another era. He’s a classic Scottish storyteller, an art that some people naturally possess – and he has it, in steam engine powered shovel-fulls.
Glasgow Central Station Tours
The tours were his idea, and he fought long and hard to bring them to life. He had to persuade a lot of people, and you get the feeling that he doesn’t give up easily. The powers that be were eventually persuaded when Glasgow Central Tours took part in one of the Doors Open Days – when traditionally closed off buildings and premises open their doors to the public for a weekend. The Glasgow Central Tours received 83,500 requests for 100 free places. It was proof that people wanted to get underneath the station and feel its history.
And it’s a history that is fascinating and tragic. Bring your imagination and you can feel the chill at a certain point on the tour, where Paul tells us it’s where the dead bodies of young men, lost in WW1, were brought and laid down. And he pays homage to the women – the wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, grandmothers, who would come to identify them. It brings a lump to your throat as you imagine the heartbreaking scene and then the struggle that ensued as those women were made responsible for bringing their loved ones up the stairs and out of the station. Paul found some of the original stretchers that some of the bodies would have been laid on. He is also planning a First World War memorial to the women of Glasgow, including a brass plaque and a poem in Scots.
Glasgow Central Station Tours
34 million people pass through Central Station every year and they are using more than 1,000 trains a day. The station was built on what was the old village of Grahamston, the vast majority of this village was demolished when Glasgow Central Station was built.
Paul is also continually collecting stories from people who he takes around the tour. These stories, at risk of being lost forever, are now being kept alive.
The final section of the tour is fascinating as you stand on an old abandoned platform, with huge pillars and tiled walls. There’s an eerie feeling as you gaze into the quiet darkness.
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Paul is currently clearing this section of the station and he’s constantly discovering discarded artefacts such as a telegram from 1919, a pack of Kensitas cigarettes from 1928, and newspapers from the 1940s.
There are also plans to develop this section of the tour and to recreate what this platform would have looked like. Proposed inclusions include an old kiosk, bookstall, shop fronts, old-fashioned vending machines and gas-effect lighting. The money generated from the Central Station Tours, (which have attracted around 29,000 visitors), will go towards this restoration.
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Photo : Network Rail

This is a fascinating piece of hidden history, which is literally right underneath your feet. It deserves to be supported and it’s history wonderfully retold. Listen to the stories, close your eyes, and let your imagination take over.

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Filed under Events, Glasgow, Hidden Gems, Hidden Glasgow, Photography, Scotland, Slideshows, Tours & Exhibitions

Mhor 84 Motel, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, Scotland

DSC06331 If you want to sample the best that Scotland has to offer, you’ll find it just off a busy main road – the A84. Hence the name behind this cool establishment that is fast becoming a must-visit Scottish central belt hot spot. Think Route 66 but with glorious glens, mountains, mists and magical forests. And the location is perfect, it also services Cycle Route 7 and Rob Roy Way.

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Stay overnight at the hotel or in one of the nearby cottages. Or simply take a drive out and visit. Driving from Glasgow will take you just over an hour and the nearest town is Callander.

What I loved about Mhor 84 is the relaxed vibe. All are welcome – take your dog, take the kids, even if you’ve been out cycling or hiking the hills, and looking a bit tatty – the doors are open. And there’s plenty walks and trails around this area, which is called Rob Roy Country (the grave of the famous Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor is only around two miles away located beside Balquhidder Kirk). See my other blog post Balquhidder, Rob Roy Country

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Meanwhile at Mhor 84, there’s lots to enjoy – from the all day breakfast, to hearty soup, full blown lunches and dinners to hot chocolate, coffee and yummy cakes, then swill it all down with some fine wine, spirits, drams and beers. There’s no restrictions or stuffiness – choose whatever you fancy. You’ll easily sit, while away the day, and enjoy the beautiful views outside. There’s also a games room to keep kids and adults amused, which includes a pool table, TV, wi-fi, toys and board games.

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The Rob Roy Bar

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The relaxed dining room

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Mhor 84 excels in its food. With a full menu offering lots of options and delivering some fine Scottish produce. It’s worth visiting for the food alone.

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A healthy breakfast option

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Hearty Scotch Broth with tomato and ginger topping

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A healthy salad packed with flavours

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Is that a doughnut or a meringue? No joke – these meringues are seriously good!

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Kings of the Empire … biscuit …

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Be sure to check out the fish suppers at Mhor Fish in nearby Callander

Also part of the Mhor brand is Mhor Fish – located in nearby Callander – around a 15-20 minute drive from Mhor 84. This is a top notch fish and chip shop restaurant with tasteful, contemporary decor. Serving up great quality fish encased in batter that is so light and crispy, it melts in your mouth. Delicious. And while you’re here – also check out Mhor Bread – a bakery/coffee shop, full of cakes, shortbread, varieties of bread and award-winning pies.

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It’s also worth hanging around Mhor 84 on a Thursday night for “Thank Folk It’s Thursday”. The hotel becomes host to an array of musicians who pile through the doors with an assemble of instruments. Watching this scene unfold is like being part of a Marx Brothers movie. It becomes a jamming session for folk musicians – and extremely talented ones at that, featuring Ewan MacPherson of Shooglenifty. What adds to the charm is that there appears to be no set list/script or order. It’s wonderfully organic, free flowing, in the moment, and harmonious. And just when you think things can’t get any more surreal – in walks an elderly gentleman with a fascinatingly wizened face, dressed head to toe in swathes of plaid, drums on his back – and looking like he’s wandered off the set of Braveheart. When he’s not joining in on the music, he’s reciting old poetry and verse, retelling magical tales of Scottish folklore to an captivated audience. While all this is taking place, a lady sleeps in a chair, but still taps her feet to the music. A shaggy sheepdog settles for a snooze beside her, it’s not her dog, but he sees a good spot. Meanwhile all the staff, who incidentally are all charming and very friendly, never bat an eyelid. I don’t know if every Thursday night is like this, but the whole Mhor 84 package is bewitching. I can’t wait to go back.

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No bones about it – dogs are welcome at Mhor 84

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The Mhor the merrier … lots of quality from the Mhor brand to enjoy

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For more information see Mhor 84 Motel Website

For more information on the surrounding area see Rob Roy Country Website

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Filed under Food Reviews, Hidden Gems, Hotel Reviews, Photography, Scotland, Travel

Inshriach Nursery & The Potting Shed, Near Aviemore, Inverness-shire April 2014

2014-04-12 16.46.55 I love a hidden gem and the Inshriach Nursery and The Potting Shed is one such jewel. The Potting Shed made it onto Dan Lepard’s list of Britain’s Best Cake Shops, published in The Observer, and it turns out that Dan is a master baker, so he obviously knows a good sponge when he sees one. As a lover of a fine tearoom and not being adverse to a mouth-watering confection of cakes, it was something I had to check out.

Finding cake heaven proved a bit tricky, as there isn’t an address as such and is listed as “Aviemore” but in reality it is some 10 minutes or so outside the town. The drive is scenic but after a while you are tempted to think you are on a wild cake chase, but persevere, it’s a place you will return to again and again, which was quite apparent by the number of visitors. 2014-04-12 16.46.32 And if there is an award for “best-view-from-a-tearoom” surely this must be a contender? Where else can you sit with a huge slab of cake and watch over a Scottish Highland forest? This giant open air aviary with its array of constantly darting and swooping chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, and siskins who fed on giant swinging bird feeders was an ornithologist’s dream. But it’s not just for bird-watchers, the effect was mesmerising and relaxing. A quick cuppa can easily turn into two hours. 2014-04-12 15.54.54 Red squirrels are rare in certain parts of Scotland, but you can see them in some areas around the Highlands and some appeared and gnawed eagerly on the nut feeders. 2014-04-12 15.52.47 Undoubtedly, this is an amazing view for a sweet treat, but what of the actual cakes? Yes, they lived up to the hype. Thick and generous, light and fluffy, sweet and tasty. There’s also a large and unusual selection, with everything from lemon custard and raspberry, plum and apple to strawberry and redcurrant to chocolate cake with blueberry. On the menu also is an extensive list of wheat free cakes.

Inshriach Nursery and The Potting Shed – Menu

Apart from The Potting Shed tearoom, the Inshriach Nursery is a delight to potter around. Wander about the beautiful gardens, admire the quaint features, sit on a bench and watch the chickens as they strut and coo.

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The Potting Shed Website

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