Discovering Charles Rennie Mackintosh: A Walking Tour of Glasgow

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This guide is presented by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

Glasgow, a haven for design enthusiasts, boasts magnificent architectural wonders, world-renowned collections such as The Burrell, and the one-of-a-kind kinetic sculptures of Sharmanka. However, the greatest artistic allure of this Scottish city lies in the works of local artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. As the society dedicated to preserving his legacy celebrates its 50th anniversary, there’s no better time to explore his distinctive style. Embark on this 4.5-mile walking tour, which encompasses architectural gems and destinations that pay homage to his groundbreaking career, revealing the highlights of Glasgow.

Mackintosh Queen’s Cross

Constructed in 1899 and distinguished by its Gothic stained-glass windows, Queen’s Cross stands as the sole church designed by Mackintosh. Today, it serves as the headquarters of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, which commemorates its 50th anniversary with a range of events. While tours are available, you can also leisurely explore the church. Though its style may not overtly scream “Mackintosh,” astute visitors will discern his signature touches of natural themes and elegant Japanese-inspired embellishments.

Mackintosh House

A pleasant half-hour walk will lead you to The Hunterian gallery, where a replica of the home Mackintosh designed with his wife, artist Margaret Macdonald, awaits. Together with Macdonald’s sister Frances and her husband Herbert MacNair, the couple—known as “The Four”—pioneered British art nouveau, and their house serves as a breathtaking example of this distinctively Scottish style. Crisp straight lines harmonize with sinuous curves, while Macdonald’s ethereal panels and floral motifs, such as the famous Glasgow rose, soften the stark simplicity. Be sure not to miss the newly added introduction gallery, which narrates the site’s history and its collection.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Venture through Kelvingrove Park to reach this grand baroque institution. With 22 galleries to explore, you could spend hours wandering its halls, but prioritize the Mackintosh and Glasgow Style exhibition. Here, you’ll learn about the talented group of alumni from the Glasgow School of Art, including “The Four,” who shaped this unique aesthetic. The exhibits encompass various mediums, ranging from glasswork and paintings to woodwork and enameling. Noteworthy highlights include Mackintosh’s furniture designs for Catherine Cranston, a leading figure in the development of tearooms.

Mackintosh Statue

Take a moment to pause in the Anderson neighborhood and admire the remarkable bronze statue created by sculptor Andy Scott, renowned for his work on The Kelpies. Standing at 9 feet tall and weighing a staggering three tons, the statue depicts Mackintosh seated on the iconic high-backed chair he designed for the Argyle Street Tea Room in the city. Unveiled in 2018 as the centerpiece of the area’s £60 million regeneration project, the statue commemorates the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth—an occasion shadowed by the unfortunate second devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art, where the architect created his landmark building bearing his name.

Mackintosh at the Willow

Indulge in afternoon tea at this Sauchiehall Street institution, distinct from the Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street. Formerly part of Catherine Cranston’s tearoom empire, this venue was designed by Mackintosh in 1903. Though it fell into disrepair over time, it was lovingly restored through a £10 million fundraising effort and reopened in 2018. Today, it showcases an array of dazzling interiors across several rooms, from the airy saloons to the opulent Salon de Luxe. Guided tours are available for those seeking to delve deeper into the venue’s history, and there’s also a shop and exhibition to explore.

Glasgow Necropolis

Walk off those delectable scones with a visit to this Victorian cemetery situated atop a gentle hill, offering panoramic views of Glasgow Cathedral and beyond. Within its grounds rests one of Mackintosh’s earliest and lesser-known works—the gravestone of chief constable Alexander McCall, likely commissioned due to Mackintosh’s father serving as McCall’s assistant. This simple grey granite Celtic cross, resembling many others in the cemetery, bears no apparent traces of Mackintosh’s individuality. Nevertheless, it serves as an ideal spot for contemplation, reflecting on the extraordinary career that awaited him.

Fun Fact:
Walking Tours in Glasgow offers specialized Mackintosh-themed strolls, encompassing additional significant buildings throughout the city, from The Lighthouse—Mackintosh’s first public commission—to the Clutha Bar, adorned with an enormous mural.

This article was created in collaboration with the Glasgow Tourist Board.
Published in the Jul/Aug 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK).

To subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine, click here (available in select countries only).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about walking tour

Q: How long is the walking tour of Glasgow in the footsteps of Charles Rennie Mackintosh?

A: The walking tour covers approximately 4.5 miles, allowing you to explore the highlights of Glasgow associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural and artistic legacy.

Q: Can I visit Mackintosh Queen’s Cross without taking a tour?

A: Yes, you can visit Mackintosh Queen’s Cross without a guided tour. While tours are available, you are also free to wander around the church and appreciate its unique architectural features.

Q: What can I expect to see at the Mackintosh House?

A: At the Mackintosh House, you will find a recreated home designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald. It showcases the distinctive Scottish art nouveau style with a blend of crisp lines and organic motifs.

Q: How many galleries are there at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum?

A: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses 22 galleries where you can explore various artworks and exhibits. Be sure to visit the Mackintosh and Glasgow Style exhibition to learn about the Glasgow School of Art and its influential alumni.

Q: Is the Mackintosh statue easily accessible?

A: Yes, the Mackintosh statue is located in the Anderson neighborhood and is easily accessible for visitors. It is a striking bronze sculpture created by Andy Scott, depicting Mackintosh sitting on his iconic high-backed chair.

Q: Are guided tours available at Mackintosh at the Willow?

A: Yes, guided tours are available at Mackintosh at the Willow. These tours provide insights into the history of the tearoom, the architectural design by Mackintosh, and allow you to explore the stunning interiors.

Q: Can I visit Glasgow Necropolis independently?

A: Yes, Glasgow Necropolis is open to the public, and you can visit independently. It offers a serene setting with beautiful views of Glasgow Cathedral. Look out for Mackintosh’s early work, the gravestone of chief constable Alexander McCall, while exploring the cemetery.

Q: Are there additional Mackintosh-themed tours available in Glasgow?

A: Yes, Walking Tours in Glasgow offers specialized Mackintosh-themed strolls, covering more relevant buildings and landmarks associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh, providing a comprehensive exploration of his architectural contributions.

Q: Is the National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine available for international subscribers?

A: The National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine is available for subscription in select countries only. Please check their website for information on international subscriptions.

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5 comments

TravelEnthusiast123 July 2, 2023 - 1:23 pm

wow! dis walking tour sounds super cool. i luv Glasgow and always wanted to explore da works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. gonna take dis tour soon!

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ArtHistoryNerd July 2, 2023 - 7:39 pm

As an art history enthusiast, I’m thrilled to see National Geographic featuring Mackintosh’s legacy. Dis tour brings his incredible designs to life. Can’t wait to explore Glasgow’s architectural wonders!

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CityExplorer22 July 2, 2023 - 10:53 pm

I took dis tour last summer and was blown away! Mackintosh’s designs are so intricate and beautiful. Da walking tour was da best way to immerse myself in his world. Absolutely loved it!

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WanderlustGuru July 3, 2023 - 3:00 am

Glasgow is a hidden gem and dis tour is a perfect way to uncover it! Mackintosh’s work is so unique and dis tour gives u a chance to experience it up close. Don’t miss it if you’re in Glasgow!

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ExplorinGlasgow July 3, 2023 - 6:08 am

omg, I’ve been on dis walking tour and it’s amazin’! U get to see all dese iconic places associated wit Mackintosh. Highly recommend it for art and architecture lovers!

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