Feast your eyes on rich artistic menu offered by city's geometrical joy
"You have to lift your eyes in Glasgow," says the Scottish air hostess on the flight from Newquay.
It has nothing to do with social aspirations, but it is an essential aid to appreciating the city's amazing architecture. In Glasgow miraculous creations float above you like so many celestial grand designs. Such a profusion of intricately-carved indulgences signal a city that has proudly shouldered wealth and influence on the tide of the industrial revolution.
The air hostess's advice is spot on – and so you look up to savour the geometrical joy swirling above you. What often starts with an imposing structure at the base culminates at the top in architectural flamboyance. Like a triumphant symphony in stone, buildings peak in a flourish of honey and rose sandstone. There is so much to appreciate in a whistle-stop weekend that you are in danger of a cricked neck.
Turning the clock back to when the air carried the grit and grime of heavy industry, and the buildings were a muted sooty black they may have looked more darkly Gothic.
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But now, spick and span, they are the celebrated heritage of a clean, cosmopolitan city.
Our hotel, the impressive four-star Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor, was the perfect place to stay during our visit, chic, comfortable and welcoming with friendly and professional staff. Its location is ideal, with excellent transport links giving easy access to the city centre and Glasgow International Airport. And after a hard day's sight-seeing, a lovely way to relax is with a cocktail in the hotel's Bobar, followed by dinner in the highly-acclaimed Bo'vine Restaurant, which serves a delicious array of local produce – the steaks are fantastic.
For a short cut to Beginners Glasgow, a taxi tour is a great way to see some of the main attractions. It provide a sense of distance and direction, and flags up some of the locations a first-time visitor might miss. Time-saving and informative, it is a fascinating introduction to the sights. Our driver David was affable and enlightening as he embarked on a tour that ranged from the heart of the city to the banks of the Clyde. Our trip roamed from Glasgow Cathedral and the University of Glasgow to the Clyde Auditorium and near neighbour The Hydro, which, when completed, will be the largest purpose-built indoor arena in Scotland, seating 12,000.
From the time David picked us up at the Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor in the city's West End to the time he dropped us in the centre by Royal Exchange Square it was a tour of fascination and revelation. Having your own guide is a great introduction to the city. It allows you to ask questions and gain an awareness and appreciation of your surroundings.
At Royal Exchange Square, with a morning's sight seeing behind us, it was time for an alfresco lunch at one of the attractive restaurants.
The famous Buchanan Street was close by with its pedestrianised spaces thronging with shoppers. Here was the glass-domed shopping mall of Princes Square, a must-visit selection of prestige shops and restaurants served by ornate stairs, lifts and escalators.
Swing left at the bottom of Buchanan Street at the junction of Argyle Street, another shoppers' Mecca, and you reach the glazed, restored Victorian splendour of Central Station with 30,000 glass panels in its roof. Everyone is eager to tell you this ample "subway", where the station crosses over Argyle Street, is known as "the Highlander and Islander's umbrella!" One might assume from this such visitors to the city sought shelter beneath the ample Central Station in bad weather
On a whim we boarded the Glasgow Tour bus which pulled up at a stop near where we were standing. In perfect sunshine an open-top bus is just the ticket. The upper deck gives you a different vantage point as the bus continues on its circuit. Earphones are provided for you to listen to a historical commentary by renown Scottish archaeologist and broadcaster Neil Oliver. It lacks the spontaneity and interaction of our taxi driver, but it is informative. And at £12 a head you can go round as many times as you wish for two days. Although by now "old stagers", having visited some of the same locations that we did in taxi, the top deck provides a different perspective.
Just across the road from the Hilton are the Botanic Gardens with their serene surroundings and superb walks. This is a favourite haunt of the city's "westenders" on sunny days where they flock to sunbathe and picnic. A major feature is the beautiful Kibble Palace – a massive ornate greenhouse containing huge ferns more than 100 years old. From here we went on to explore the innovative and brilliant designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. A Scottish architect, water colourist and artist, he is renowned as a designer in the Arts and Craft movement, and for being the main representative of Art Noveau in the UK.
Some of Glasgow's best-kept secrets are up side streets. And one such place, discovered by accident, was Ashton Lane. Tucked away off Byres Road, and about a ten-minute walk from the Hilton, is the West End's favourite concentration of vibrant pub and restaurant life. Here celebrities mingle with students, locals and visitors as they walk the cobbled street moving from bar to bar.
One pub not to be missed is the oldest pub in town – the vibrant Sloans, in Argyle Street. We took The Subway from Hillhead in the West End to St Enoch station in St Enoch Square and walked the short distance to Glasgow's oldest bar and restaurant which started life in 1797 as a coffee house. Excellent food, fine ales and attentive bar staff made this a memorable night out.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of Scotland's most visited attractions housing one of Europe's great civic art collections, is not a place to rush through. There is immensely moving creation Christ of St John of the Cross, 1951, by surrealist artist Salvador Dali. It was once slashed by a disgruntled observer and then brilliantly restored.
After feasting your eyes on the rich artistic menu, treat yourself to a meal in the Kelvingrove Cafe which offers engaging views of the park and university. Lunch, from noon to 3pm, includes a tempting selection of soups, savouries and salads.
And, after viewing Dali, you need to look no further for surreal than the massive ground floor which features among many treasures an elephant – and Spitfire in flight, not to mention a host of floating heads.
From architecture to antiquities, fascinating places to visit to great nights out Glasgow has it all. And, now easily accessible with direct flights from Newquay until the end of September, we will definitely be back.