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Who knew it was Glasgow, not Edinburgh, which hosts the largest comedy festival in Europe?

Travel review by Claire Cromie

Published 10/08/2016

The stage is set for lunchtime stand up comedy in Glasgows Yesbar
The stage is set for lunchtime stand up comedy in Glasgows Yesbar
Whisky at the famous Pot Still bar in Glasgow.
The Radisson Blu hotel.
Rain over the dramatic Culzean Castle.
Portpatricks quaint harbour
Japanese matcha cheesecake at Stravaigin restaurant Glasgow
Haggis neeps and tatties at Stravaigin restaurant Glasgow
Cafe Gandolfi Glasgow

One minute you're having a quiet romantic meal, and the next you're knocking back your fourth (or is it the fifth?) whisky, on recommendation of a burly Glaswegian barman wearing a disturbingly short brown kilt.

His long beard is dyed purple on one side and green on the other, and when he clambers up onto the bar to reach down a bottle, all 6ft 5in of him, I have to turn away in case he's following 'tradition'.

"I'll have the Auchentoshan American Oak again, please," I shout across the crowded bar.

"Why would ye have that again? I'll find you something else," he declines.

Fair enough. They have hundreds of whiskys stacked high to the ceiling and we came to this famous Glasgow bar, The Pot Still, to taste as many as possible.

From sweet vanilla notes to 'peaty' and port cask-aged, we get an education from both the barman and the locals, and leave rosy cheeked and full of  'Scot Spirit'. Though perhaps not in the way the Scottish tourist board slogan intends.

This is how nights out tend to go here.

We arrived in Scotland by ferry from Belfast on the Friday afternoon and drove up the stunning Ayrshire coastline - dodging pheasants on country roads and gawping at Donald Trump's eerily symmetrical golfing village en route to Culzean, a Georgian castle perched dramatically atop a cliff edge.

We stretched our legs with a walk around the estate - full of majestic swans, deer and tweed-clad patrons in chauffeur-driven cars.

Hours later, we were doubled up laughing, tears streaming down our faces at a comedian's expletive-laden skit about a Citroen Zanthia and his dog at The Stand, one of the many intimate venues playing host to the Glasgow Comedy Festival.

Who knew it was Glasgow, not Edinburgh, which hosted the largest comedy festival in Europe?

The event has become a renowned annual occasion in the city's jam-packed cultural calendar and this year's headliners included prime time TV regulars Omid Djalili, Adam Hills and Dylan Moran.

But the star of the show was Susan Morrison, a compere with an endless flow of scorching hot gags and razor-sharp audience interaction. Morrison's Glasgow-style storytelling is so good that even when we didn't quite understand the local connotations, we still found ourselves laughing at the delivery.

Her prime target was a strapping Navy seaman and his buxom, platinum-blonde girlfriend from Fife, who had caught her attention by daring to sit in the front row with such good looks.

The couple took the abuse on the chin and after the lights went back on, joined us at our table. The jokes continued into the wee hours - the Scots entertaining us with their infectious good nature until we felt revived, one big belly laugh at a time.

Sometimes you think you need a beach holiday to unwind from the stresses of life. Often you just need a good giggle.

Of course the next morning we weren't feeling so fresh. Nothing a hearty breakfast couldn't put right, however, which our elegant Radisson Blu hotel served in spades - steaming, gigantic bowls of porridge and oozing poached eggs.

Solid grub to set us up for more stand up - a lunchtime session at Drury Street's underground Yesbar - more whisky and a taste of experimental cooking.

We dined on 'Scottish fusion' food at Stravaigin in the West End, where meals are designed to confuse your tastebuds and push you past your culinary limits.

Their motto is 'think global, eat local' - using Scottish produce such as Islay scallops and Carsphairn venison to form exotic spice route curries and Asian stir fries. Recent menus have included wild foods like  grey squirrel, rook, hedgerow herbs and sea urchins.

My haggis, neeps and tatties, followed by a delicious crispy Korean chicken and sticky rice, served with a moreish peanut ssamjang, seemed tame compared to the controversial dessert that followed.

Japanese matcha cheesecake, which was nothing like our usual creamy, indulgent cheesecakes, but instead very dry and crunchy and green - being made with green tea. Despite not normally having a sweet tooth, I ate the entire thing - examining the foreign flavours and textures with every mouthful. My partner, however, took one forkful and declared "it's like eating bricks".

He was more impressed with a classic steak dinner and Arbroath smokies at Cafe Gandolfi, a Merchant City landmark that's been pulling in the punters for years.

But all good things must come to an end, and the next morning we hit the road back to Cairnryan for our P&O home.

Roadworks were everywhere, and a couple of diversions later we found ourselves lost in the remote Southern Uplands of Scotland, on a road only just wide enough for our Honda Civic.

Sheep blocking the path were the only sign of life for a good ten miles or so, and the views across hectares of open moorland were breath-taking.

Regaining GPS signal, we sped down the final descent into Cairnryan, arriving just in the nick of time to watch our boat sail out of Loch Ryan.

We looked at each other and laughed. The unruffled staff at the port moved us onto the next boat without any charge, leaving us with a few hours to kill.

'Fish and chips in Portpatrick?' 'Aye'.

For more information on visiting Scotland, visit

The Glasgow City website details upcoming events at , with

Glasgow Comedy Festival news at

Take your car with P&O Ferries and discover more of what Glasgow has to offer.  P&O Ferries sail from Larne to Cairnryan in 2hrs with up to 7 daily crossings – the shortest and most frequent ferry service to Scotland.

Travel from £74 each way for car and driver.

For further information on all sailings and the latest P&O offers, visit

Online Editors

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