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Stroll Through Time
Walking Tour
Glasgow's West End

Fun and informative small group walking tour discovering its history, buildings and characters. Join me around the streets of this vibrant area.  We'll start on bustling Byres Road, explore cobbled Ashton Lane, head up to the impressive University of Glasgow before taking in beautiful Kelvingrove Park finally strolling down hip Great Western Road to finish outside the Botanic Gardens.

Tour Details

When: Saturday (Weekly)

Book: email (by 9pm the night before)

Where: Hillhead Subway Station, Byres Road

Time: 10:30am

Duration: 2 Hours

Price: You decide!

About Me


Hi, I'm Martin. Careers adviser during the week, Tour guide at the weekend. Originally from the Highlands, I've previously guided around the Old Town of Edinburgh and now its Glasgow's West End. I have a passion for history having been a National Trust for Scotland Volunteer for nearly 10 years. I love meeting new folk to show them around this beautiful area. Look forward to meeting you!

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Carolyn R

Lovely Stroll Through the West End - Martin's tour of the West End was a great way to become orientated to the area. He shared great history and stories about the places we were passing and things to do. If you have a few hours to join, I recommend joining.

Passenger 789906

A great, fun and informative tour of Glasgow's West End - Martin's tour through the West End is a great way to learn more about the history of Hillhead underground station, Byres Road, the University of Glasgow  and surrounding areas. Martin is an engaging and enthusiastic tour guide with a detailed knowledge of the area's history. I was running late on the day but Martin waited on me to join, which I really appreciated. I'd strongly recommend the Stroll Through Time tour of the West End to anyone from long-term residents to visitors...

Shona M

Great Tour around the West End - Really interesting and informative walking tour. Martin is a great tour guide and captured the best of the West End. And the sun managed to make an appearance too! Thanks again, Martin:)


Glasgow University


Established in 1451 by Bishop William Turnbull, the university spent the first 400 years of its life in the east end of the city originally by the cathedral then off the High Street. As the industrial revolution developed, Glasgow would be coined the 2nd city of the empire by Queen Victoria. The city and the surrounding area around the university gradually became more and more unpleasant with the smog and pollution. Therefore, when the opportunity came to move to the west end, the countryside at the time, it would prove to be extremely timely.. However, it was not plain sailing as the sale of the land to Glasgow, Airdrie & Monklands Railway company fell through eventually taking litigation by the university to fund the move and even then they had to raise money to complete it  through public subscriptions and donations.


Once there though, the Scottish-French Gothic building by Sir George Gilbert Scott was impressive. It was the second largest and oldest Neo-Gothic/Gothic Revival piece of architecture in the UK behind the Houses of Parliament, built ten years previously. Controversially though, there was no competition held for architects to bid and given that at the time the city had a  number of talented architects including Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson the design did not go down well with everyone especially Frank Wordsall declaring it ‘sham medievalism’.


Sadly, Gilbert Scott died before completion and his son would finish it adding the 278 feet Gilbert Scott Tower which is now home to a Peregrine Falcon’s reflecting the range of wildlife which can be found in this area next to Kelvingrove Park. This can be best appreciated from the southside of the campus where you can see the missing statues. Now, the architect would like you to believe these were stolen during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. However, we know this is a 19th century building and the university ran out of money! So, you decide.


Back inside the confines of the building flanked by the east and west quadrangles sit the majestic cloisters. Meaning a covered area in a college with colonnades to a quadrangle with its archways of fluted columns and ribbed vaults, Harry Potter vibes aplenty going on here. Although, this is where Albert Einstein came for a cigarette break during his guest lecture on the History of the General Theory of Relativity in 1933. He would receive an honorary degree here having turned down a few because he felt like he was walking in the footsteps of his academic heroes Adam Smith, James Watt and Lord Kelvin of Largs who attend this institution in some capacity.


Above the cloisters sits Bute Hall named after the Marquis of Bute who in 1877 donated £3 million pounds to the university. Strangely, shipping magnate Charles Randolph gifted £5 million for the smaller Randolph Hall although this was bequeathed which may account for that. Art work include George Sharkey’s three square gyratory structure where large kinetic structures with moving parts was his thing. An American artist, he spent time growing up in Helensburgh as his father was a manager at the Singer Factory as well as being an engineer and clockmaker. Across the cloisters, there is Jephson Robb’s piece of art Alma Mater commemorating all the philanthropists over the years including the public which is the reason this area is open to all 24/7.


Glasgow's West End

A bustling, vibrant area popular with students, academics and ‘celebrities’ it really developed in the late 19th century after the relocation of the University of Glasgow from the High Street in town to Gilmorehill. At this point, the area was mostly countryside and rolling landscape punctuated by large mansions belonging to the Old Glasgow Gentry. These were wealthy families formed through the success of the Tobacco trade then Cotton and latterly during the industrial revolution making them the billionaires of their day.

Development was led by James Gibson, as in the Gibson’s of Hillhead, who were involved in the first transatlantic tobacco trade to the Americas in 1674. He would feu lands to similar wealthy families to build their mansions away from the pollution of the city in a location that was only two miles west neighbouring tenant farmers, coal mines and quarries. Along the west bank of the Kelvin River, were the estates of Kelvinside, Kelvingrove and Hillhead soon to be followed by developing ones like Dowanhill, Gilmorehill and Northpark. 

Hillhead grew to the extent that it acquired burgh status in 1869 becoming the Burgh of Hillhead. The area had grown from a few hundred to a few thousand and with this title came the construction of the burgh. Sadly, it demolished in 1970 and replaced by Hillhead Library in 1975. Meanwhile, James Gibson would campaign for better commuter routes to the city to entice more folk to the area and in the mid-19th century Great Western Road was built. Soon, omnibuses and carriages pulled by horses then trams would operate along the three-mile route from Glasgow Cross to the Botanic Gardens. Underneath ran the railway line which would stop at the Botanic Gardens railway station which used to stand just left to where the blue police box is today. Designed by James Miller, it was built around 1894-96, closed in 1939 then burnt down in 1970.

The Botanic Gardens had also relocated to the West End in the mid-19th century, an institution formed by Sir Thomas Hopkirk of Dalbeath in the early 19th century, it was originally based at Sandyford nearer to the city centre. However, it made sense for Botanical experts to be closer to the university for medical research and even though it was a private society with members, it did open to the public for a schilling every Saturday. In fact, if you walk into the gardens today, turn left and stroll a short distance you can see down through the ventilation shaft to the original platform.

Strangely, railways did not really take off in Glasgow’s West End given their success around the rest of the city. But this was probably because there were more commercially profitable routes around the city.


They also had competition in the form of trams and then in 1896 the subway opened. Glasgow Subway’s Hillhead Station along Byres Road from the Botanics is the third oldest in the world behind London (1863) and Budapest (May 1896). It opened on the 14th of December 1896 only 7 months behind Budapest! Referred to as the Clockwork Orange, in reference to the 1970s Stanley Kubrick film starring Malcom McDowell, it has always consisted of just an inner and outer cycle. Never expanded. This is the main stop in the West End for students at the university who will also use it for the ‘Sub crawl’. That’s right, a pub crawl incorporating the Subway’s fifteen stops involving participants disembarking and finding the nearest pub to sink a drink before descending underground again for the next one. In the case of this stop, that pub would be the Curler’s Rest.

The oldest building on Byres Road, ‘Curler’s’ dates to the 17th century when it was a coffee house and even entertained King Charles II and Oliver Cromwell. It takes its name from what used to be the nearby Partick Curling Club, and this was their chosen watering hole after practice hence the name. It is along from this pub outside the subway station itself that I start my tour so if that has whetted your appetite (pun fully attended) then drop me an email at

Next time, I’ll be writing about all the famous alumni that have attended Glasgow University throughout the centuries

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