The essential guide to Glasgow's best pubs and bars
This pub is probably a perfect blueprint for the traditional Glasgow pub, great location, bit of character, fair prices, football on the telly and a good atmosphere. If most Glaswegian folk can find all this in a pub, then you should have one pretty happy Weegie, and Tennents ticks all these boxes. It’s also one of the last traditional pubs left on Byres road. Tennent’s is located in the heart of the city’s west end on the major artery of Byres Road, it’s a boozer that’s survived many a fad and has been here since the 1890’s and judging it by most of the times I’ve been in either at the weekend or when a football game was on, it doesn’t look like losing too much of its popularity anytime soon.
Byres road is the west ends ‘main street’ connecting Great Western Road to Dumbarton Road with Glasgow University tucked in just behind, it’s easily the city’s most bohemian area with trendy bars, continental cafès, retro and vintage shops among some other great places to shop, eat and drink. Byres Road was originally the Byres of Partick, -it was also known as the Bishop’s Byres as the Bishop of Glasgow kept cattle in the area-. There was a move to re-name it Victoria Road to gratify Queen Victoria in the late 19th century but this was cancelled thanks to protests from locals. Hugh Tennent jnr, the grandson of the wellpark brewery founder who was running many pubs in the city was granted a license at the site in 1888 and the present Tennents bar was built just before the turn of the century. He ran the pub until his death in 1919 when his son took over, however the son and widowed wife soon found he had been keeping a dark secret, he had a whole other family on the go and the following court case between the families over his disputed will was not settled until the mid-fifties!
Tennent’s has remained a fairly unchanged mainstay on Byres road since it opened, the inside is still very much the Victorian style ale house with high wood panelled walls and booths with glass inlay partitions, tall columns, heavy ceiling cornices, brass island lights plus some great prints, big paintings and photos of ‘ye olde’ Scotland adorning the walls. The large bar dominates the whole place although it can be difficult to notice when the pub is busy as all you’ll be able to take in is the people in front of you but if you’re ever in when it’s quiet you’ll see the how much of the room the bar actually takes up, the pub is still quite a bright and airy open space mainly due to the large windows and high ceiling. This was pretty much the norm for pub buildings of the time, most bars were still very much men-only with a small few having just a ladies-snug (a small separate room) so seating was not considered too necessary for the old boys enjoying their whisky and smokes. Most boozers of this age have large open planned areas with only a few seats, even some of those have been added long after the pub was first built. Tennent’s itself was actually lucky to be built at all with the temperance movement (an anti-alcohol group) at its height in the late 19th century and just around the corner in Hyndland having been declared a ‘dry’ area of the city. Today there is another small room that has been added which is seating only and can be useful finding a seat for meals there is also the basement bar next door which is only open in the evenings and unlike the main bar plays music, its got a different atmosphere to upstairs but can be good for a wee change.
The main bar where you’ll get your beer does have the look as though there has been many a barfly propping themselves up on it over the years and I have to own up as being that barfly in Tennent’s many times but your usually quick to be served standing at it even when breathing space is tight. It has a modern but old style high gantry painted with the slogan ‘Glasgow’s best ale house’ and some old whisky casks are kept on top of it. One often under-looked handy part of this and many other bars like this is the coat hooks just under the bar railing, these are especially handy in Tennent’s as it’s busy so often and many of the TV’s can be difficult to see from the seats so you’ll probably end up crammed in next to or at least near the bar so the hooks come into their own instead of standing with your coat in one hand and pint in the other. It may seem like such a small point but they have come in handy there too many times for me not to mention and it can be just wee things like that make a pub comfortable. The other big stand out that doesn’t fit in with the old style but is a big part of Tennent’s is the many TV’s hanging on the walls; most of them weirdly looking like giant iPhones. Tennent’s is big on showing football and there will usually be at least one live game on most days during the football season and it can get really busy when one of the Glasgow’s big two teams are playing. It’s a great pub to catch a match which is a bit different to when the TV’s were first introduced for the football in the early 1990’s, it was not a popular idea to say the least! The locals have taken to it now and I’ve enjoyed many a game and had a grand time watching the last Champions League final in Tennent’s.
There is an extensive range of ales to be had in Tennent’s and they’ve won a few awards for their range and quality, in fact the majority of the front of the bar is taken up by a great array of hand pumped ale taps that have kept many a punter happy, the best thing for the ale fan is many are changed within a month with up to twelve cask conditioned real ales available with just a few regulars such as Deuchars that are always there. Usually when I’m in what I’ll try to get myself is an ale I’ve never tasted and very rarely have I had to have any one more than once. There’s plenty of other booze on sale with most being the usual suspects like Tennent’s (of course) Guinness, Carling, kronenbourg and Bulmers cider along with some others. There is a surprisingly good wine selection for this kind of pub and a grand whiskey list as well along with other sprits, bottled beers, tea, coffee and soft drinks. They have a good food menu that starts with breakfasts and is old school pub grub, they are particularly famous for their tasty steak pies but all the others are there, burgers, baked potatoes, curries and the rest, they also do good deals on various meals plus a pint and bar snacks like onion rings, chips, nuts and crisps. Tennent’s is also one of the few pubs left that does off sales where you can buy your beer or wine to take home.
Tennent’s can make a nice change to the nearby Ashton lane if you ever get fed up with the trendier bars of the west end with the old boys (and girls) mixing well with the local students and footy fans, there is also many four legged regulars and it’s pretty common to see a friendly dog wandering looking for a pat or a treat between all the legs, just mind you don’t stand on any tails! There’s no music in Tennent’s but that is no bad thing as the banter runs freely and only noise is the different people chatting away, the football on the telly, newspapers getting rustled, pints ordered and swally getting drunk. I’ve had some great times with some of the regulars over the years and it’s one of the best things about Glasgow is that you’ll always get a good laugh and banter with the Weegies down the pub!
It can take a fair bit of twisting and turning to get to the bar and finding a spot when it’s packed but if you’re a football fan or an ale fan you’ll be well rewarded and if you’re not it’s still a great bar to visit, good prices, nice food, bit of the football and it’s on Byres road, ye cannae whack it!