Down under - Glasgow's South Side
- Kirstin Innes
- 10 September 2009
Kirstin Innes speaks up in praise of the overlooked wonders of Glasgow’s South Side
The West End might shout louder and jangle its designer bracelets more ostentatiously, but for its many residents, the gigantic, sprawling mass of the South Side is the true heart of Glasgow. As many local historians and geographers have observed, defining its boundaries is tricky. ‘South Side’ can really refer to anything south of the Clyde, from the modern façades of the Citizens Theatre Citizens Theatre and Pacific Quay, just a bridge away from the city centre, to areas as far flung as Newton Mearns and Rutherglen. However, at the risk of making exactly the sort of pretentious statement to get me kicked back across the river with a flea in my ear, the places where you find the spirit of the South Side, as opposed to just ‘South Glasgow’, are the places where a very particular set of cultures have been brought together and mixed (not always easily), to form something new.
As an area, it moves to its own beat, and that beat, right now, is more often than not bhangra, rising up from street corners and halal shops all over Shawlands and Pollokshaws. A vibrant community of Scots Asians generates much of the economic power and cultural buzz in the area. They live alongside a new generation of economic migrants: young homebuyers taking refuge from the still-ridiculous house prices in the West End, who have come to expect a certain kind of chi-chi café culture from their city: witness the success of the super-cool Mulberry Street Bar, bustling cultural hubs springing up at areas such as Battlefield, or increasingly chic boutiques such as Butterfly Kisses. There’s a vast, vital interplay of cultures here, creating, as South Side Happenings blogger Allistair Burt puts it, ‘a mix of traditional Glaswegian values and exciting new ideas which is unique in the city’.
Perhaps all this is most obvious in the case of the Govanhill Baths, saved from closure by community action. A sit-in protest involving hundreds of local residents and, eventually, riot police ensued when the council tried to close the swimming pool down – it had the only women-only space in the city, making it important to local Muslim communities. It’s now run by the whole community as a health centre and arts trust, maintained by a volunteer-run charity shop.
All these factors make the South Side one of the most rich and interesting areas of the city. The food is no exception to this rule, with much-loved Glasgow institutions, Tapa Coffeehouse, Balbir and VIP Taste keeping locals well-fed. There’s also a rich seam of culture running through this side of the city that many of the residents take, if not for granted, then at least as the norm: witness young families clambering over the contemporary sculpture of Tramway’s Hidden Gardens, the pervasive community influence of the Citz, the many, many parks and green spaces studded with strange and wonderful attractions such as the Burrell Collection and the Rennie Mackintosh-designed House for an Art Lover. Finally, don’t miss the chance to slow dance with an old cowboy at the Grand Ole Opry, that enduring remnant of Glasgow’s love affair with country music.
25 Albert Drive, behind Tramway, open Tue–Sun. www.tramway.org
Tucked in behind Tramway, Hidden Gardens are a unique, beautiful oasis of calm. It’s all been specifically designed by artist group NVA to examine questions of religion and landscape, features integrated art works by Gerry Loose and Stephen Skyrnka, among others, and offers poetic audio tours of the various flora and fauna.
The Scottish Football Museum
Hampden Park, Letherby Drive, Mount Florida, 0141 616 6139, www.scottishfootballmuseum.org.uk
Located at Hampden, Scotland’s national stadium, two miles due south of the city centre, the museum’s memorabilia includes a ticket from the 1872 England-Scotland international and the world’s first national trophy, 1873’s SFA Challenge Cup.
Perhaps the best-loved of all of the South Side’s dear green places, the park is reigned over by the stately Glasshouses and the Battlefield Monument (marking the spot of Mary, Queen of Scots’ last stand). It’s home to some friendly ducks as well as splendid inner-city fest the Wee Chill (Sat 26 Sep). Some of the city’s best ice-cream is served at the Queen’s Café.
It’s always nice when you can inject a wee bit of culture into your weekend jaunt and opportunities abound in this pretty park, whether it’s wandering into the House for an Art Lover, or checking out the array of walking, cycling and orienteering routes. Green-fingered visitors should make a beeline for the walled garden and check out the breathtaking views of the city.
Dumbreck Road, Glasgow, 0141 427 0558, www.houseforanartlover.co.uk/artpark-glasgow
The Burrell Collection
Boasting over 9000 artworks, this purpose-built building features reconstructions of rooms from Sir William Burrell’s home, alongside medieval art, tapestries and alabasters, as well as works by Degas and Cezanne plus a treasure trove of artefacts from ancient China, Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, 0141 287 2550, www.glasgowmuseums.com
Pollok Country Park
The Burrell Collection may get a hefty load of the attention, but its home, Pollok Country Park, is worthy of attention itself for its many walks and extensive wildlife. It’s Glasgow’s largest park and the only country park within reach of the city and can be reached by train from Central Station to either Shawlands or Pollokshaws West.
Pollok Country Park, 2060 Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow, 0141 616 6410.
Eating & Drinking: South Side
Gusto & Relish
729–731 Pollokshaws Road, 0141 424 1233
This cosy café has a wonderfully laidback atmosphere. Wide windows throw light on a bright dining space, while a deli counter filled with delicacies and shelves stacked with quality pastas, jams and sauces ensure there’s something for all. A large wall clock dominates, but no-one bothers with the time as they chat and enjoy the food.
Cherry & Heather Fine Food
7 North Gower Street, 0141 427 0272
A tiny takeaway and deli opposite Cessnock subway. The wholesome whimsy of the name extends to the menu, which alliteratively encompasses home-made soups, stew, sandwiches and sushi in imaginative combinations of fresh, high-quality ingredients. It’s not only cheaper than chips, but a site healthier and far better tasting to boot.
16 Busby Road, Clarkston, 0141 638 7123
Getting a table at this upmarket deli isn’t always easy, which is a reassuring sign. But get one and you won’t want to move for the rest of the day. Savoury or sweet, the menu options and deli selections are always well-sourced and high quality, with a particularly eye-catching choice of fresh and unusual cakes to get that sweet tooth tingling.
55 Battlefield Road, 0141 636 6955
This charming former tram terminus is easy to spot with its graceful olde-worlde charm. Interiors are styled to exploit the original fittings, complete with cream drapes and elegant ceiling paintings. The menu takes a diverse view of Italian preparation with a list that includes crepes and chicken in coconut milk along with the usual pizzas and pastas. Delicious.
The Pakistani Café
607 Pollokshaws Road,
0141 423 5791
Jimshaed Sharif’s distinctive café has long been a prominent part of the South Side community. It may be closed for the next week or so, but we look forward to seeing its return and enjoying its engaging home-style cooking at great prices. Low-fat, halal, Fairtrade and natural ingredients add an extra level of satisfaction to the eating experience here.
Mise en Place
122–124 Nithsdale Road
0141 424 4600
A popular neighbourhood deli and café by day, this place becomes an informal bistro four evenings a week, serving simple, well-cooked Mediterranean-style dishes including daily-changing pasta dishes and tarts alongside excellent veggie risottos and classy deserts. A warm, understated interior and personable service add to its charms.
Start with a stroll down Allison Street to gawp at the vast selection of spices and other foodstuffs for sale, finishing up with something sweet (and Halal) from the marvellous Glasgow Sweet Centre. Not enough of a sugar hit? Check out Shawlands newcomer Candy Love, stocking both old-fashioned sweeties and new local bespoke brands such as Kschocolat. Those with rarified tastes may prefer to browse the mouth-watering selections of good Scots produce at the 1901 Deli on Skirving Street, or take a wander round the Queen’s Park Farmers’ Market on the second Saturday of every month.
If you’re browsing for clothes, try vintage treasure-troves Hayes and Raw Vintage or designer boutiques Butterfly Kisses and Glitz and Glamour. Raw Vintage also stocks jewellery and clothes by local artists and designers, and they’ll design to order if you can’t find what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, Urban Beauty on Pollokshaws Road caters to anyone in need of some emergency skincare in an attractive, off-beat setting.
Alternatively, you could set your compass towards the three gloriously haphazard Cosgrove Care charity shops on Skirving Street, to RW Stevens, a fine old tailor and kilt maker which is now well into its seventh decade, or to Moon Guitars, a proper old institution for rockers both Scottish and international.