When to go to Glasgow

Glasgow's Piping Live! festival

By Mike MacEacheran, your Glasgow expert

I write for Bangkok Post, Business .... Read more

The best time to visit Glasgow

The phrase “four seasons in one day” rings true for Glasgow. As "The Big Yin", home-grown comedian and actor Billy Connolly, says: “In Scotland, there is no such thing as bad weather - only the wrong clothes.” With that in mind, it pays to pack an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses, and a warm winter coat and tight-fit designer jacket, for any trip to the city.

In spite of Glasgow’s northerly latitude, the city has an oceanic climate and is constantly harassed by fresh rainclouds coming from over the Atlantic. The warm influence of the Gulf Stream makes it one of the warmest areas in the country, however, and when the sun shines bright, there is no better place to be than lounging around catching a few rays in Kelvingrove Park or wining and dining in Royal Exchange Square. As a rule of thumb, the weather is brighter between May and October – average highs of 20C (68 °F) mean it’s never going to rival Athens or Alicante – but come winter or summer at least it’ll be warmer than Aberdeen.

Spring - cutting edge festivals, comedy and art

Glaswegians love to party and the city is literally awash with cutting edge festivals throughout the year. At the start of the year in January, Celtic Connections (+44 141 353 8000; www.celticconnections.com) enthrals visitors from around the globe with the world’s largest Celtic music festival. Every year, it showcases around 1,500 artists and 300 events over 18 days. Centring on the Royal Concert Hall and The Old Fruitmarket, the city turns into a non-stop party and traditional dance reels and ceilidhs take place on a nightly basis. It’s the country’s biggest winter event and should not be missed. In my book, everyone should know the difference between a 'Strip the Willow' and a 'Highland Jig'.

The spring is also a great time to catch up on the world’s funniest performers at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival (www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com), which runs in March and April. The notoriously faithful local crowd, which often has a better sense of humour than some of the performers, are consistently voted as the best audience in the UK, so this is a fantastic place to check out the world’s marquee comedians. Whether Glaswegians like or hate someone we’ll definitely let them know, so it’s guaranteed to be entertaining either way.

Visual art is one of the city’s success stories and special exhibitions and one off events happen all year round. But for two weeks in April and May every two years, the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art (www.glasgowinternational.org) consolidates all this activity with typical Glaswegian flair. Expect a creative flutter from artist’s studios and museums and an emphasis on local artists in residence.

If that weren’t enough, the Glasgow Film Festival (www.glasgowfilmfestival.org.uk) – centred on the city’s celluloid stalwart the GFT (Glasgow Film Theatre) – and New Territories (www.newmoves.co.uk), a smorgasbord of live art, happen in February. In March, Aye Write! Glasgow's Book Festival (www.ayewrite.com) takes centre stage. The Glasgow Art Fair (www.glasgowartfair.com) held every April is also worth a visit.

Summer - jazz and pipers

Come May and June, not a week goes by without a major event coming to the city, so it definitely pays to check out diary listings before planning a trip. One of the biggest events on the cultural calendar, the West End Festival (www.westendfestival.co.uk) - focused around the University of Glasgow and the Royal Botanic Gardens - is an eclectic mix of everything that is great about the area. Previous years have seen open air concerts from Belle and Sebastian and Teenage Fanclub, and Byers Road turns into a cross between the Rio de Janiero Carnival and a Motherwell car-boot sale.

At the end of June, the Glasgow Jazz Festival (+44 141 552 3552; www.jazzfest.co.uk), plays host to some of the best names in world jazz for a week and over the second weekend in July, the city’s entire population of indie-kids and grown up rock’n’rollers depart en masse for T in the Park (www.tinthepark.com), the country’s premier mainstream popular music festival.

Also in June, Glasgow’s thriving Asian community hosts the one-day Mela (meaning 'gathering' in Sanskrit) and has quickly grown into one of the best days out in the city (www.saaa.org.uk/site/mela.html).

Easily one of the highlights of the year, Piping Live! Glasgow International Piping Festival (www.pipinglive.co.uk), which runs for a week in August, should not be missed at any costs – unless you liken the sound of Scottish bagpipes to that of a starving, run-over cat. The week culminates in the World Pipe Band Championships (www.theworlds.co.uk), where typically around 8,000 pipers and 200 bands from as far away as Ohio, Ontario, Osaka and Oman try to recreate the sound of mating season for horny elephants.

Following this, the Glasgow Fair - a traditional holiday during the last fortnight in Julycomes to the fore, so don’t be surprised if many of the locals are away on holiday.

Autumn - russet red leaves and Glasgay!

From September to November, the leaves in Bellahouston and Kelvingrove Parks turn a gorgeous russet red and the city turns into an autumnal fanfare – a highlight in itself. Glasgay! (www.glasgay.co.uk), Scotland’s premier annual multi-arts festival for the LGBT community, is the undoubted draw card of October.

Towards the end of October and running into November, the Inspiration Festival is dedicated to the 'weans' (children) as they say in Glasgow. Focusing on arts for children and young people, the Inspiration Festival holds performances, workshops, events and activities for pre-5s and primary schoolchildren.

Winter - festive celebrations and shopping

As the nights draw in, as my Gran used to say, the Glasgow festival scene quietens down, making it the perfect time to visit away from the crowds. Shopping becomes the most revered activity in the lead up to Christmas before Hogmanay, the traditional Scottish New Year revelry, kicks into high gear (www.glasgowloveschristmas.com) and the city turns into a tartan capped-ginger haired-whisky clutching party animal. And after all that, it’s time to nurse the hangover, flip the calendar forward and get ready to do it all again.

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