Bellahouston Park. June 2021

Various-events bellahouston

Helen Rose Outdoor Diary

During the winter lockdown due to Covid 19, we continued our walks in Glasgow Parks. Bellahouston is an extensive park of 169 Acres and has many features and facilities. It boasts formal gardens and open parkland where you can relax and take in views over the city. It is located in the south of Glasgow and was opened as a park in 1896 when the land was purchased by the Corporation of Glasgow. Bellahouston means Settlement of the Crucifix which is probably appropriate as the Pope visited it. The name comes from the Scottish Gaelic, Baile Cheusadain. Gaelic is spoken mainly in the Highlands but surprisingly there are many Gaelic names in the Lowlands where Glasgow is located. Let me take you on a tour of the main points of interest in the park.

House for an Art Lover

House for an Art Lover was inspired by the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the designer and artist who trained at the Glasgow School of Art; he designed the Glasgow School of Art School building which in recent years sadly suffered two extensive fires. He designed the House for an Art Lover in 1901 for a German interior design magazine. The design was finally built in 1987 and completed in 1996 and includes interior designs by him. It is now used as a café and function suite, for the Mackintosh Exhibition with a heritage centre and studio pavilion.

Further information on Charles Rennie Mackintosh at Charles Rennie Macintosh Society . The house is set in landscaped gardens with interesting sculptures .My favourite is the cut out foot.

Walled Garden

Near the House for an Art Lover is the walled garden which during our latest visit had a heavenly scent from the beds of Hyacinth in full bloom with many different colours. It was an ideal spot to sit in with a carry out coffee from the café. As we could not meet others at home we had to arrange park walks and picnics to meet up with friends. A walled garden is a garden enclosed by high walls for horticultural rather than security purposes. Although originally all gardens may have been enclosed for protection from animal or human intruders, in temperate climates, the essential function of the walls surrounding a walled garden is to shelter the garden from wind and frost and also serve a decorative purpose. The walled garden dates back to 1860.


The sculpture to show industrial heritage was designed by Jimmy Cosgrove and constructed by Hector McGarva  in October 2005. It was made from cast iron and corten steel showing the silhouette of a shipyard worker and his dog. On the adjacent table lie the different tools he would have used. The piece has an inscription ‘celebrate those who made the Clyde great’.

There are also large blocks throughout the park celebrating Glasgow’s heritage but these have fallen in to disrepair and the plaques on them are either missing or difficult to read.


The elephant is an 11 ton sculpture titled ‘Elephant for Glasgow’ and commissioned by House for an Art Lover from sculptor Kenny Hunter. It is cast in iron, partly from sections of Glasgow built locomotives. The locomotives were sourced in India and South Africa. This sculpture has been installed on the site of the famous 1938 British Empire Exhibition in Bellahouston Park. The original model of a life-size Indian Elephant in clay was made by Hunter during a residency in the Centre for Arts & Heritage during the summer of 2014, the year of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Elephant has a direct connection to many Commonwealth countries in South Asia and Africa where Glasgow built trains were deployed and where the elephant is seen as both a form of transport and an animal of symbolic power. It also functions as a symbol for Glasgow’s role as a ‘workshop of the world,’ in particular to the often overlooked human role and cost extolled in creating that output. The industrial workforce of Glasgow as a Beast of Burden, which took to its role with diligence yet could also stretch its chains and panic its masters.

1938 British Empire Exhibition

The Empire Exhibition ran from May to October 1938 at Bellahouston Park. King George VI with Queen Mary officially opened the Exhibition on the 3rd May 1938. In 1936, as planning took place, German re-armament was beginning to cause alarm. Just under a year after the Exhibition ended WW2 began. The speed at which the Exhibition was conceived and completed demonstrated the need for the British Empire to display strength and industriousness in the face of an impending war. There was a sense of nostalgia at the Exhibition. The Scottish Avenue promoted Scottish trade with exhibition Pavilions dedicated to Scottish brands. The Dominion Avenue held Pavilions dedicated to countries with ties to the old British Empire such as South Africa. At a time of uncertainty perhaps it was felt looking back created a sense of stability and resilience. However, the Exhibition also looked forward, it inspired, created jobs, produced prominent architects and engaged those who visited. Over the 169 acres of the park, there were over 100 temporary buildings to be constructed in less than ten months.

Sadly, only one of the original structures remains, The Palace of Art, designed by Thomas Tait but now a Sports and Leisure Centre.

The National Library of Scotland has archive film to view.

Visit of the Pope

Due to its size and relative absence of formal walkways the park has always been an ideal location for the city’s events. One of these events was a visit by the Pope. On  a  swelteringly hot June 1, in 1982,  300,000 people, the biggest crowd ever assembled in Scotland, gathered at the park to attend Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. It was the main event of his stay in Scotland. A stage was built high on the hill with the crowd lower down. All that remains today is a wall where the stage had been built.

There have been many other events in the park such as pop concerts including Biffy Clyro and Guns n’ Roses.

Bellahouston is a park worth visiting with so much history and buildings to see along with taking tea at House for an Art Lover.

Coming attraction; The Magnificent 11.







The Magnificent 11 – a Glasgow South Side Walk
Helen Rose' Outdoor Diary: Glasgow Graffiti

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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