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Getaway: Glasgow city guide

If Edinburgh is Scotland’s de facto capital, Glasgow is surely its creative, beating heart

glasgow cityscape scotland
Chris Hepburn

Over the past century, Scotland’s most populous city has converted its industrial strength into cultural capital, with a wide offering of free museums and galleries buoyed by a convivial spirit and famously friendly locals.

WHERE TO STAY

The central Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel is still riding high from last year’s major revamp by local design studio Graven. Bookings are essential at the new 'Scottish brasserie' Bo & Birdy, which features a striking central bar clad in shimmering sea-green fishscale tiles (from £185 per night; kimptonblythswoodsquare.com). For a livelier stopover, our pick of the youthful chains is Moxy Glasgow Merchant City, which features murals by local artists, and where, as always, the buzzing lobby is a 24/7 affair (from £54 per night; marriott.co.uk). Fora truly boutique stay, Dakota Glasgow’s restful greys and exposed brickwork are a lesson in luxurious Manhattan loft-style cool (from £135 per night; dakotahotels.co.uk).

kimpton blythswood square hotel
The bar at Bo & Birdy
Damian Russell

BREAKFAST & LUNCH

On Glasgow’s Southside, the unassumingly named Market Coffee belies its thoroughly Instagrammable interiors. Take a pastel-hued pew or snag the bench seat in sunny weather (@marketgla). For heartier eats, nearby café Gnom – look out for the cheerful orange and cobalt exterior – serves up inventive breakfasts (usually on sourdough) like tenderstem broccoli and rainbow chard with lemon browned butter, crispy sage and fried eggs. Come evening, it’s a cosy, subtly Scandinavian spot for small plates, charcuterie and a glass of wine or two (gnomfood.com).

WINE & DINE

The enduring buzz around Mediterranean eatery Alchemilla makes it one of Glasgow’s biggest restaurant success stories. The presence of ex- Ottolenghi Rosie Healey as head chef, the sustainable wine list and the colourful, appealing interiors all have a part to play (thisisalchemilla.com). For the fanciest fish and chips around, try A’Challtainn. Housed on the mezzanine level of the Barras Art and Design Centre, below an industrial vaulted atrium, the restaurant is renowned for generous seafood plates, plus happy-hour oysters on Friday nights (baadglasgow.com). Alternatively, The Spanish Butcher is a moody, meaty affair, all Crittall windows, polished concrete floors and cane and chrome Marcel Breuer chairs. The Galician beef, imported from Northern Spain, is their pièce de résistance (spanishbutcher.com).

oysters at a'challtainn restaurant glasgow
Oysters at A’Challtainn
Walnut Wasp

ART & CULTURE

No design lover’s trip to Glasgow would be complete without paying tribute to art nouveau trailblazer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. His distinctive hand is evident in several buildings across the city, but you’ll find a concentrated dose at House for an Art Lover, the architect’s 1901 concept lovingly realised 85 years later within Bellahouston Park (houseforanartlover.co.uk). He also designed The Lighthouse, a petite art and design centre, which houses an airy café, viewing platform and a permanent Mackintosh exhibition (thelighthouse.co.uk). At the other end of the architectural spectrum, Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum draws visitors for its zig-zagging zinc roof alone, but the 3,000 exhibits that track the history of transport design are worth a muse (glasgowlife.org.uk). Equally striking is the titanium-clad crescent of the Science Centre, said to resemble the hull of a ship (glasgowsciencecentre.org).

house for an art lover by charles rennie mackintosh bellahouston park glasgow
House for an Art Lover by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Bellahouston Park
Iain Masterton / Alamy Stock Photo

SHOPPING

Alongside fashion and beauty accessories, Hoos offers an impeccably curated homeware edit, championing chic Scandinavian wares – think Hay, Ferm Living and Muuto – plus patterned textiles from designers such as Niki Jones and up-and-comer Beatrice Larkin (hoosglasgow.co.uk). Furniture design store Tojo celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and it’s still the best place to source pieces from heavyweight design houses like Eames, Knoll and Vitra. It’s also the only Glasgow stockist of iconic shelving brand String (tojodesign.com). If you’re up for a real treasure hunt, The Hidden Lane is a network of more than 100 ‘wee workspaces’, including artist and designer studios, in Glasgow’s hipster hub Finnieston. Download a map from the website or embrace the art of exploration (thehiddenlaneglasgow.com).

the hidden lane finnieston glasgow
Colourful artist community The Hidden Lane
Kay Roxby / Alamy Stock Photo

ESCAPE THE CITY

The craggy windswept charm of the Isle of Arran is well documented, but for a more manageable escape – easily done in a day – hop on the train from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay on the coast of the Firth of Clyde (it takes less than an hour) and board the 35-minute ferry to the Isle of Bute. This diminutive alternative offers plenty of gently hilly walks, but its star attraction is surely Mount Stuart, which was once home to Bute’s landowners. The Victorian gothic revival mansion houses an impressive art collection and a Shakespeare first folio (sensationally discovered deep in the library several years ago), plus striking vaulted ceilings and furniture designed by Scottish Arts and Crafts architect designer Robert Weir Schultz. Outside, there are 300 acres of gardens to explore (mountstuart.com).

MEET THE INSIDERS: TIMOROUS BEASTIES

paul simmons and alistair mcauley timorous beasties
Timorous Beasties

It’s 30 years since Glasgow School of Art alumni Paul Simmons and Alistair McAuley launched riotous textile house Timorous Beasties, before setting up shop on Great Western Road in 2004. Now they’re one of the city’s most celebrated design exports. Here, Paul shares his hotspots. timorousbeasties.com

The Hunterian: the oldest museum in Scotland – with creaky floorboards like an old ship. gla.ac.uk/hunterian

Ox and Finch: a great restaurant in the West End servingScottish fare with a twist. oxandfinch.com

Voltaire & Rousseau: this brilliant second-hand bookshop has a friendly cat. Try to pull out a low book and you’ll cause an avalanche. voltaireandrousseaubooks.com

The Ubiquitous Chip
: an elegant Glasgow institution, known locally as ‘the chip’. ubiquitouschip.co.uk

Tramway: a contemporary arts hub housed in an amazing post-industrial space on the Southside. tramway.org

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration April 2020

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