Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

A wander to Glasgow Fort

Glasgow Fort sign

Many years ago (or at least it seems like that), we used to enjoy travelling around and visiting the various large shopping centres that were becoming popular, and ranged from Dyce to Sheffield, finding some that were huge, and others that were, by comparison, tiny. Many would simply have been describes as ‘Arcades’ in the past, but that was no longer seen as trendy or ‘kewl’, so even a few shops in an enclosed space between larger shops became a ‘shopping centre’.

I have to confess to a preference for one of the largest the Metro Centre in Gateshead, which I even watched being built since our business had offices nearby, and I was often down there on business. The Metro just feels special, and even has an indoor theme park, complete with roller coaster.

I recently found it hard to believe that Glasgow Fort opened way back in 2004, and I had never had the opportunity to go there. Due to its location, lack of transport, and refusal to ‘do’ buses, it just looked too far away, and on the wrong side of the M8 for me.

However, while poking around with some mapping software I noticed that there was a walking route, even though the official Glasgow Fort web site failed to give detailed directions (which was one of the reason I never bothered considering a visit). In reality, the walking route across the M8 from the south is fine, and goes nowhere near the motorway traffic thanks to a pedestrian footbridge. The centre operators should do a better job with their directions, stop mentioning “1,900 car parking spaces” at every opportunity, and give a more detailed description of other routes.

I seem to recall some controversy over the design of the centre when it was first announced, and this seem to be justified. Unlike a conventional shopping centre or arcade, the Fort has no cover over the areas between the shops, so the  ‘shopping centre’ is in reality little more than a pedestrianised shopping area. I have seen it referred to as “a ‘two-sided mall design’ intended to recreate a traditional high street“. It looks nice enough in fair weather, but the wind and rain (or sleet and snow) will be whistling around anyone who visits in less than fair weather. That could be bad news for some of the small traders, who have little stand-alone concessions, food stalls and kiddie rides, and the play area with swings etc. These are just not going to do business in bad weather, where an enclosed shopping centre could just carry on. Doesn’t seem like the smartest idea in the box for a shopping centre in Scotland – we’ll have to see how many more follow the idea.

On the other hand…

The place must be cheap to run for the operators, with no heating or air-conditioning needed for enclosed corridors, roofing, or services to maintain. All the roofs and services apply only to the tenants in the building, with not shared areas to be maintained jointly.

For me, there’s nothing special there, just clothes shops, jewellers, phones, and various fast-food names, none of which I never touch.

Probably the only establishment worthy of note was Hobbycraft.  No clothes, no food, no phones, but an interesting range of art, hobby, and modelling materials. But don’t go there for a pair of scissors… you’ll need a mortgage as they tend to be almost £20 unless tiny. Nearby Poundland would be a better option!

I’d also have to be honest and say that I found the atmosphere a bit spooky and weird at times, but bear in mind I was there on a cold February day with few visitors, so it was rather quiet. They have loudspeakers built into the walls (as per the pic below), and these seem to emit a steady stream of music chosen to keep the unwary visitor calm and subdued. I’m almost sure the playlist has been created by a psychologist with some sort of odd agenda that would make a good plot for an X-Files episode.

Glasgow Fort speaker

Glasgow Fort speaker

While I won’t be hurrying back very often, it looks like a handy walk on a nice day, and there’s always Hobbyworld, which offers a ready supply materials and equipment I don’t have any ‘over the counter’ suppliers for nearby. It’s always nice to get your hands on such things, rather than obtaining by mail.

I mentioned the lack of directions earlier, and that reminded me of my first arrival there, at the back door, if you approach from the footbridge over the M8. It wasn’t clear that what looked like a service entrance (not for public use) was actually the way in, and I ended up walking around to the front before I could get in. As you can see from the pic below, it just looks like a door into a store for the centre, and does not even have a sign to indicate that the public can get in here.

Glasgow Fort back door

Glasgow Fort back door

Glasgow Fort back door

And the front door isn’t much better, just bigger, but still without a sign.

Glasgow Fort front door

Glasgow Fort front door

Glasgow Fort front door

Fine if you have been there before, but if not, or you arrive when it’s really quiet and there’s nobody wandering in or out those unmarked doors, then you might be wandering around for a while.

Glasgow Fort open plan

Glasgow Fort – definitely open plan, but you can roll out of your car and into a shop

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March 5, 2013 - Posted by | Civilian | , ,

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