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Climbing the Walls in Church

July 24, Glasgow, Scotland

During our travels on the Camino and throughout Europe we’ve spent a lot of time in old churches, but on our first day in Scotland, had our most unusual experience yet in what was once a house of worship.

Sir Walter Scott in George Square, Glasgow (dreary day)

Sir Walter Scott in George Square, Glasgow (dreary day)

We finished our five-week Irish adventure on Thursday. Our friend Mary, who spent the last two weeks with us, headed back to the US on First Class (yes—we’re jealous) while we hopped on an early morning Ryanair 737 flight and headed to Glasgow, Scotland. Based on our previous experience with the flying bus we learned to bring aboard our own drinks and avoid the two Euro charge for a thimble sized can of OJ. We also avoided the lavatories, in case they had added pay requirements to their toilets.

Duke of Wellington statue, complete with traffic cone head

Duke of Wellington statue, complete with traffic cone head

Our new flat (that’s “apartment” in British parlance) is in a working class neighborhood of large brownstones. It’s one of the larger units we’ve rented through Airbnb. It comes complete with a large kitchen, separate dining and living rooms, and a washer/dryer. I expect the building is over a century old which shows in the floors which have a bit of a roll in areas. But the electricity and plumbing are modern and the 12 foot ceilings give it a spacious feeling. And Laurie thinks my mother would be jealous of the clawfoot tub in the bathroom. It’s on the outskirts of town which we thought would be fine because it’s on the subway—except the subway is out of commission right now.

The information desk at Glasgow airport informed us that the underground had flooding problems and was closed the month of July for repairs. When we got to city center I talked to a very helpful transit staff member who explained how the substitute bus lines worked. I asked him if the subway line was more like a submarine line at the present and he responded, “No, more like a canal.” Glasgow’s New Motto: The Venice of Scotland”?

Exterior of the "Climbing Church"

Exterior of the “Climbing Church”

When we ventured out for lunch we found a café in a former Presbyterian Church that was built in the late 1800’s. Many old churches and cathedrals across Europe have been repurposed to serve as museums and restaurants so the presence of a café itself wasn’t unusual, but what they did with the rest of the building certainly is.

It is a fully equipped indoor climbing center. When we approached the building it looked like any other beautiful 19th century stone church except for:

  • The windows had been replaced with black boards; and
  • There was a kid rappelling down the bell tower.
Last Stained Glass in the former church

Last Stained Glass in the former church

The café in the former church is upstairs in what was probably a choir or organ loft. The one remaining stained glass window overlooks the dining area where parents relaxed while their kids climbed the walls. Usually parents frown on this; in this case they paid for it.

From our vantage point we shared a haggis-free sandwich and watched novices and experts navigate the climbing walls in the spectacular old building. The center offers classes for both kids and adults and it appears to be a popular summer activity for parents who want a break. The brilliant part of this is that regardless of the Scottish weather outside, the climbing center is nice and dry inside. That’s a good thing considering that Glasgow is farther north than Moscow, Russia; Ketchikan, Alaska; and all of Ireland.

Climbers at Play

Climbers at Play

Interior of the Church

Interior of the Church

Trip Update: We are in Glasgow for about two weeks before we do a week tour of the rest of Scotland and then head for England. We’re only a block away from one of the main football (that’s soccer to us Americans) stadiums in town and are going to a match on Monday. Glasgow is the site of the first international football match. In 1872 the Scottish national team played England to a 0-0 draw.

Haggis is on the menu at some point in our stay, at least my menu. Laurie won’t commit to it.

6 thoughts on “Climbing the Walls in Church”

  1. Dave and Laurie – Very cool story there in Scotland with the re-use of the old cathedral. Makes me think of kids rapelling down the inside of St. Pats! Glad to hear you’re enjoying life.

    All the best


    1. Kevin
      We’ve seen a lot of things that remind us of St Pats–including the numerous churches, cathedrals, and mountains of the same name. I bet the St Pats kids would have a blast at this climbing center–and would hopefully refrain from doing the same at church!

    1. No, but Skye, Lewis, and Harris islands are. I’m particularly excited about the last two because Peter May, one of my favorite authors, bases a lot of books there.

  2. Very cool use of the old church. It’s so much fun to “travel” along with the two of you. Let us know now the haggis is. Someone I know called it a “sausage-y meatloaf”.

    1. Lora
      We have a food tour tomorrow. I expect we’ll have an opportunity to sample it.

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