University of Glasgow: A Walk Through Secrets And Stories

The University of Glasgow: You might have several reasons to visit. There are world class museums of the sciences, a top class art gallery with connections to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and James McNeill Whistler, archaeology exhibits from prehistoric fish to Roman life along the Antonine Wall. There are concerts, talks, and other events from the students and scholars who call the University of Glasgow home.

university of glasgow main buidling scotland gpthic revival

Glasgow Uni, as it is often known for short, is also a world class place to study, research, and teach. Constantly ranked in the top reaches of universities in the world for all those things both overall and for individual schools and departments, the University of Glasgow has an impressive academic reputation.

The main campus, which is in the west end of Glasgow just past Kelvingrove Park, also has an impressive look. It’s often said that the University of Glasgow could stand in for Hogwarts, the wizarding school of Harry Potter fame.

When things are open at the university, you can book a guided tour (there’s a small charge) or follow a self guided one.

Those both will show highlights and are good to explore. I have been coming to Glasgow Uni’s campus for one reason and other every winter for some years now, so I will point you to a few things to look out for and enjoy which are not always on those itineraries.

university of glasgow tracery window

Most of the places I’ll show you are in the oldest part of the old campus, which is to the lower right on this map. This map is on campus posted near the Cloisters, which we will get to in a moment. As you can see, it’s a fairly compact but rather complex campus. This is only part of Glasgow University, too: there are medical teaching facilities at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and elsewhere, a campus down in Dumfries, a new learning hub just to the west of this campus, and museum and other humanities teaching facilities at the recently renovated Kelvin Hall.

university of glasgow map

The heart and heartbeat of the University of Glasgow is in this central older campus, though. There are among other things student unions, places to eat, the chapel, the quad where graduates celebrate with a procession led by a piper in a kilt.

On a winter morning there are quieter aspects to enjoy — though if someone is practicing his or her music across the road in Kelvingrove Park, you may hear the sound of bagpipes now and again.

You will likely hear bells chime from the central tower. The tower forms the center of classrooms and offices and what were once professor’s residence buildings in the quads which surround it.

university of glasgow tower side

One of those world class museums, the Hunterian, is in the central building. Among the varied things you will find there:

Hunterian Museum University of Glasgow Scotland pots

University of Glasgow Hunterian horn

One of my favourite places at the University of Glasgow campus is the Cloisters.

university of glasgow cloisters scotland

In winter it is often lit up as you see here. I enjoy it when it’s quiet, but many UofG graduates will tell you their memories of the Cloisters have to do with Freshers’ week, when this is the place first year students are introduced to university organizations they may want to join, and take part in other activities. It’s not quiet then!

These impressive older looking buildings are not as old as they look, though most do date back to around 1870. The University of Glasgow was founded in 1451. The first instruction was held at Glasgow Cathedral and the first campus was nearby, built on grounds given to the university by Mary Queen of Scots.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, though, things were getting crowded in that part of the city. George Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the new main building, which would be located on what was then a field in Gilmore Hill. His Gothic Revival design was loved by some and disparaged by others at the time; today it has become a part of the distinctive character of the University of Glasgow.

uni glasgow chapel unicorn ball stairs

Two parts of buildings which date from 1690 were brought across town piece by piece and were incorporated into the 1870 designs. These are a staircase that’s at the west end of the main building, near the entrance to Memorial Chapel, and parts of the building at the northeast gate known as Pearce Lodge.

University of Glasgow Scotland

There are many modern buildings at the University of Glasgow, of course. It is an ever evolving place of learning. The Gothic Revival buildings offer distinctive character (and have shown up in Outlander. among other films, too).

univeristy of glasgow tracery stone and window

One of the things I enjoy most about walking around the main campus of Glasgow Uni, whatever may be bringing me here, is seeing the details of the buildings, and the contrasts.

The main tower is a distinctive landmark in the neighbourhood, too, whether seen on a card or through the trees by the River Kelvin in the rain.

univeristy fo glasgow tower trees painting

univeristy of glasgow tower through the woods

Photographs by Kerry Dexter. Thank you for respecting copyright.

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