Glasgow audio tour: Glasgow: The Merchant City

Glasgow: The Merchant City

Walking Tour

60 mins

About the Tour

Let’s go for a walk through the centre of this great city and discover how it became the British Empire’s ‘Second City’.

Three hundred years ago the wider Glasgow area was mostly countryside, with the Cathedral at its centre. In the 1500s, when Scotland became a Protestant country, the city began to change. Lucrative pilgrimages to Glasgow that had long been made by Roman Catholics came to an end, replaced by tobacco from America. (To listen to the story of mediaeval Glasgow, search VoiceMap for my ‘Glasgow Through the Ages’ tour).

On this walking tour, you’ll hear the story of how Glasgow went from surviving to thriving, transitioning from the tobacco trade, to cotton and, later, heavy engineering, to eventually become the burgeoning ‘Second City’ of the Empire. How did these merchants become wealthy beyond our imaginings? Slavery.

We’ll explore Glasgow’s roles in slavery and its abolition while we walk the streets of the Merchant City district, discovering how the city developed from the 1600s until today. Everywhere you turn, from George Square to the Royal Exchange Square, you’ll encounter the wealth of Glasgow’s merchants, written in stone.

On this tour, you’ll also learn:

• Why there is a mini Statue of Liberty in George Square
• Who the 18 year-old who rocked Glasgow with scandal and died in New York was
• Where the building for decrepit merchants over 50 can be found
• Why there is a traffic cone on the head of Duke Wellington’s statue

Our walk will take about an hour and a half, unless you decide to stop at one of the coffee shops along the way, many of which have been part of the social fabric of the city since the 1700s.

Tour Producer


Margaret Hubbard

Ceud mile failte which is Gaelic for 100,000 welcomes. Welcome to Scotland and to Glasgow. My name is Margaret Hubbard and I was born in Glasgow, grew up in rural Scotland and came back to Glasgow as a student.
I then became a teacher and spent many happy years in education. The long school holidays gave me time to travel all over the world, and in 1996 I went to Alaska. On a tour of Denali National Park the guide, who was excellent, spoke a great deal about bears. At one point I asked her about wolves, and she then incorporated them into the rest of the tour. At the end of the tour she drew me aside to introduce me to the ‘wolf’ expert. At that point I had no thought of leaving teaching, but I remember thinking that if I ever did, I would do so to become a tourist guide. What a gift to give visitors to one’s country the deeper knowledge they seek!
Ten years later I had left education and passed the course to become a Blue Badge guide with the Scottish Tourist Guides Association. I am qualified to guide all over Scotland, and this I do with great pride and pleasure. It is an enormous privilege to tell people the story of my country and lead them to an understanding of who we are as a nation.
Let me share my love of Glasgow with you.
I am also a genealogist, researching family trees and connecting people with their own past. I am an avid reader and love theatre. I am a writer, and have only recently discovered the pleasure of gardening.
My guilty secret is a passion for cheese scones- Scottish variety of course!

Major Landmarks

  • George Square

  • Statue of the Duke of Wellington

  • Royal Exchange Square

  • Tron Church

  • Blythswood Square

Directions to Starting Point

In the centre of George Square is the statute to Walter Scott, The tour starts at the statue.
George Square is at the centre of the city beside Queen Street Station. It is easily to reach on foot or by bus or by train.

Show Directions
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Places to stop along the way

There are too many eateries to list. I recommend you sample a range to get the full flavour of the city.

Best time of day

Mid morning to mid afternoon as there are many places along the way to stop for lunch or coffee or something stronger. The area is busy at lunchtime during the week, and at the weekend with shoppers. It is great to feel the buzz of the city as you walk along.


Keep an eye on the pavements. It is easy to be so caught up in looking up at the buildings that you simply don't see the edge of a road, or worse still the traffic.


Overall good tour, showed us things in Glasgow we didn't know were there and was very informative. Talked a lot about abolition without explaining Glasgow's huge part in the slave trade in detail which was dissapointing.

Posted by Anonymous Explorer , 7 months ago
Preview mode limited to first 3 locations.