The Glasgow Subcrawl; myth for many, reality for those few brave souls armed with an all-day ticket and an iron stomach.
For those who haven’t heard of it, the premise is simple: take a traditional pub crawl and apply it to Glasgow’s historic underground transport system. That’s 15 stops, 15 bars (in theory, at least) and as many drinks before calling it a day on trains and tipples.
Is it achievable? Not very often – but here are some of the highs and lows you’re guaranteed to experience along the way.
Grab some friends, an outlandish outfit and meet us at the bar for a sensible drink – after all, we’re in this for the long haul.
1. Fancy dress is inevitable
Let’s get one thing straight: no one sets out on a Subcrawl thinking their dignity will remain intact. And since few intrepid explorers do it without a group, it’s a safe bet that you’ll need some pre-bonding activity to overcome those first pub nerves. Whether it’s your uni class doing some fresher-style bonding or workmates letting your collective hair down, we suggest you go all out with a theme and get it over with. Superheroes? Why not. Smurfs? Go crazy. Pub golfers? Well, now you’re just confusing drinking game genres.
2. Sober commuters will hate you
Sorry to disappoint, Subcrawlers – but when it’s 7pm and many of your fellow commuters are still making their way home from work, your rendition of ‘Here We, Here We…’ is unlikely to inspire anything but pure, sober hatred. Just bear it in mind, folks. Or invite some along for the ride – your call.
3. But give it a few hours and they’ll find it endearing (maybe)
And that, dear readers, is the beauty of the Glasgow Subway. We public transport monkeys may refuse to make eye contact on the long and torturous journeys to and from work – but give us a couple of hours in the pub ourselves and we’ll give you a smile of recognition for almost any drunken antic. You Subcrawlers may be five rounds in, you may be taking up the entire carriage, and you may be doing Rihanna impressions on the poles…but we’ve all been there.
4. The city centre and west end are easy
Come on; Hillhead, Kelvinbridge, Buchanan St, St Enoch…if you’ve been in Glasgow for more than five minutes then you’ve got these down pat. You know fine and well that Inn Deep awaits, that Curler’s Rest will do plenty of decent beers but that Tennent’s might just be cheaper, and where that cheeky row of cash machines is hiding (your round again…really?) These stops pose no problems for you, our underground-bound chums.
5. But south of the river might be daunting
Admit it – you’ve probably never been drinking in Ibrox, right? Okay, so pub crawl options are a little more limited south of the river, but consult a map (and maybe Google) in advance and you should be fine. Although, point one appendix: we’d probably stay away from any football-related costumes. And West Street and Shields Road are pretty low on bars, so we can forgive skipping them altogether.
6. Still, you’ll see new sides to the city
Who knew Govan was so cool? We did, actually – not to brag about it. The ‘hood synonymous with Rab C Nesbitt is pretty vibrant, in fact, and a trip to Brechin’s Bar ranks high on the subcrawl checklist. Stop for a minute to check out some gorgeous architecture and a stellar view of the Riverside Museum across the Clyde. If nothing else, the fresh air might do you good.
7. You will get lost in Waxy O’Connors
You won’t be short of bars at Buchanan Street, that’s for sure – but if there are any ‘crawlers you could do with leaving behind, then this is the rabbit warren in which to lose them. The Irish bar is a favourite among city centre shoppers and sports fans, but the real fun is that it’s a bit like a giant wooden tree house…with beer.
8. You’ll fall in love with The Laurieston
If you’ve never been to The Laurieston – and you have taste – then you’re likely to fall head over heels with this Bridge Street spot. A Glasgow pub that looks like it hasn’t been touched since the ’60s, this place has a dedicated following.of both old regulars and hip beer-swillers. Treat it – and the jukebox – with respect and your crawl may continue.
9. Partick will spoil you for choice
Dumbarton Road; worthy of a pub crawl all on its own. The stretch between Kelvinhall and Partick is full to bursting with watering holes, making this leg of your journey all the more exciting. The Record Factory or The Three Judges? Deoch an Dorus or The Smiddy? The world is your drunken oyster, friends. Relish it – the pickings just aren’t the same on other stops along the circle.
10. And these places are bound to happen
‘But what about the other stops?’ we hear you slur, unsure of where to hang your Super Mario hat next. Here are a few friendly suggestions to cross off the list:
For St Enoch, Sloans or Hootenanny (and what a name) are about as close as you can get. The Bellrock at Kinning Park actively encourages subcrawls so you’ll be on good terms with the bar staff, and The Kensington has a similar set up in Cessnock. Anywhere on Ashton Lane or Byres Road will fare you well at Hillhead, WEST on the Corner is a shout for St George’s Cross, and Jacksons is the discerning subcrawler’s choice at Cowcaddens. Well…what are you waiting for?
11. The word ‘shoogle’ will amuse you to no end
Assuming you can still see it clearly, that is. All drunken antic jokes aside, it’s a braw Scottish word – and it describes the rocking Clockwork Orange to a tee. Fair play, marketing people – you’re the ones keeping us going on the second, less steady leg of this tour.
12. Until it makes you queasy
Look, no one said this whole 15 pubs in a day thing would be easy. And that goes double when you add in a few shoogle-y rides on the world’s third oldest underground system. Have a seat, and maybe a glass of water.
13. You’re unlikely to make all 15
All joking aside, there’s no harm in calling off the subcrawl on account of drunkenness. Lesser men and women than you have called time before the final stop, and it’s important that your experience stays on the fun side, rather than leaning towards morning after fear. Just saying.
14. But a half-circle is almost as admirable
Look at how far you’ve come, humble subcrawler! This afternoon, you were a fresher in bad face paint. Tonight, you’re a subcrawl survivor – a Clockwork Orange soldier with shoogle flashbacks and coasters from some of Glasgow’s best (and occasionally ropey) bars. When you do decide to trade in that all day ticket for a taxi, we’ll both know you’ve earned it.
15. And you’ll get the rest next time
Chips and cheese and then the comfort of your own bed – hopefully without any ’70s orange swirling – are starting to sound pretty good about now, right? Right. Because you’ve been there, done that and talked about getting a t-shirt made with your fellow subcrawl survivors. It’s been fun, guys, but you just can’t read those Learn Gaelic posters one more time. Until next time, fair Subway.
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Main image: Johnston Press