Glasgow is a design-lovers’ dream: stately buildings abound, collections like The Burrell are world renowned and Sharmanka’s kinetic sculptures are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere. However, the Scottish city’s biggest artistic drawcard remains the work of local artist and architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and as the society dedicated to promoting his legacy turns 50, now’s the prime time to discover his distinctive style. From architectural jewels to destinations that honour his ground-breaking career, this 4.5-mile walking tour takes in some of the city’s highlights.
Mackintosh Queen’s Cross
Completed in 1899 and notable for its Gothic stained-glass windows, Queen’s Cross is the only church designed by Mackintosh. Today, it houses the headquarters of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a range of events. Tours are available, but you can also simply wander around the church: while it’s less obviously ‘Mackintosh’ in style than other locations, discerning visitors will spot trademarks like natural themes and elegant Japanese-style flourishes.
A half-hour walk will take you to The Hunterian gallery, where you can see a recreation of the home Mackintosh designed with his wife, artist Margaret Macdonald. ‘The Four’ — as the couple, plus Macdonald’s sister Frances and her husband Herbert MacNair, were known — helped pioneer British art nouveau, and the house is a stunning example of this all-Scottish style. Crisp straight lines offset sinuous curves, while Macdonald’s ethereal panels and floral motifs like the famous Glasgow rose soften a stark simplicity. Don’t miss the recently added introduction gallery, which tells the story of the site and its collection.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Cut through Kelvingrove Park to reach this baroque institution. You could spend hours wandering its 22 galleries, but make a beeline for the Mackintosh and Glasgow Style exhibition. Here, you’ll learn about the talented group of Glasgow School of Art alumni, including ‘The Four’, who forged the unique aesthetic. Objects span glass and painting to woodwork and enamelling, with highlights including furniture designed by Mackintosh for Catherine Cranston, a leading figure in the development of tearooms.
Make a pit stop in the Anderson neighbourhood at this striking bronze statue, created by The Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott. It’s 9ft, weighs a whopping three tons and depicts Mackintosh sitting on the iconic high-backed chair he designed for the city’s Argyle Street Tea Room. Commissioned as the crown in the area’s £60m regeneration project, the statue was unveiled in 2018 to mark the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth — a year sadly soured by a second devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art, where the architect designed his landmark, namesake building.
Mackintosh at the Willow
Stop for afternoon tea at this Sauchiehall Street staple, not to be confused with the Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street. Once part of Catherine Cranston’s tearoom empire, the venue was designed by Mackintosh in 1903. It later fell into disrepair, but thanks to fundraising efforts, it reopened in 2018 following a £10m restoration project. Today, it showcases a dazzling array of interiors across several rooms, from the airy saloons to the opulent Salon de Luxe. Tours are available for those who want to know more about the place, and there’s a shop and exhibition, too.
Walk off those scones with a trip to this Victorian cemetery, set on a low hill with views over Glasgow Cathedral and beyond. It houses one of Mackintosh’s earliest and least-known works, the gravestone of chief constable Alexander McCall, likely commissioned due to Mackintosh’s father being McCall’s assistant. A simple grey granite Celtic cross, like many others in the gravesite, it shows no hint of Mackintosh’s individuality, but it’s an ideal spot to reflect on the extraordinary career that was to come.
Walking Tours in Glasgow offers Mackintosh-themed strolls that take in more relevant buildings around the city, from The Lighthouse, his first public commission, to the Clutha Bar with its enormous mural.
This story was created with the support of the Glasgow Tourist Board.
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