CASTLES in the sky, is how one estate agent describes the impressive turreted tenement buildings in Glasgow city centre.

Many are spacious flats with panoramic views of listed architectural treasures that are likely to be missed at ground level. 

However, unlike other European cities, where apartment living is more common, the centre of Scotland's largest city is still not generally considered a desirable place to live.

Night life, noise and pollution may dissuade most from settling in the centre of Glasgow other than students or young professionals, who have historically favoured the Merchant City.

READ MORE: Glasgow city centre masterplan to re-populate the area and 'green the grey' 

However, that could all change if a plan by Glasgow City Council comes to fruition. It has unveiled a long-term strategy which aims to encourage more people, including families, to live in the city centre.


The wide-ranging plan is focused on creating more amenities including green spaces, reducing traffic and increasing residential development.

City planners say the pandemic may change the face of the high street forever and there is a need to diversify, while less office working could mean bars and restaurants may need new customers to survive.

Fergus Lindsay, of estate agents Slater Hogg & Howison, says that in many European cities the most prestigious flats are to be found in city centres. 

“In Glasgow, that’s never been the case. We’ve never had grand, Edwardian townhouses like you get in other cities because they were all knocked down.

“However, the quality of the Victorian infrastructure we have in streets such as West Regent Street is incredibly good.


(an artist's impression of council plans for the city centre)

“The way the city centre has evolved from the late 1980s, what encouraged developers to build was flats. So, we have a culture where families don’t live in flats.

“I think there is an issue whereby the minute people have a child they need a garden for little Jamie. 

“I think Glasgow has always historically been quite suburban – culturally in the DNA people don’t live in the city centre.

READ MORE: Images show Glasgow city centre Avenue's transformation 

“I remember a friend of a friend bought a flat in Miller Street and we thought, 'why would you want to live in town?' That was pre-Merchant City, when no-one really lived there.”

The vast majority of city centre buyers are still single professionals or students living in a first flat, purchased by parents, says Mr Lindsay, who is based in the firm’s Candleriggs office.


(West Regent Street)

“The issue always comes down to schooling and we act for a number of people. They have perhaps been in university or they have been working for one of the accountancy firms. 

“As they move through their life, perhaps they have a baby and inevitably they move out of town.”

He said a £250 million plan to create a new neighbourhood in Sighthill was “a good example” of what the council might be aiming to replicate in the city centre.

The Northbridge project is the largest of its kind in the UK outside of London. As well as a mix of two, three, four and five-bedroom houses and apartments, it will create new shops, parks, a bridge and a new campus school has already opened.

"It's a good example of what can be done".

Case study 

When Helen McArdle was searching for a new flat, her biggest priority was to have more space.

She didn’t expect her next home to be smack bang in the middle of Glasgow city centre.

“It was a surprise to me,” said the 37-year-old, who is The Herald’s health correspondent and lives in a top floor flat on West Regent Street. “I knew people lived in the Merchant City but I didn’t really think about people actually living in the city centre.


“I was really looking around all the west end flats, expecting to get a bigger tenement property, then I came across the flat by chance. It was walk-in condition and you were also getting more for your money. If you transplanted this flat to the west end, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

“I feel like the city centre is an untapped resource.

“The upper floors were converted into flats about 15-20 years ago. This area is a conservation area and when you look around and look up in Glasgow there is so much spectacular architecture, you don’t notice it at ground level.

READ MORE: The Rotterdam-inspired plan to transform the centre of Glasgow 

“If you have got people living in these buildings, there is more of an incentive for the upkeep, rather than them lying derelict.

"When you think of cities like New York and Paris and Madrid, people live in the city and I don’t understand why it’s not something we’ve done. Maybe not even in Britain in general.


“Especially when we have got a shortage of housing. We have got these beautiful buildings and you can get brilliant flats out of them.

“I have everything on my doorstep, my high street is Buchanan Street. It's also really quiet."

Her only reservation about moving to the city centre was the anticipated higher costs of factoring fees and building insurance.

“Mainly it’s because it’s a B listed building and a lot of the buildings around here are listed in some way. I think that’s the only shortcoming but everything else makes up for it," she said.