Glasgow is a city of nature. Not only are the highlands super close and places such as the Seven Lochs Wetland Park right at your doorstep. There are also many parks to explore and glasshouses boasting exotic plants from all over the world. While you might have heard about or even been to the biggies, like Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow Green or Queen’s Park, I have fallen in love with an off the beaten track park in the East End of Glasgow: Alexandra Park. Let me convince you!
I moved to Glasgow’s East End just short of one year ago, and Alexandra Park was certainly one of the main selling points of our flat. After all, we are located on the third floor overlooking the park gates! Could it be any better than looking out of your living room window and seeing nothing but trees and still living in the middle of the city?
A Park for the People
Alexandra Park is pretty off the beaten track, as is most of the East End, and that is probably because it doesn’t have any particular attraction to visit. For me Alexandra Park is much more representative of Glasgow. Like many of the cities museums and top places to see it is not made to be a tourist attraction. Yes, it lacks a glasshouse or museum that could be listed in a travel guide, but it has everything locals would wish for. Awesome trails through the forest, perfect for a run or a walk; mountain bike trails; an actual gold course; a huge playground; a community garden and fruit orchard; and two ponds that are home to various kinds of ducks, swans and other birds.
I like coming here for long walks around the orchard or through the forest up the hill. From the highest points you get great views of the Tinto Hills to the south and towards Ben Lomond in the north. During the summer the local council organised public festivals with food stalls and lots of opportunities to get involved with community organisation. Sometimes you could even rent little kayaks to paddle around the ponds!
Tamed or Wilderness?
The park opened its doors in 1870 and was named after the princess Alexandra from Denmark. Right at the gates the park looks like a typical Victorian Garden. Flowers beds are planted in patterns, benches and big plants in pots are put in place symmetrically, and the grass is always well-tended to and cut short. There is even a cast-iron water fountain and a new statue of an angel just outside the gates.
Behind this though, lies wilderness – well, urban wilderness. There are little paths leading through the forest, and plants seem to grow which ever way they like. The two ponds are a good example of this as well. While one of them had been fairly ‘wild’ – with loads of trees and shrubs at its edges for birds to hide and nest – ever since I moved here, the one further back had only been ‘naturalised’ recently. The second pond used to have no plants on its edges at all – it was only surrounded by concrete as a sign to show than mankind rules over nature. But ever since I’ve lived in the East End, the two far ends of the pond have been given a makeover and are now lined with reed and other water plants. This makes plenty of shelter for birds and during the summer a swan family came here to raise their young ones.
Alexandra Park in Autum
While spending the sunny days of Summer in the park is of course a great way to escape the hustle of the city, my favourite season for a walk in the park is Autumn. As this is my first time experiencing the season in the East End, I took my camera out for a stroll to Alexandra Park and kept looking for fallen leaves, and yellow, red and orange trees. I was not disappointed and the trees did not let me down.
This park is without a doubt one of Glasgow’s finest, and only few people know about it! And yet, it is really easy to reach – either by bus or train. Any of the 38s stops right outside the gate, and the train towards Cumbernauld stops at Alexandra Parade every half hour (less frequent during the weekend).
And while you’re already in the area, check out my guide for spending a day in the neighbourhood and find out where to eat, shops and grab a coffee!
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.