The Scottish Parliament has a constituency called Glasgow Southside, and you do hear people in the city talking about the Southside, so it clearly exists beyond the imagination of travel guide writers trying to divide Glasgow into manageable chunks. As a matter of geographical fact the area is a sprawling, largely residential stretch of the city with more than a dozen distinct neighbourhoods. Starting on the south bank of the Clyde it ranges from Govan in the west to Richmond Park and Shawfield in the east and penetrates as far south as Shawlands, even to Giffnock (technically not in Glasgow but across the county line in East Renfrewshire). Given this diversity, the Southside isn't so much a single place as a collection of places: extensive, defined by what it isn't –north of the river – and strategically dipped into by visitors heading for standout attractions like the Burrell Collection or the Scottish Football Museum. Where you might wander the streets of the Merchant City or the West End, browsing, looking for a café or shop that catches your eye, you won't necessarily have those opportunities here but the Southside does offer two of the biggest football stadiums in the British Isles – Hampden and Ibrox – as well as parkland, theatre and an interesting selection of bars and eateries dotted around its many streets.
Things to do in the Southside
The Glasgow-born shipping magnate and fine art collector Sir William Burrell lived from 1861 to 1958 and amassed an astonishing collection of painting, sculpture and other treasures that he bequeathed to his natal city. It took until 1983 to organise custom-built premises to exhibit the material, in Pollok Country Park, but since then the Burrell Collection has been the Koh-i-Noor in the city's cultural crown.
Popularly known as the Citz, this is a theatre with a distinguished pedigree. The building dates to the Victorian era, the resident company was founded in 1943 while its list of directors reads like a Who's Who of Scottish drama. The main auditorium holds over 450 people, there is a studio space for smaller productions, an active community programme and the schedule covers everything from child-friendly shows to stand-up comedy and challenging new plays.
This building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh as part of a competition for a German deisgn magazine, wasn't actually made flesh til the 1980s (when civil engineer Graham Roxburgh wondered, 'Why not actually build the thing?'). The site was Bellahouston Park, the project took until 1996 to be fully realised but since then it has stood as a paradigmatic example of the Mackintosh aesthetic: too fussy for some, its interior achingly beautiful to others.
In Scotland, football is a serious business. Over the last few years, a manager has received bullets and a parcel bomb in the post, while the financial distress of one club led the football authorities to predict 'social unrest' if that club was allowed to slide out of existence. The Scottish Football Museum at Hampden may present a much fluffier picture of the game ('Archie Gemmill, 1978 World Cup, marvellous') but it's a great place to start if you want to understand football's place in Scottish society and more specifically in Glaswegian society.
Once an actual tram depot, then a transport museum, this venue first staged a theatre performance in 1988 when Peter Brook took his epic Mahabharata to Glasgow. Since then the Tramway has developed into a multi-disciplinary space where you can see exhibitions, plays and live music, or just chill out in the café-bar. In addition, the site is home to a community garden, a visual arts studio and a dance studio.
Going back to school is something that would fill many of us with horror – but don’t let the thought of playgrounds past put you off Scotland Street School Museum. This space is both a fine example of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architecture, and a fascinating museum, giving insights into the education system in Scotland from the late 19th to the late 20th century (clue: it wasn’t always especially forgiving). Since opening as a museum, it has become a must-visit for Mackintosh fans, and those interested in a taste of living social history.
This expansive green space is home to aforementioned House for an Art Lover and a Victorian walled garden, as well as large-scale music events from time to time (Calvin Harris and Paolo Nutini are scheduled for August 2015). The rest of the time, it's simply a lush, 169-acre parkland ideal for picnicking, strolling, cycling and a handful of other sporting pursuits.
Cafes and restaurants in the Southside
Bringing a modern café-bistro sensibility to Shawlands, this venue has been a big hit since it opened in 2011. From simple breakfasts like bacon sandwiches made with crusty, Italian bread, to evening specials like a vegetarian risotto with roast beetroot and feta, the food is good, the décor contemporary – bare stone, twinkling lights – and the service friendly.
Sandwiched between a low-rise, multi-storey car park and a Glasgow subway station (Shields Road), the Fish People Café may not be in the most picturesque part of the Southside but it doesn't lack for transport links. With its swish interior and accomplished seafood menu – roast cod with stewed pepper, king prawn and lime for example – you won't be worrying about the street outside when you're at table.
If you're going to go south you might as well go properly south to the suburban delights of Giffnock although to be fair it's all of 15 minutes from Glasgow Central by train and the Giffnock Ivy is just round the corner from Giffnock station. Not so inaccessible then. The venue has been under its current management since 2008 but has a history going back much further and a name that officially distinguishes it from that other Ivy in London. With its smart interior and Modern European menu, it is much-loved by Giffnockians and a great find if you happen to be down that way.
The McMillan in Norby Road, marginally west of the West End, has been a dependable venue for a burger, fish and chips or steak for some years. In 2014 the proprietors ventured to the Southside with a second venue in a much more prominent site. From breakfast through to lunch then burgers, grills and comfort dishes in the evening, it's a beacon of informal dining in the streets around Queen's Park.
A welcome new addition to the South Side since 2013, Buddy’s sit-in bar, diner and grill follows its takeaway outlet a few doors up Pollokshaws Road in bringing proper American-style burger and barbecue fair to Glasgow below the Clyde. It’s fairly no-frills stuff, but they thankfully don’t cut corners on the most important thing - the burgers. Each pate is made to order fresh using 100% fresh beef, and served on a soft bun with salad and a special sauce of your choosing, plus additional toppings if you fancy a spot of customising. The waiting times can be long, but take that as a sign of reassurance that those pates really are made fresh.
Pubs and bars in the Southside
The Clockwork Beer Co was founded in its current premises, near Hampden, back in 1997 as an independent brewpub. For some years however it has been owned by Maclays Inns, a pub management company, that has around 30 venues across Scotland. Clockwork still brews a range of beers on site and although the venue can feel a little corporate, it's a handy place for a pint and pub grub if you're going to the football, or happen to be around this part of the Southside.
A café-bar and music venue in Shawlands, by the western corner of Queen's Park, the Glad Café does breakfast-brunch in the mornings, lunch from noon and a sharing plates menu from 4pm. You can stop by for a drink or you can see gigs in its 120-capacity venue where familiar faces from the Scottish music scene like Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Mike Heron (Incredible String Band) and Ricky Ross (Deacon Blue) have already graced the stage since launch in 2012.
Given that the Laurieston is only two blocks south of the Clyde, and you can get here in a few minutes from Argyle Street, its location could be described as Southside lite. But from its bunker-like structure to the font used on its signage, the fixed tables inside and the central, circular bar, it is precisely the kind of place that looked modern in the 1960s. If it was in Newcastle upon Tyne, you might expect to see Bob and Terry in the corner. (Ask your dads.) Being Glasgow in the 21st century you get Fyne Ales from Argyll, Jaw Brew ales from Renfrewshire, a convivial atmosphere and stylistic time travel for the price of a pint.