The Glasgow Subcrawl
The ultimate Glasgow pubcrawl
An alternative way of getting to know Glasgow better is to get involved in a Glasgow Subcrawl. Although I’m certainly not promoting getting completely inebriated, this is an interesting way to experience a different side of the city. The Glasgow subway has 15 stops, and the Subcrawl involves getting off at each stop (or chosen stops), heading to the nearest pub and having a drink. Giving you a bit of a break to start with, there are a couple of stops that the majority miss out due to the lack of a nearby hostelry. I’m only a little haggis and therefore my tolerance for even 13 alcoholic beverages isn’t the best, so although I can guide you to a full Subcrawl experience, I have to admit that I have not completed all the stops.
Being a sensible haggis, I thought it would be best to start the day with a full Scottish breakfast before I headed to St Enochs subway station to buy my all day ticket at the cost of £4. A recommended pub for this stop is Hootenanny, a traditional Scottish bar and restaurant with a modern twist and who will provide a great welcome. There are many other options nearby, and my friends and I chose a local Wetherspoons which had a fantastic breakfast menu. With one drink under our belts it was time to face our first subway journey; a brief trip to Bridge Street and a visit to The Lauriston pub. This bar’s history dates back to 1836, but today the Lauriston presents a good old-fashioned choice of bar or lounge. As I was part of a decent sized crowd of Subcrawl revellers, we chose the lounge to get seats, but we still managed to get some banter with the staff, and our photo taken, which is a Lauriston tradition.
Back on the subway, with no tickets lost so far, we enjoyed a longer journey, skipping both West Street and Shields Road. We nearly got a new addition to our team when an older gentleman joined in with our version of a Mexican wave but with some further chat, he decided it wasn’t worth the grief he’d get from his wife if he sloped off to the pub with some strangers instead of heading home. Off we got, in good spirits at Kinning Park station, and a wee wander down the road to The Bellrock. This clean and nicely decorated pub was extremely welcoming; the staff are completely used to Subcrawlers arriving in large groups, some in outlandish fancy dress, and they were friendly and patient with our drinks orders. We again managed to get seats in this wee boozer, away from the big TV that was showing the football, and we had the ‘pleasure’ of one of the locals company who tried to charm all the ladies by calling them ‘Miss’ and told us his wife didn’t understand him. Some hilarity ensued (I’m afraid I can’t divulge the topic of said hilarity) and then discussion took place on whether to go to Cessnock or chance going to the Ibrox recommended pub, which is possibly the most ‘Rangers’ pub in Glasgow. As The Rangers had a draw in their game that day, we decided it should have a fairly balanced atmosphere and so off to the subway we went, skipping The Kensington at Cessnock.
The Louden Tavern was quite the experience. The pub itself is basically like an industrial unit, decked out in red, white and blue and it is completely dedicated to this particular football club. The bar occupies the length of the room, there are numerous televisions throughout. The wall opposite the bar featured photo dedications to players past and present, and there are various other pieces of memorabilia on display. The music was blaring, although I did not personally know a single song, the regulars certainly did; there was a great deal of singing, with arms in the air and even some ‘gallus’¹ dancing. Lone men, possibly having consumed a few beers, were seen having a wee jig to themselves, and there seemed to be a great deal of random hugging amongst the folk who were in groups. The regulars also seemed to be privy to a cup of soup but this wasn’t offered to the Subcrawlers; perhaps our wide eyed interest on the goings-on made it hugely apparent that we were not in the regulars’ category of clientele. I’m led to believe that the Louden Tavern is only open on matchdays, so if you are planning to stop by, you should perhaps check first.
The next stop is Govan, and the recommended pub for this stop is called Brechin’s Bar. This pub was apparently established in 1798, with the current building erected in 1894 and it boasts a tower in Scots Baronial style. High up on the southern side of the building is a stone carving of a cat, immortalising one prolific rat catcher who killed large numbers of rodents which had been brought to Govan on vessels carrying flax for the local weavers. There is a local superstition that Govan will cease to exist when the cat falls down. Wee Kilty here did not learn this bit of information from any of the Brechin’s customers; they were too busy engaging in some banter.
If you have done any research into a Glasgow Subcrawl, you will know that they are popular with students. As we entered the Brechin Bar, such a group were on their way to their next destination, and some quick-witted bar fly announced “Here come the mature students” as our group trailed in. I have to say this was my favourite pub purely for the entertaining chat and lively engagement with the local crowd. The staff were friendly and efficient, and took the large order of beverages in their stride; they didn’t bat an eyelid when a smoker accidently set fire to the bucket that was serving as an ashtray outside, and just calmly poured a jug of water over the smouldering plastic as if it was a regular occurrence.
So far everyone had survived their trip south of the Clyde, but now it was time to head to Partick. With a quick stop by Greggs for a few of us, the next chosen pub was the Deoch An Doris, handily situated just round the corner from Partick subway station. Although this is a lovely big pub, it always seems to be busy so our group became a bit fragmented here – there is also the possibility that the alcohol was kicking in, and opinions on what to drink, where to gather, where to go next were being expressed more vocally. It didn’t seem to help matters that there were now a huge variety of pub choices nearby. The decision was taken that the next pub would be the Lismore by Kelvinhall subway station, but some decided to walk along Dumbarton Road as opposed to sticking to the original remit, and a slight detour then took place with a visit to The Storm Queen which was offering late afternoon Karaoke. There was no shortage of singers or dancers in our group, and we ended up staying for more than one drink here, leading to the need to replenish the kitty. Our next stop was actually near Kelvinhall station even though we hadn’t actually taken the subway to this stop; The Sparkle Horse. This establishment maintains a traditional feel and prides itself on quality produce, excellent presentation and service. We were made to feel very welcome and it was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
So after an unspecified period of time and a few detours, we finally made it back on the subway – next stop Hillhead. There are many pubs to choose from here; Curlers Rest, Tennent’s Bar or a selection in Ashton Lane. Our Subcrawlers decided on Jinty McGuinty’s in Ashton Lane which is as the name might suggest an Irish pub full of character and usually full of people. It is a cash only bar, and there is regular live music; it also has a large beer garden if the weather is good and you arrive when the sun is still shining. By now everyone was a tad on the tipsy side, the volume of chatter was increasing with every drink and most conversation seemed to be found amusing by all.
Our group leader most likely felt like he was herding cats as he tried to get everyone organised to head to the next station, but we made it to Kelvinbridge and got a wee bit of fresh air as we wandered round the corner to The Doublet Bar. Another popular choice at this station is Inn Deep. The Doublet is a traditional wee boozer with a regular crowd. Despite the décor being slightly on the tired side, the staff are friendly and there is a good selection of beers and spirits. Although I absolutely didn’t need to increase my alcohol intake any further, at the time it seemed like the right kind of establishment for a half pint of Guinness with a Baileys on the side – a great combo. A few of our original party had fallen by the wayside by this point, so we had no trouble fitting in and getting some chat with the locals.
Back we went to Kelvinbridge station to move on to our next stop; St George’s Cross, and a visit to Wintersgills. This pub was very welcoming with a decent amount of space, very clean and unpretentious. The staff were very helpful and chatty and didn’t seem to mind taking part in our lengthy discussion on what drinks to order next. Wintersgills has as long tradition with live music and this is a regular feature on a Saturday night. Nothing was going to stop the women in our group from starting a slosh², proving the point that you can indeed ‘slosh’ to any song. By this time of the night everyone was in full party mode, and happy to dance where they were standing. Fairly indecisive discussion took place on whether to attempt the last two stops to complete the Subcrawl, but the majority vote was that we would press on and try complete our 12 chosen subway stops.
From St George’s Cross to Cowcaddens was a fairly uneventful journey, if you ignore the singing that took place in the carriage, and we walked up to The Station Bar – another traditional pub with lovely staff that didn’t seem to mind our exuberant arrival. The prices were reasonable and the location being in Glasgow’s Theatreland seems to attract an eclectic and friendly crowd. The Station Bar has a reputation for being one of the city’s finest real ale pubs, but Wee Kilty here by this stage of the day decided to try a Vodka Redbull in the hope that the caffeine kick would see me through to the end of the Subcrawl.
And so our happy bunch wandered back to the station to complete our final stop, Buchanan Street subway station. Although a busy city centre pub on a Saturday night, we chose Waxy O’Connors for our grand finale to the Subcrawl experience. This establishment is like a maze (especially at the end of a Subcrawl) encompassing 6 different bars and 9 difference spaces. We managed to find a spot to gather in the bar area just at Dundas Lane – the bar the shortest distance from the subway exit used. There were scenes of great celebration for being still standing at the end of our Subcrawl Adventure, and our organiser kindly arranged a few rounds of shots…….of water with the aim of avoiding any ill effects from our boozy indulgences the following day. All in all, a successful and very entertaining day.
1. Gallus is a word used to describe bold or flashy behaviour – typically you either have this incorrigible swagger or you don’t.
2. A popular line dance from the 1970s, commonly known as the dance of choice for inebriated women at weddings.