Glasgow Rugby Travel: What to see, do and eat for PRO14 final weekend
Travelling to Glasgow for the Guinness PRO14 Final? David Walsh and Scotland international Adam Ashe share their insider tips for rugby supporters visiting the city for the May 25 showdown
Flushed with the success of last year’s record-breaking event in Dublin, the Guinness PRO14 Final (pro14rugby.org) is looking to make history again this year when it returns to Scotland after a three-year absence.
The 2019 final will be held outside of a traditional rugby venue for the first time, so forget chilly winds and a tricky atmosphere at Murrayfield. This year, you’re headed for Celtic Park.
Set the scene
Glaswegians have a disarming sense of self-deprecating humour. “The great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards,” local legend Billy Connolly once quipped.
Glasgow isn’t as dull and industrial as the stereotypes would have you believe, however — and visitors are often surprised by its Victorian architecture, burgeoning food scene and the surprising culture, art and music offerings that thrive in Glasgow’s gritty post-industrial landscape… from the Kelvingrove Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art to bands like Mogwai, Chvrches and Belle & Sebastian, who all hail from the city.
Street-art murals and punchy new architecture springing up along its formerly disused docklands and shipyard slips are helping to launch the city into a brighter future, too.
Sports-wise, travelling fans will know all about the Six Nations in Murrayfield and Old Firm footie clashes, but Scotland’s largest city also hosted the Commonwealth Games with aplomb in 2014 — a competition that left a legacy of world-class sporting venues and beamed the image of a confident, youthful city around the world.
What to eat
If there is anyone in the know when it comes to eating in the city, it’s Glasgow Warriors and Scotland back row Adam Ashe (below). Ashe hails from Glasgow, so what’s his favourite place to chow down? “Hands down, Bella Vita (bellavitaglasgow.co.uk) in Mosspark, a lovely Italian,” he declares.
Glasgow also does a mean burger joint. The fervour for grilled red meat is evident in the sheer number of places competing for the city’s best burger — and the topic is a fiercely debated one amongst burger devotees. “There’s a crossroads in the city centre on West Nile Street and St Vincent Street,” Adam says, “where every shop is a burger joint, so you’re spoiled for choice.”
Offerings here include chains like Five Guys and Handmade Burger Co. but the Black ’N’ Blue burger at Bread Meats Bread will induce uncontrollable salivating. Having gained widespread acclaim as a pop-up, El Perro Negro (el-perro-negro.com; above) in Finnieston has laid claim to being the home of the city’s best burger, its liberal use of finger-licking bone marrow butter being a key factor in its runaway success.
Treading the cobbles of Ashton Lane in the West End is a rite of passage for all visitors to the city. Set back from the restlessness of teeming Byres Road, the laneway is home to many popular watering holes and restaurants. Ashoka (ashokaashtonlane.co.uk) plates up authentic Indian cuisine, some of which was first conceived in the city. It also has a takeaway window specially catering for late-night footfall to fuel the journey back to your hotel.
Where to drink
Like Germany, Glasgow is a city of beer halls: two in particular consistently come top of the best watering holes in the city. Besides producing craft beer at the microbrewery behind the bar, the Shilling Brewing Co. (shillingbrewingcompany.co.uk) specialises in thin-crust pizzas, a winning combination in anyone’s book.
Set in a former 1930s box factory, the Bavarian-style beer hall and garden at Drygate Brewery (drygate.com) has 26 draught beers on rotation and a specially curated bottled-beer selection. Cinema-size screens display all the latest sports action while you chow down on moreish ham hock or spiced lamb pizzas with a cold beer in hand.
Taking place every weekend, Platform food market — housed in the premises of former iconic nightclub The Arches — boasts a dedicated bar stocked with Scottish craft beer and spirits, and a widescreen TV for sports viewing. Couple that with award-winning street-food vendors, and it’s an off-radar choice that will be a sure-fire hit.
Glasgow in a day
No visit to Scotland is complete without sampling some of its highly prized whiskies. While the vast majority of distilleries are to be found further north, in the Highlands, Glasgow has two distilleries within its city limits.
Auchentoshan (auchentoshan.com) is the oldest, with the suburbs slowly having enveloped it over the centuries. A variety of tours are on offer, but the ultimate tour lets you taste straight from the cask — something only the master blender usually gets to do.
Opened in 2017 in the old pumphouse that powered entry into the Queen’s Dock — the former hub of Scotland’s whisky export trade — The Clydeside Distillery (theclydeside.com) is Glasgow’s first new single-malt distillery in more than 100 years, and has made its presence felt already in two short years. Its central location makes it ripe for a visit. Go behind the scenes on a tour to watch the craftsman at work and taste some drams along the way.
If a distillery tour and tasting doesn’t appeal, the city boasts a clutch of renowned whisky bars you can nip into for a relaxed drink. Voted Scotland’s Pub of the Year at the AA Hospitality Awards, The Pot Still bar on Hope Street is deservedly the most venerated of these (thepotstill.co.uk). Boasting a collection of 700-odd different whiskies, it has knowledgeable staff on hand to take you from whisky novice to connoisseur.
As cities go, Glasgow’s social scene is as lively as they come, but there’s life beyond it if you delve deep enough. “It might sound morbid but the Necropolis is really cool. It’s a massive graveyard in the city centre,” Adam says. Inspired by Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, the site and its many monuments and tombs offer an oasis away from the frenetic, traffic-choked streets, as well as affording clear views across the city.
Where to go next
In less than an hour from Glasgow, you can be dipping your toes in the lapping waters of Loch Lomond (above). As a gateway to the Highlands, the national park which takes the loch’s name gives a tantalising introduction to the scenery awaiting further north — and is perfect for lakeside and hill walks to blow away any cobwebs incurred in the course of your rugby-supporting duties.
Just 45 minutes away by train is Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh. Putting aside the friendly rivalry between the two cities, the UNESCO World Heritage Site warrants the attention of any potential daytrippers — if not for its architecture and cultural hotspots, then for the wealth of restaurants and bars to suit all budgets.
Adam’s top tip if you’re planning a long weekend: “I’d go down to Largs on the Ayrshire coast,” he says. When the weather’s fine, Glaswegians flock to this small seaside town for a stroll along its pier and beach, before a stop-off at the famed Nardini’s ice-cream parlour (nardinis.co.uk).
Getting to the venue
Celtic Park is a 50-minute walk from Glasgow city centre. For ease, catch a train from one of the city’s main train stations. From Glasgow Queen Street station, you can board various regular services to Airdrie and Springburn that call at Bellgrove station. It’s a 20-minute walk to Celtic Park from here. An off-peak day-return ticket costs just £1.60 (€1.86).
From Glasgow Central station, trains to Motherwell, Larkhall, Cumbernauld or Whifflet will take you to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock stations, both roughly a 15-minute walk from the stadium. Return off-peak fares cost £1.70 (€1.98) and £1.90 (€2.21) respectively. Check departure boards or ask station staff before boarding trains to confirm you’re heading in the right direction!
Getting around the city
Glasgow Taxis offer a 24-hour service with rates set by Glasgow City Council. The average waiting time for a cab in the city centre is five to seven minutes, and taxis can be booked by phone, online or through their app on your smartphone. Visit glasgowtaxis.co.uk for more information.
Black cabs are notoriously cheap in Glasgow but now face competition from the likes of Uber. Gett (gett.com/uk/glasgow) is also in operation in the city, offering black cabs with a similar booking system and pricing structure to Uber’s.
Glasgow’s subway, which connects the city centre with attractions, pubs and restaurants in the West End, takes 24 minutes to make a complete circuit. Single adult tickets cost £1.50 or £2.90 for an all-day ticket (spt.co.uk).
Single bus fares are a little pricey but you can save with a FirstDay bus pass for £4.60 (€5.34), which gives you unlimited travel across both city zones for a day (note that this doesn’t include Glasgow Airport Express buses).
Getting to the city from the airport
The Glasgow Airport Express bus leaves every 10 minutes for Buchanan Bus Station and takes 15 minutes to reach the city centre, costing £14 (€16.26) for an open-return ticket. Tickets can be bought from the driver or prepaid online for a cheaper rate of £13.50 (€15.68) at firstgroup.com/greater-glasgow. Taxis to the city centre usually cost on average around £16.50 (€19.24).
How to get there
Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly daily to Glasgow from Dublin. Aer Lingus also operates six flights a week from Cork.
Loganair (loganair.co.uk) operates five flights a week from Donegal to Glasgow, including Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
For rugby packages, see Killester Travel (rugbytravel.ie), Joe Walsh Tours (joewalshtours.ie) and Rugby Travel Ireland (rugbytravelireland.com), among other tour operators.
NB: This feature originally appeared in Lineout Magazine.
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