So, you’re headed to Scotland and one of your stops along the way is the city of Glasgow. You’re looking for something besides the run-of-the-mill sightseeing tour. But, what? Well, how about a bicycle tour of Glasgow with Glasgow Bike Tours, where the bicycles you tour on have as much history and character as Glasgow? We gave it a go and here’s how it went!
...but first, a bit about Glasgow!
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, with a population of about 615,000 (Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and second largest city has about 500,000). At its peak in the 1930’s, Glasgow’s population was well over 1.1 million, but with urban renewal projects in the 1960’s, the population decreased to roughly what it is today.
It’s situated on the River Clyde in the West Central Lowlands, but the River Kelvin is close by and it’s pretty important to Glasgow, too. Once polluted by the mills and chemical plants around Glasgow, the River Kelvin is now an important wildlife area that feeds into the Clyde.
Originally, Glasgow was a rural settlement, but grew into Britain’s largest seaport.
The University of Glasgow has been around since the 15th century, eventually cementing Glasgow’s position as a center of Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century, a time marked by important intellectual and scientific accomplishments.
Residents of Glasgow are known as “Glaswegians” or “Weegies” for short!
For our tour, we chose Glasgow Bike Tours. They offer three different bike tours from half day to full day (they also offers a private tour if you’re so inclined). We opted for the full day “Full Bhuna” tour (pronounced “BOOH-nah”. The name “Bhuna” reflects Glasgow’s position as the center of Indian cuisine in Europe since Bhuna is the Indian word for “a little bit of everything”. Even though the Full Bhuna is a full day tour, it really only covered about 10 miles, and they were mostly flat. There were a few hills and I’m absolutely not a mountain goat (I can’t even ride up an anthill), so I just walked my bike up the hills. In addition to being mostly flat, the tour was almost entirely on paths, or through parks. Occasionally, we rode very short distances on the street, but no worries, our guide, Keith, shepherded his little ducklings through the traffic safely.
The bikes Glasgow Bike Tours uses have a super cool history. Originally, they were Royal Mail delivery bikes in the United Kingdom. Eventually, the bikes were repurposed – refurbished and painted red - and sent to the country of Malawi in Africa, where they were used to check game preserve perimeters. Unfortunately, the elephants didn’t take too kindly to the color red and they would charge at the bikes. Hence, the name Elephant Bikes! They were quickly painted a more “elephant-friendly” color. Today, the decommissioned Royal Mail bikes have been bought by a British charity, the Krizevac Project, where they’ve been restored and are available for sale. For each bike purchased, another is donated to local villages in Malawi to help people get to work, to school, or to get their goods to market. They are very sturdy and have nice big padded seats, so we certainly didn’t need to wear our cycling pants. How awesome is that story?
Keith, the owner of Glasgow Bike Tours was our guide. As with all the Glaswegians we met, he was very easy going and friendly, with a sly sense of humor (and he’s a super interesting guy, too). His knowledge of Glasgow is vast, so besides the straightforward background of Glasgow, we also got awesomely quirky tidbits of Glasgow trivia. Keith also took us to see some of the most incredible street art. (Apparently, Glasgow has a vibrant street art scene, and even has a street art trail you can follow).
What to Bring:
Scotland is green for a reason. There’s a lot of rain, and it rained periodically, the day of our tour, so we brought waterproof ponchos and rain pants. While we were nice and dry with our ponchos, our guide donned his waterproof pants in addition to a rain slicker. Even though it was soggy from time to time, we still had long stretches of beautiful sunshine. Point is – be prepared. Oh, and don’t forget to pack a bottle of water!
What We Thought:
It was AWESOME! It was a nice leisurely pace – not a stage in the Tour de France – suitable for all fitness levels. We stopped regularly to learn about things like the lamp posts outside the Glasgow Cathedral, the guys clearing the locks on the Forth and Clyde canal, the “Armadillo” (really, it’s the Clyde Auditorium, it's called armadillo because it resembles one), even making our way through Glasgow Green to see where the BBC music fest was setting up (called Proms in the Park). I felt like we saw it all! It was just the right mix of cycling, sightseeing and, oh, yeah, an awesome lunch at a local micro-brewery!
So, if you’re looking for a fun way to spend the day, you should absolutely check out Glasgow Bike Tours! And tell Keith that Traveleidoscope sent ya! A big thanks to Keith for making our short time in Glasgow incredible!
Still looking for more cool and different stuff to do? If you’ve got a car, you may want to drive out to the Rivers Tay and Tummel and try white water rafting with Splash Rafting!
Are you headed to Scotland soon? What’s on your itinerary? Let me know on Facebook or in the comment section below!