Glasgow’s tourism board is called ‘People Make Glasgow’. The bright Magenta pink is the same branding colour as Sugahfix and the city is emblazoned with flags and huge building wraps in this punchy pink. Making the people of your city the main focus could go either way and it seemed almost too good to be true to think that the experience of a city but be a truly ‘human’ experience.
We had visited Glasgow nearly fifteen years ago on the way to Edinburgh and just about remembered the steep city streets on a snowy day in January. Having hosted the Common Wealth Games in 2014 and been named the top shopping destination in the UK outside of London we knew the city would be transformed since we saw it last.
We flew out of Belfast International Airport and as the flight was barely 45mins I had hardly a chance to read through my magazine before the cabin crew were announcing they were getting ready for landing.
After a quick taxi ride to the city centre we checked in at the uber trendy Citizen M Hotel on Renfrew Street – just minutes from the main shopping area on Buchannan Street.
The pod style rooms made us wonder if we’d arrived in Japan rather than Scotland! With a spacious king size bed taking up most of the room and a huge TV and free movies we could have chilled out where we were. The room comes with an iPad that has controls for ambient lighting and room temperature as well as the wide screen TV. Free Wi-Fi connected automatically, which just made the whole experience super smooth – no annoying log ins or passwords!
We were booked in to Gamba for dinner, which was recently awarded the best seafood restaurant in the UK in 2015. As big fans of seafood we were spoiled for choice with the menu. Our waitress was extremely helpful and suggested some popular items on the menu, which we had already been considering so the choice was easily made.
Peter chose the Fish Soup, which Gamba is renowned for and I went for the dressed crab and shrimp, which was served with a basket of handmade rye crackers that were utterly addictive for hungry travellers! For mains Peter picked the Seabass with toasted feta, watermelon, crab, pine kernel salad and basil dressing –of course I had to taste everything and that burst of fruity watermelon with the fresh flavourful salad was pure genius! My favourite food is Scallops and our lovely waitress confirmed they were ‘beautiful’. I do like to choose things that sound a bit strange on a menu – the huge seared scallops were served with apple and celeriac puree and curry oil which sounded intriguing. It was a dream of yumminess!
For dessert Peter had the warm carrot pudding with citrus cream cheese and marmalade ice cream and I had the local Perthshire Strawberries with strawberry sorbet, basil syrup and meringue. OMG. So amazing. I love meringue and with all the different textures and flavours it was a taste sensation.
On the short walk back to the hotel we decided we would come back to Glasgow just to go to Gamba! If you love Mourne Seafood Bar, Ginger or Home you’ll adore Gamba!
On Saturday morning we were up early and ready for our breakfast and we weren’t disappointed. The breakfast room in Citizen M is a visual feast with cool artwork and giant circular lampshades. They had soy milk – so I could enjoy some delicious muesli and I was delighted, but surprised, to see Potato Bread as part of the hot breakfast – I did think that was a uniquely Northern Ireland thing!
Everyone we met, so far, were incredibly helpful and friendly and the staff at breakfast were no different – Glasgow was certainly living up to its ‘People Make Glasgow’ name.
Refreshed and refueled we headed out to get the City Sight Seeing Bus Tour. I have a thing about going on the bus tour of any city I visit as I just think you get a great view of the city and an overview of places and history that you wouldn’t get just plodding around the streets. The tour is narrated by Scottish Archeologist and historian Neil Oliver, famous for presenting the TV series ‘Coast’, who has a particularly lovely Scottish accent!
We hopped off at the Cathedral and had a look around the historic building. Do make sure you go downstairs and see the stunning vaulted ceilings of the crypt. A short walk up to the Necropolis gives incredible views across Glasgow.
I have a bit of thing about graveyards – you get so much historical information from looking at the names and the dates! We hopped back on the bus and stayed on from the East of the city across to the West End. It’s a great way to see the city and if we’d had time we would have visited the Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship, which are both admission free.
One tip I would give is that the bus doesn’t stop at all the stops so if there’s one you particularly want to get off at – ring the bell early and be at the door. There were two stops for Byers road and we decided to stay on the tour and have a good look around the area from our front window seat advantage. The area is filled with gorgeous little eateries, quirky boutiques and gorgeous little gift shops. If you love to shop in independent retailers – Byers Road and the West End of Glasgow is for you! The bus looped around back through Byers Road and we pressed the buzzer but weren’t downstairs quick enough and missed the second stop. The next stop was quite a distance away at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and we considered walking back but were gasping for a cuppa and spotted ‘The Little Café’ which served Suki Tea so that’s always a winner for me! They also do great fresh pizza and scones.
We then had a quick look around the museum, which had some cool Ancient Egyptian artifacts (I am obsessed with Ancient Egypt!!). Kelvingrove has been ranked in the top 15 most visited museums in the UK so do give yourself plenty of time to explore.
As we had to go to Saltmarket on the lower east side of the city for 3.30 we didn’t get time to go back to Byers road to explore. You really need one day to do the bus tour and see what you want to check out further – and then a second full day to actually go shopping. Another reason to come back again!
The next item on our itinerary was a body scrub beauty experience at The Beauty Kitchen. The Beauty Kitchen run classes where you can create your own beauty products from lip balms and bath bombs to face masks and body scrubs. I’m a sucker for a salt scrub so was excited to see how I could make one myself. The Beauty Kitchen only uses 100% natural ingredients and even has their own bee hive for the healing honey in their products.
This is a great activity for a hen party or just for a beauty product addict like me ☺. Josie, a qualified aromatherapist, took the class through the various blends and let us test them on our skin so there was a lot of smelling arms to find the blend that you liked the most. I opted for ‘Chill Me’ as it had a lavender base and had soothing calming properties. Next we choose the base for our scrub – we could pick brown sugar, Epsom salts, sea salt or Himalayan salt, which I opted for, as it’s the purest salt, extracted from the Himalayan mountains. Now we had our base and our oil blend we could pick a herb. Josie explained that as much as the herb did look pretty in the scrub it was not just there to look pretty and it had added benefits. I opted for Heather, initially thinking it was suitably Scottish it turned out it was organic heather from the Czech Republic but they were looking into sourcing a local organic option.
Finally we blended the ingredients together and filled our jars so we cold take the scrub home and indulge. What a fabulous way to spend an hour with friends. Such fun!
As we’d been on the buses for most of the day we decided to take the ‘scenic’ route back to the hotel – i.e. shopping! A quick walk down Trongate and Argyle Street we passed a fabulous TK Maxx which I’ve heard is incredible – well worth a visit if you love a designer bargain.
At the corner of Argyle Street and Buchanan Street is Frasers department store – the original House of Fraser! Buchanan Street is lined with all the major stores that we have in Victoria Square but if you have a favourite it’s likely they’ll have completely different stock so it’s certainly worth a look. There are two stores that Buchanan Street has that we don’t have in Belfast – Forever 21 and the John Lewis department store.
Forever 21, which is similar to Mango or New Look but more, like Primark prices. At the top of the street is Buchanan Galleries – a huge shopping centre with stores like Swarovski and Pandora as well as their anchor store – John Lewis.
After a quick shower, makeup on and dressed up for the night – I took my limp looking locks back to the West End to Blow in the trendy Finneston area. The salon looks like a really cool cocktail bar with wide screen TV playing Ru Paul’s Drag Race and optics and martini glasses so you can get the party started before you head out on the town.
My stylist Cat washed and blow-dried my hair into the most volumous blow-dry I’ve ever had! If you want a really strong blow-dry that won’t drop – this is the place to go! I loved the décor with the cool neon lighting spelling out ‘D’ya come here often’ and the ‘Bang Bar’ where you can get a fringe cut in for £8. Even the light switch was getting saucy with a note saying ‘Turn me on!’.
I was wearing my favourite high heels for dinner on Saturday night so was delighted that the restaurant was just a few yards away on the other side of the street.
The Gannet pitches itself as ‘fine dining without the faff’. Having recently been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand that certainly sounded like our kind of place!
The waiter, who had several friends from Northern Ireland, joked with us that in Scotland they had a different ‘Glorious Twelfth’ which is when the Grouse season opens so there was freshly caught Grouse on the menu that night.
The Gannet is a carnivores delight with venison, Scotch beef and lamb on the menu and some really fabulous fish dishes too! The waitress brought a basket of freshly baked sourdough bread and little bowls of sweetcorn soup with basil oil ‘to get our taste buds going’! The smell of the bread alone was sensational and it was still warm from the oven.
I had squid for my starter, which melted in the mouth. Plaice with lentils and samphire for main, light and delicious. And the warm salted caramel fondant with Tonka bean ice cream for dessert. Picture a melt in the middle pudding oozing with salted caramel. Yes. It was as amazing as it sounds.
The Gannet was buzzing with stylish clientele so I had great fun checking out all the style as well as enjoying the delicious food. The Finneston area of the West End is a great spot for a Saturday night with lots of bars including The Brass Monkey and Lebowski’s.
Sunday morning and the sun was shining brightly in Glasgow. A quick skip down Renfrew Street and across Sauchiehall Street and I was back at Buchanan Galleries for an Island perfumery experience at Arran Aromatics.
Island Perfumery is Arran Aromatics bespoke fragrance service, which launched in December and is currently exclusive to Arran Aromatics Buchanan Galleries store.
The store is laid out like a cosy living room with comfy sofas for a warm welcoming atmosphere. Every Arran Aromatics product has been made on the Isle of Arran and the girls in the store spoke so highly of the Island I was convinced I needed to visit!
The Island Perfumery experience is a lovely gift idea to choose a fragrance and then have a message or name printed onto the label as a keepsake. A cute idea for bridesmaids gifts or wouldn’t it be amazing if your other half picked one for you for your wedding? Have to say that floored me as a gift idea! So romantic! Or of course if you’d like to mark an occasion – I choose to have Glasgow and the date of my trip on my label as a memento of the weekend. You get to learn all about different scents and ingredients and then you can bottle your fragrance of choice and seal the top, which is a very gratifying process! Add a little tartan bow for a very Scottish touch and it’s yours to keep.
With just an hour or so before the taxi was picking us up to return to the airport I crossed the street to Forever 21 to get a thorough shop and pick up some bargains. With all the new Autumn Winter fashion in stock I was spoiled for choice. I didn’t have much space left in the case so I resisted a lush faux fur gilet and bought a long sleeve floral print top, some purple leggings that I really needed and a cute ring I spotted in the sale section for £1. All three items came to just £16 – I nearly asked the girl was she sure! Totally loving Forever 21!
Our trip to Glasgow certainly confirmed that the people really do make Glasgow and it’s also the people who come to visit Glasgow that make it an eclectic experience. However, it underplays how good the food and the shopping are – as well as the unique beauty experiences. But it is the unique blend of all of these things along with the warm welcome of the Glaswegian people that make this city so fantastic. All this and the super quick flight from Belfast make Glasgow a must-visit city for the people of Northern Ireland. We will be back!
We stayed at Citizen M Hotel
60 Renfrew Street,
We ate at Gamba
225A W George St,
0141 572 0899
Went on the City Sightseeing Bus Tour
Had Suki tea and pizza at The Little Café
1361 Argyle Street
(Opp Kelvingrove Museum)
Visited Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Made a natural body scrub at
The Beauty Kitchen
Tel: 0141 552 9391.
Had a wash and blow dry at
1060 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 3LY.
Had dinner at The Gannet
1155 Argyle Street,
Tel: 0141 204 2081,
Bottled and personalized perfume at Arran Aromatics
48 Buchanan Street,
For further information on booking your trip to Glasgow visit www.peoplemakeglasgow.com