DESTINATION FOCUS • November 2018
Visitors to Scotland often plump for the country’s capital of Edinburgh or a tour of the Highlands. And while few can argue that pictures of both destinations look good on the lids of souvenir shortbread tins, the stylish city of Glasgow should really be the first port of call. Graeme Park takes us on the high road to his hometown
For many, Glasgow style is synonymous with 19th-century architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His distinctive take on Art Nouveau is best seen in the designs of the newly restored Willow Tea Rooms. More recent splashes on the city’s physical canvas include the Foster and Partners-designed SSE Hydro. This smooth, spaceship-looking structure landed in 2013 and towers over the adjacent Clyde Auditorium – known locally as the armadillo. Elsewhere, a jagged-edged wave form defines the silhouette of Zaha Hadid’s design for the Riverside Museum, home to the transport museum.
Serving up fine Scottish produce with a subtle Mediterranean twist, Café Gandolfi (pictured) is in Merchant City, just east of the centre, and a go-to destination for the city’s foodies since 1979. For a true taste of Scotland, try the cullen skink – a creamy seafood soup – or the Stornaway black pudding. If you’re after a Glasgow salad (chips) instead – and let’s face it, you’re really here for something deep-fried – head to Old Salty’s. Deep-fried Mars Bars were made up for tourists, so don’t ask. Instead, try the local delicacy of pizza crunch: a battered and deep-fried slice of pizza that tastes as good as it sounds.
Glaswegians will never tire of telling you about their favourite watering hole, and most will offer to buy you a drink then wish you good health (sláinte mhaith, pronounced Slanj-ah-var). Thankfully, it takes less than 20 minutes to cross the town in a cab, so a change of scene – and scenesters – is never far away. Head to Ashton Lane, a cobbled street of stylish bars near Glasgow University, or The Pot Still in the city centre, whose knowledgeable bartenders and whisky collection makes for a dangerous combination. The neighbourhood of Pollockshaws is currently the city’s hipster hotspot. Among the bars vying for the title of trendiest? The Rum Shack (pictured).
Few people, including many of its residents, know that Glasgow has been a Unesco City of Music since 2008. There is a plethora of venues, but the SSE Hydro arena usually stages the big names. Smaller bands, meanwhile, will often be found performing at the Barrowland Ballroom (above), a 1930’s dance hall and local legend in its own right. If you’re without a ticket to either, check the listings in Stereo, a venue specialising in vegan food and craft beer, popular with the young crowd. Alternatively, stop off at the The Blue Arrow, a city-centre jazz club that has been welcomed with syncopated applause.
Few people will visit Glasgow with the express purpose of taking part in watersports, but while you’re here, why not have a go? Glasgow Wake Park uses a cable system to pull wakeboarders across a stretch of water that was once part of the Forth and Clyde Canal – a nationwide waterway connecting east and west Scotland. Located in Port Dundas, it is so close to the city centre ‘you can do it on your lunch break’, according to one of the instructors. They’ll have you up and riding in no time, but maybe not in winter.
For years, Glasgow was without a hotel that really captured its spirit. Then, in 2017, the Dakota Deluxe arrived. It’s an obelisk of sleek grey brick and black glass, with an interior that is a film noir fan’s fantasy made real. Subtle touches of tartan are pretty much the only flashes of colour. In the hotel’s subterranean hideaway you’ll find one of the city’s best steakhouses, and sublime single-malt whiskies in Jack’s Bar.