Glasgow, Scotland: This walking/eating tour reveals the city's culinary rebirth

The first steps of a Glasgow food tour are almost inevitably on the back foot. There are many reasons for this, but they essentially boil down to prejudice about the city's gastronomic offerings.

It is not entirely undeserved – this is the home of the Glasgow effect, a combination of diet and lifestyle factors that drastically lowers life expectancy, especially in men. I live in Glasgow and try to make constant dietary adjustments to prevent it from swallowing me up.

Glasgow Walking Lunch, hosted by travel and food writer Andrea Pearson, doesn't entirely shy away from the city's unfortunate reputation, but the event has a bigger mission statement than just simply strolling around and eating on the hop.

As she explains: "Along the way we see evidence of the first monks who instilled a sense of morality, the pilgrims who had a thirst for beer, the ruthless but successful merchants who flooded the city with riches from around the empire, and the Victorians who steamed their way to success, building street after street of stone buildings."

The tour is the sort of thing you'd expect to find in Edinburgh, which gets four times more tourists than Glasgow. The upside of having it here is that most visitors have such little knowledge of the city and/or a preconceived notion based on the same old slanders, that it's easy to pleasantly surprise them.

We start our walk around Merchant City, the rejuvenated trading district in the heart of Glasgow and make our way to  the intersection of Duke and High streets where we find McCune Smith cafe. Our little group shuffles in  and is treated to a delicious soup as well as the story of one of the city's most remarkable and little-championed sons, James McCune Smith. 

"He was the first African-American to gain a medical degree," says the guide while I blow on my soup. "As a freed slave, US colleges would not accept him but he found his way here and attended Glasgow University, then finished top of his class in 1837."

This is the type of deep-dive into history paired with excellent food that characterise the walking lunch.

Post soup we meander back into the heart of the Merchant City and to Cafe Gandolfi, one of the family-run Italian institutions around Glasgow. Here the guide cheekily lets a few American teenagers on the tour sample Stornoway black pudding, before explaining exactly what it is.


From there, we move to Anchor Line, a stylish bar themed heavily around Glasgow's time as the core of the British Empire's ship-building business. Ultimately it was that which led to the city being so heavily bombed during World War II as navy ships were built here, too. 

Our final stop is in the Arches. When I studied in Glasgow 15 years ago, this was the best  – and most notorious – nightclub in the city. It was closed in 2015 and, after a period of uncertainty over what to do with this remarkable space under Central Station, has been reborn as a trendy food stop.

It's a world away from its former life but if there's a central theme to the Walking Food Tour, then it's that Glasgow is a great city for reincarnation.




Emirates and Qantas fly to Glasgow, via Dubai, from Melbourne and Sydney. See


Glasgow Walking Lunch is $75 a person and takes place the first Saturday of most months. See

Jamie Lafferty was a guest of Glasgow Walking Lunch.