Passing every day on my way to and from university, I found myself spending most of my week on Byres Road. I’ve always liked the vibrancy of the street in the morning, the cars buzzing along, the people hurrying to catch the subway, the way that you can get lost in the crowd of students in a rush hour and suddenly bump into a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. Byres Road has it all! If you want to take a break from the busy street, you can simply hide in one of the many coffee shops or restaurants, or if you are like me you can bury yourself in the pile of books of the new Waterstones book shop or Oxfam or Hillhead Library or wherever you can find a pile of books on Byres Road. As much as I like the dynamics of the heart of the West End, I prefer the quiet places. That’s the reason why I love Byres Road – you can easily escape it by taking a stroll into one of the lanes, especially Ashton Lane and Cresswell Lane and enjoying the autumn colours slowly changing rainy Glasgow into a beautiful winter prelude, I tend to do that quite a lot.
I still remember the first time I went down the stairs next to Gregory Building and walked into one of the most magical lanes, I’ve ever seen. At the time, the sight of Glasgow Tenements houses was getting under my skin. Even the Hogwarts look of the main building couldn’t make up for the long rows of Tenements, I passed everyday on my way to the university. I never knew there were so many shades of brown. Some of the streets looked so similar that I thought I’ll never tell the difference nor that I will see anything different than a Tenement house ever again. Then I walked down the stairs next to Gregory Building, just to see where those stairs were leading and it felt like entering a magical world. The lively, cobblestone street with its variety of bars and restaurants was like a breath of fresh air. It just needed some jazz music and it would have been perfect. But who wants perfect, when you have Ashton Lane. It was dusk time, when I passed through the lane, so the lights were on, and suddenly the gloomy Glasgow was not so gloomy at all. I felt that Christmassy feeling in my guts and I forgot all about my nostalgic feelings. I just wished that the lane was a little bit longer and a little bit longer. But after staring at every bar and restaurant of the lane, I finally turned left and found myself back in the reality of Byres Road. Now when I pass through Ashton Lane I am always in a hurry and I rarely stop to notice even the screenings at the Grosvenor cinema. But the magic is still there and every time I want to escape Byres Road I take a stroll on Ashton Lane.
Cresswell Lane – the shopping equivalent of Ashton Lane. If Ashton lane is the lively, festive lane, then Cresswell is the peaceful, dreamy one perfect for a quiet afternoon. I didn’t know of the existence of the lane for quite some time. Then one day I was browsing for a birthday present when I noticed the Nancy Smillie board on Cresswell Street I and decided to go and see what they had to offer. I suddenly felt like Alice rediscovering Wonderland. But instead of joining the tea party of the Mad Hatter, I was introduced to the mystical Cafe Andaluz, the stylish Zizzi restaurant and the luxurious stores.
Half an hour later, I was lost in the vintage world of DeCourcey’s Arcade, but not before taking a few photos and enjoying the interiors of Cafe Andaluz and Zizzi. With its relaxed atmosphere and boutique shops, it is no wonder that Cresswell lane attracts so many tourists, thus ranking between one of the best tourists shopping places in the West End of Glasgow. As a student, I can’t afford half of the things they sell in those shops, but this doesn’t make it a less beautiful place for a quiet Sunday afternoon stroll.
So, these are two of my favourite places in Glasgow’s West End. Which are yours?