Glasgow has long been on the forefront of Scottish cuisine, hospitality, retail, and general good times for literal centuries - while the supposed capital of Edinburgh has plenty of heritage spots - Glaswegians do it best, producing some of the most-loved and longest standing businesses in the country.
People make Glasgow - the butcher, the baker, even the candlestickmaker - the local characters that run our local shops, restaurants, cafes, and pubs are well known in the community, especially the business owners that have set up shop in our city for decades, and in some cases, well over a century!
Whether we’re exploring Glasgow’s booming cafe culture, traditional pubs or anywhere in between, his article aims to celebrate the businesses that made Glasgow, most of which every Glaswegian will have visited at some point in their life.
Whether they’re in the north, southside, east end, west end, or even the city centre - each part of the city has an ancient business that has been a fixture for generations of Glaswegians, wherever they hail from.
Here’s our list of eight of the oldest businesses in Glasgow - ranked in chronological order.
1. The Scotia (1792)
The Scotia Bar is immersed in history. Not only is it one of the oldest bars in the city, it’s situated on one of the four original streets in Glasgow. It was established in 1792 when the Clyde was a thriving waterway, close to the final ferry stage on the river. The bar, which retains many original interior features, remains a popular destination for a nightcap after a long day’s work. It enjoys an association with radical politics, the arts and a broad social mix of customers. The Scotia is believed to be haunted by spirits from every era of its past. Nonetheless, it remains popular with tourists, musicians and music lovers alike. Photo: TSPL
2. The Saracen Head (~1792)
The Gallowgate pub also claims to be one of the oldest in Glasgow, given that the original tavern to hold the name was found in records dating back to 1792. According to urban legend, the pub once played host to Robert Burns on his trips to Glasgow - and even once displayed a handwritten poem by the Bard. The current Saracen Head is the fourth rendition of the pub, with the first on the Gallowgate, second on the corner of St Mungo Lane and the third at the corner of Saracen Lane, next to where the original first stood. The present Saracen Head, across from the Barrowlands, opened its doors to thirsty punters in the east end back in 1904.
3. The Clutha (1819)
Named after the Gaelic word for the Clyde, the Clutha has sat proudly by the river since 1819. Like the nearby Scotia, it was once popular with the crews and passengers from the Clutha boats that would ferry people across the water. The bar now stands on its own but was originally the ground floor of a four-storey tenement block. When the building above was demolished, the pub remained. For much of the late 20th century it was known as McLaughlin’s. In 1992, Brendan McLaughlin returned it to its original name, The Clutha Vaults. Following the helicopter tragedy in 2013, the pub was comprehensively redesigned before reopening.
Laings the jeweller has long had roots in the community of Glasgow. They opened in 1840 and are still run by the sixth generation of the same family. You can find their flagship store today in the Argyll Arcade. Pictured here are Glasgow School of Art Students working with Laings in the late 60s. Championed by Robert Laing of the fourth generation, he worked with three students over a four-year period from 1967-1970. Laings crafted avant-garde jewellery designs to enter the Diamond International Awards sponsored by De Beers. (Pic: Laings)