Glasgow: The Riverside Museum

One of our good friends moved to Glasgow in September, so Marcus and I went up to visit him in late November, which is usually when we’d go somewhere for a long weekend for our anniversary. Since this is the same friend that has basically invited himself along on our honeymoon road trip (should we ever get to take one), it seemed fitting to just visit him in lieu of a more romantic holiday (I’ve known him as long as I’ve known Marcus since I met them both when they were advertising for a new housemate and I ended up being the top contender due to our shared love of Bruce Campbell. He’s more like a brother than a friend at this point). Said friend’s priorities tend to be more aimed towards drinking than culture, but since you can only start drinking so early, he’s amenable to visiting museums in the hours before pubs open. Marcus and I had managed to visit quite a few museums on our trip to Glasgow a few years ago, but one of the places we hadn’t been was the Riverside Museum, and since our friend is a bit of a train spotter, this seemed a solid pick for all of us.


The building is famously designed by Zaha Hadid, so you’d think we would have gotten a photo of it, but nope. I guess we were so cold we just rushed inside without thinking (it didn’t really get properly cold down south until the week after we got home, so Glasgow was a bit of a shock to the system). The museum is free to enter, and I’m guessing pretty popular with families, but we were there fairly early in the morning, so didn’t encounter many people until mid-way through our visit.


I was drawn to the carnival themed area and the creepy fellatio-ready clown I had spotted from outside, so we headed there first. We spotted the dinosaur immediately after, and from reading his sign, we learned that there were ten dinosaurs hidden in the museum that we had to spot. This first dinosaur was man-sized, so we stupidly assumed they would all be that big and totally forgot to look for them until we had walked through most of the museum, which meant we ended up doing some backtracking, but we also started looking at things really intensely once we realised that most of the dinosaurs were action figure-sized, which was probably the point of the activity.


I loved the street of yesteryear, though I feel it was perhaps a bit less interactive than it could have been both due to Covid (Scotland was still much stricter than England at the time of our visit with Covid restrictions, which is fair enough. Don’t know why we got rid of the mask mandate for a few months!) and to people hogging the inside of the antique subway car so we couldn’t go in (which also meant we missed the second dinosaur until we circled back around at the end of our visit). I was also slightly disappointed there weren’t authentic smells, though it is possible I could have just missed them through my mask.


After leaving ye olde Glasgow (or a very quaint, sanitised version thereof), we entered the large open transport section that makes up most of the museum, which had a series of smaller rooms on one side devoted to different subjects, such as children’s clothing, model trains, the cinema, and many more. I will never be a car person, so the main part of the transport gallery didn’t do much for me apart from the enjoyment I got from climbing aboard old buses and trains, because who doesn’t like that?! No one, I’m guessing, which is why we usually had to wait our turn despite the museum being fairly empty.


The museum is also home to the Tall Ship Glenlee, which is moored just outside the back entrance. We did go out and have a look at it, but it looked like you had to pay to enter, and it was also insanely freezing out, so we ended up hurrying back inside the warmth of the museum and skipping the ship time, which means I can’t tell you anything more about it.


Riverside Museum has an upstairs gallery as well, much of which taken up by a busy cafe, but there were also a few interesting displays, including one on the American Civil War because blockade runners used to run their ships full of cotton through to Glasgow (the city was pretty much built on slavery, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that many residents supported the Confederacy); what may have been the world’s oldest bicycle (this is disputed, but it is at least the world’s oldest surviving bicycle); and a moving display of model ships, which is where we found another dinosaur (who wasn’t technically a dinosaur, as the two geologists I was with made sure to point out, but the museum clearly intended for us to count it as one, so we let it slide).


I ended up enjoying this museum more than I thought I would, largely because of the fun of the dinosaur finding game, but I also liked the street of yesteryear and the carnival display, and definitely appreciated being able to walk around a warm place for an hour or so before venturing back into the cold for our next destination. Transport nerds would love this place, as would children, or adults like us who enjoy games intended for children. 3/5.


This ended up being the only museum we saw in Glasgow on this trip (apart from a brief stop in the Hunterian to meet up with our friend after his morning lecture the next day), but we did a lot of walking around, visited way too many pubs, had mulled Buckfast at the Christmas Market, got a photo in front of the Tunnocks Factory (the tearoom was sadly closed, but we did buy some of the Tunnocks products that are hard to find in England (hello elusive but delicious Caramel Logs and Wafer Creams) in the bakery, which was staffed by some scarily surly ladies), visited a tearoom with very cute china in the Hidden Lane to make up for the lack of tea at Tunnocks (and at our friend’s house, because he doesn’t drink tea. We knew this, but had forgotten to bring our own teabags, possibly because we still can’t comprehend the idea of an Englishman that doesn’t like tea), and most excitingly, ate a family-sized five foot dosa between the three of us, which is something I have always wanted to do (#lifegoals), so it was a good trip despite the cold and more drinking than I find ideal. My friend just had his contract renewed, so I imagine I’ll be back to Glasgow again at some point next year to visit any museums I’ve missed on my previous two trips!


  1. I love Bruce Campbell! I interviewed him once and he was very funny and very down to earth. Isn’t his autobiography called something like If Chins Could Kill? So great.

    1. Yep, If Chins Could Kill and Hail to the Chin, which came out a few years ago. So jealous, I’d love to meet him! He did a book signing for Hail to the Chin in London back when it came out, but it was on a day I had to work and there was no way I would have been able to get there in time as numbers were limited and I knew all the other nerds would be queuing hours in advance. Glad to hear that he’s a nice guy though!

  2. Nice to recognise absolutely everything open one of your posts! Apart from the dinosaurs which must be a temporary thing. The Glenlee is free though I think it charged when it first opened. It’s definitely worth a visit but probably not on its own, so if you’ve visited the Riverside thoroughly I don’t think I’d go back for just that. I have never tasted Buckfast, mulled or otherwise, is it as vile as I think it will be?

    1. I actually went to Buckfast Abbey quite a few years ago, and we bought a bottle to give to a friend, but I didn’t try any myself, so this was my first taste. The mulled version was absolutely fine, probably because it was watered down with juice, though the normal mulled wine was still nicer. Definitely would not drink it straight!

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