Lord knows I spent far too much time in pubs on my last visit to Glasgow. It didn’t help that there were several excellent drinking holes near my guesthouse by Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow’s West End. Well, it didn’t help my liver – all those arduous hours tasting cask ales and single malts while chatting with happy-go-lucky Scots – but I’ve managed to turn the whole sordid ordeal into a new entry in the Savage Pub Crawls series, my first in Edinburgh’s sibling to the west: Glasgow.
Glasgow’s West End is one of my favorite places in any Scottish city. The beautiful greenery of Kelvingrove Park mixes with the University of Glasgow’s student vibe and a varied restaurant scene. For my money, this is the place to be, and there are some amazing pubs in this part of town. I’m going to be frank with you: These pubs will tempt you past the point of good sense, and you very well might be crawling by the time you finish this 1.3-mile liquor-fueled jaunt. Don’t worry, I’ve made you a map yet again.
I recommend a teetotaling companion. I tried that with my buddy Mike Sowden, who I thought abstained from the drink, only to find he made me look like the sober one in the duo. Northumbrians think they have two livers, apparently. (Kidding!)
Put down the Glaswegian phrasebook and pull up your rubber pants. By the end of the crawl your accent will be flawless.
Start: West of the M8
Cars roar down the M8 motorway that separates Glasgow’s City Centre from its West End. It can be a noisy, off-putting place. Luckily, there are some fine establishments here. Perhaps you’re walking south on North Street from Sauchiehall Street, one of the city’s prime arteries. Pass Kent Street and just a short way further on you’ll find the pretty arched windows and classic green sign for The Bon Accord. Duck inside and dodge the noise.
The Bon Accord
The Bon Accord is a warm, homey place glinting with hundreds of bottles on the back bar and several real ales on tap. Don’t worry if you can identify all the malts. Owner Paul McDonagh will hand you an iPad so you can easily flick through what he has to offer. It takes awhile to peruse the extensive list, so get a pint while you decide what you’re going to drink. Paul is the kind of person that gives me hope for the human species. He invites me behind the bar to pose with his wares, and, as you can see from my loopy grin in the photo below, I enjoyed some of them too. If you’re not careful, you might spend the day here tallying the hours in empty pint and dram glasses. Drain that last swallow, bid Paul adieu, and hit the streets of Glasgow.
The Ben Nevis
Continue south on North Street for a short ways and take a right on St. Vincent Street. This is your longest walk of the crawl, but it’s an easy one. Follow St. Vincent for three blocks and remain on it when it turns into Argyle Street. After four more blocks you’ll find The Ben Nevis on the corner of Corunna Street. This smallish pub has an updated interior with fancy ice-blue glass shelves beneath half of their mammoth whisky wall (pictured below). Capture a seat at the bar if you’re lucky, otherwise grab one of the stools in the center of the pub and listen to the locals speak a language that isn’t quite English. That’s because it’s Scots. You probably won’t be able to parse it (especially if you spent a long time at The Bon Accord), but if someone asks you a question that prompts a look of utter incomprehension on your face, buy the person a drink. That always goes over well. Then finish yours and hit the road because that’s an expensive precedent to set.
Continue west up Argyle Street and past the gorgeous Kelvingrove greens. Argyle will curve north, and directly across from the stunning Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is our third stop: BrewDog Glasgow. Oh how I love me some BrewDog. This brewpub chain has locations around Scotland and delivers up some very creative brews in a youthful, punk atmosphere. BrewDog reminds me of some microbreweries in the States, but they take it a step farther with 32% ABV beers like Tactical Nuclear Penguin. Tread lightly, friend, for BrewDog will deliver you to the promised land of insensate blabbering. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. It’s a good place to down a snack and kick off a game of Scrabble or one of the other board games laying around. Polish off your pint of Hops Kill Nazis or 5am Saint and stagger out into the sun.
The Three Judges
Keep going west on Argyle Street. As it crosses the River Kelvin it will turn into Dumbarton Road and our final stop is near at hand. At the corner of Dumbarton Road and Byres Road you’ll find The Three Judges. This locals bar is a favorite of CAMRA members and often has as many as ten real ales on tap. Grab a pint and a seat by the window, and watch the throng of students and West Enders through your fog of amazing brews from amazing pubs.
Finish: Byres Road
Stay away from water courses and stroll up Byres Road to the north. Do a little window shopping, grab a bite to eat to knock off the edge, and pop into a place called Demijohn. This liquid deli is the perfect place to keep the ball rolling. Where’d that teetotaling friend of yours go?
Photo of The Three Judges by Kake Pugh via Flickr/Creative Commons