SpiN 2018 will be held at the Trades Hall, 85 Glassford Street, Glasgow, G1 1UH. You can find it hereabouts. If coming into town Thursday morning by train or airport shuttle bus, don't bother with a taxi from city centre, it's a short 'nough walk, and usually as quick as having to drive 'round to it.
There’ll be an usher at the front door on Glassford Street to guide you up the stairs to the Saloon and Grand Hall. Registration, information and students at the ready to cater to your every whim will be in the Saloon. The talks will begin at 9 AM in the Grand Hall.
Having our beloved noisy get-together here in Glasgow has one big advantage - it’s considered well off-season mid-January so accommodation and travel are very reasonably priced.
Registration (i.e., conference fee payment) is open and operated by the University of Nottingham.
Getting to Glasgow
It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane!
Hey, we’ve got an airport. Direct flights from a few European locales and many connections via London or Amsterdam. There’s a shuttle bus from the airport that gets you direct to city centre (~12 mins) for £10 return. Absolute bargain. There's white cabs at the airport, but they'll set you back £25-30 a ride.
If Glasgow isn’t convenient from your starting point, also consider Edinburgh, which has other direct-flight options. There’s a Citylink bus that takes you from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow bus station (close to city centre) for £19 return/round-trip (can buy on the bus). You can also take a tram from Edinburgh airport back into the city to then take the train from Haymarket to Glasgow, but would only recommend that if you'd like to take a long browse around Edinburgh (it is pretty), as it's slightly more expensive and takes longer.
A wee warning: Ryanair is currently a mess, so may not be a wise choice.
It’s a bird! No, it’s a train!
Trains from many places south arrive in either Glasgow Central or Queen Street Station, both in the heart of the city. The Virgin West Coast line gets you from London Euston to Glasgow Central in 4½ hours - nae a bullet, but nae bad. Can cost as low as £30 each way if you book early. There’s a Caledonian Sleeper that gets you from London to Glasgow overnight in classic train fashion, but you’ll want to book a (rather pricey) cabin - ain’t no way to sleep if you just book a seat.
If you find yourself in Edinburgh (again, it is pretty), it’s only a 45-50 min train ride over to Glasgow Queen Street, and the trains run at least every half hour from about 6 in the mornin’ to just ‘fore midnight.
It’s a bird! No, it’s a car!
Who drives a car? Not me anymore. But the M8 actually carves its way around the city centre. It’s odd. Which exit do you take? Beats me. Best ask the Googles. There’s a car park a block or so down from the Trades Hall where they, the Hall, say you can get a sweet deal on parking (£6/day).
Getting around Glasgow
Glasgow’s glorious past for an industrious/exploitative few is on display in its enviable architecture. Look up, look around. The city isn't too large to circumnavigate the main bits on foot. But just in case anyone feels like going au naturale, do wear shoes; jakey weans are fond of finishing off a bottle of buckie by smashing it against the pavement. Classy.
If you’re from a country where pedestrians have the right of way, be warned: it’s not always obligatory that cars will yield to foot traffic, so always take a peek at car entrances and exits as well as all intersections.
Glasgow’s done pretty well with it’s bicycle hire programme (part of the NextBike conglomerate) insofar as there’s bikes in relatively good nick all around the city. I’ll be honest that I don’t understand exactly how it works, but you can read up about it here
There’s some nice paths along the River Clyde to the East and along the canals to the N of town. It’s also faster than a bus. Everything’s faster than the bus.
If you’re from a country where bicycles have any rights, be warned: bicycles in UK are an unfortunate afterthought in terms of rules and infrastructure. Despite that, it’s still a good, quick and safe way of getting ‘round. And getting better slowly but surely.
We have quite a few buses. They’re all shite. But they’re excellent ways to hear the local banter, if your trip lacks native engagement. The major bus service is FirstBus, which only takes cash, and does not make change; it's currently £2.20 a ride, no transfers, or £4.30 for an all-day pass.
Glasgow has the third oldest subway in the world. It could be very convenient for you as it’ll get you from city centre over to the West End and its many sights (e.g., Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum, University of Glasgow). And if you miss your stop, don’t worry, it’ll be back to it in a jiffy (it goes in a wee circle, colloquially known as the Clockwork Orange). Despite being not useful outwith its handful of stops, it is the most reliable mass transit we have.
Commuter trains can take you to all the neighbourhoods, just about every nook and cranny of the surrounding area, as well as other towns and cities beyond, with services from about 6 in the morning to 11 at night. Tickets from the main stations need to be purchased beforehand at a kiosk (fast) or desk (less fast). If you board a neighbourhood station (some are unmanned), you can purchase a ticket from a conductor onboard.
There’s black cabs that can be hailed just about anywhere, though if you’re less than a block from a taxi stand (which are frustratingly not well marked, but will have a line of taxis parked usually), they might wave you towards the stand to be officious. The base price is usually approx. £2.50, and fares are based on time. There’s also some private hire cab companies who are much cheaper, but you need to book ahead - they can’t be hailed from the street. This might be a good option for those arriving en masse. If you’d like a list of private hires, give us a shout. They are all run by the local mob, but there’s no kidnapping. Also a great way to increase the native engagement on your trip.
How would I know anything about Glasgow hotels? I live here. I do know a few things about accommodation hereabouts, but do check the online world. And from looking ‘round the online booking sites (e.g., the Googles, the Kayaks, the Bookings), the ratings are pretty much spot on.
There’s a few cheap hotels that are cheap for a reason, and to be avoided. The Alexander Thomson and both Rennie Mackintosh hotels are utter shite, and bring great shame upon the illustrious local architects after which they’re named. Actually, just about anything in Renfrew St. is crap (being situated next to the Glasgow School of Art, none of them try to be accommodating).
Below are just a few of the many accommodating options.
If you like your Euro-modern styling taking to an illogical extreme, there’s Citizen M
Premier Inn is usually good, and there’s several around city centre (e.g., Buchanan Galleries and George Square) but the “City Centre South' one is not a good location.
Haven't had a guest complain about the Holiday Inn Express City Centre, which is usually one of the cheapest convenient options.
Don't have any first- or second-hand accounts, but the Novotel, Ibis Styles Hotel in George Square and the Jurys Inn are all well rated, priced and located for stumbling to slumber at any hour.
Village Hotel is a brand new building, so can’t be falling apart… yet. It’s a bit of a hike, though, from the venue and other bits.
Cathedral House Hotel is nae bad and a bit quirky, but some of the beds were clearly designed back when people weren’t so tall.
Z Hotel seems pretty spartan but gets very positive reviews.
The Glasgow Pond Hotel is not near much of anything except for Gartnavel Hospital, so if not immediately seeking medical attention, would not be recommended.
The Doubletree by Hilton used to be the Thistle hotel, which was just about as prickly and uncomfortable as its name. Cannae tell how much of a refurb it’s had, but seems overpriced if it still bears any of its past thistles.
The hotels near the motorway - the Hilton, Glasgow Marriott and Hallmark Hotels - are a bit farther from the action than they seem, though I’ve heard they’re all a’ight.
The Ibis Hotel Budget feels like it’s in a suburban outdoor mall (this is not a statement of praise). If you like the feeling of living under a motorway (also not a statement of praise), there’s the Travelodge Paisley Road Hotel.
If you’d like a different experience, the pub Babbity Bowsters has rooms. And some great pub grub.
We will be having our conference dinner at Fratelli Sarti in Bath Street, offering three courses of fine cucina Toscana.
Behold, the dreich! Like the Inuit with their many words for snow, Glaswegians have many words for rain. Because we get a lot of it. Keeps the place green. Mid-January you can expect it to be relatively mild in temperatures compared to the continent, but probably wet. Pack a good rain jacket and a jumper (and possibly a less porous pair of shoes) and that’s you sorted.
Things to See
1. Open eyes.
2. Take it in.
If one enjoys the visual arts, one’s in for a treat, because about one in every ten people in Glasgow is an artist. The hub for this veritable hive of art is the Glasgow School of Art. The bad news is that the Mackintosh building, considered the top architectural treasure of the UK, was badly burnt from a student’s degree-show mishap several years ago. But the new Reid Building across the way has an excellent showcase of it. There's usually some quality head-scratching art at the Centre for Contemporary Art as well as the Modern Institute.
The aforementioned Mackintosh is Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who with his wife Margaret MacDonald became (posthumously) recognized as the missing link between art nouveau and art deco, and a key player in the birth of the modern. One could make a whole day out of Mackintosh. There’s fine exhibits about him at the Kelvingrove Gallery and the Lighthouse (one of his buildings). His own apartment was rebuilt on the University of Glasgow campus as part of the Hunterian Gallery. It is stunning.
Also on the University of Glasgow campus, there’s the Hunterian Museum, which has a lovely main space, and neat exhibits dedicated to Lord Kelvin (yes, that Kelvin) and the Antonine Wall that went from coast to coast just north of Glasgow and Edinburgh for just about one century before the Romans abandoned it.
I do highly recommend taking a day before or after the conference if not to see more of Glasgow, then to see Edinburgh (once again, it is pretty), or to take a quick jaunt into the natural or historical surrounds. An easy jaunt is to jump on a train bound for Edinburgh, get off at Linlithgow and walk over to Linlithgow Palace, a wonderful ruin with a gorgeous peel (park) surrounding it. The country parks of Glasgow make an easy break from the hurly-burly urban world, especially Pollok Country Park, which also allows one to come to see (wouldn’t advise touching) the local cattle, the Highland Cow. If curious feats of engineering are more to your liking, the same trains to Edinburgh stop at Falkirk, a lazy walk along the canal will lead you to the Falkirk Wheel, a massive pendulum substitution for a series of locks taking barges from the Forth & Clyde to Union canals. There’s also the foundations of a Roman fort nearby.
If you like impressing friends with visiting things they haven't, most folks miss out on the Govan Stones, an impressive collection of early medieval carved tombstones (e.g., hogbacks) near the Govan subway stop. It's unfortunately not normally open during winter outside of church services, but it can be arranged; contact info here. If you suddenly feel the need for skivving off from the conference (heavens to betsy, no!), Glasgow City Chambers is well worth a peek and just a block away. They run tours at half ten and half two every weekday, usually.
People watching. Why bother going to the cinema when one can see all the action, comedy, romance and drama of a film played out in real time on the streets of Glasgow on a Friday or Saturday night?
Things to Eat
Glasgow has both kinds of food: Indian and Italian. Well, it excels in those cuisines, byproducts of the past empire and mass migrations. There's also good local fare, and the Malaysian (thanks again, empire!) is nae bad. If looking for good eats before or after the conference, one could do much worse than Mother India, Stravaigin, Koolba, Ubiquitous Chip, Wee Curry Shop, Cafe Gondolfi and numerous others (the Buttery, Fanny Trollope's, Finnieston, Gannet). A French-ish bistro, Number 16, is also delicious (tho' it's gotten so many rave reviews you'd probably have to book ahead, even mid-January. Thanks, internet. Thinternet). Some pubs serve decent food, but alas, many don't even bother trying; it's not the fairest metric, but if they offer "Balmoral Chicken," they're probably not trying.
Did you know that Glasgow is considered a vegan restaurant mecca? It's a curious thing, but with Mono, Stereo, The 78, Cafe Saramago and the 13th Note scattered about the city all serving interesting, animal-free food, it truly is a great place to nosh without an animal involved (save for the chefs themselves).
And if fresh and delicious cuisine isn't to your liking, you'll also find a friend in Glasgow. You'll have to travel to touristy towns like Oban to find a deep-fried Mars bar, but you can feed your self-loathing on such gastrointestinal horrors as the pizza crunch (battered and fried tasteless pizza) or the mysterious munchie box. If the scent of the deep fryer is too much for you to resist, Cafe Gondolfi, nae far from Trades Hall, has a takeaway stand that is rather tasty. At most chippies, it'd be best to order small - there's little to no sense of portion control near the deep fryer.
If you prefer liquid to solid diets, there's a few good whisky bars scattered about town: The Pot Still is always chock-a-block but has a great selection. If you live and die by internet reviews, do note, though, that the TripAdvisor scores for the Pot Still were a well implemented joke. Ben Nevis (the pub, not the mountain) is also excellent, and makes an excellent apéritif or digestif to a meal at Mother India, a stone's throw from it. Other good whisky bars are the Bon Accord, Oran Mor and the Lismore. The beer and wine, from ales to zinfadels, flows from every corner. Do note that Scotland is not the cheapest place for a tipple, and that local überbrau Tennent's, usually the cheapest option, is considered by many to be a pint of unpotable sadness. A good bet for beer is anything from Williams Bros, a brewery in Alloa near Stirling.
Things to Hear
One particular hearing scientist performs on the 2nd Sunday of every month, including the 14th of January, at the Old Hairdressers, a short block from Central Station. Ahem.