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Glasgow with the flow: historic Scottish city's the ideal spot for a short break

George Square, Glasgow Picture: VisitScotland/SCOTTISH VIEWPOINT
George Square, Glasgow Picture: VisitScotland/SCOTTISH VIEWPOINT
Platform
John Toner

By John Toner

The narrow stretch of water between Northern Ireland and the west coast of Scotland has seen much traffic over the centuries.

Countless sailings have taken place between the two countries and that historic link is maintained today by P&O Ferries who operate a route between Larne and Cairnryan.

There are six return crossings a day but I opted for the 7.30am service - a very early start but worth it to make the most of your time across the water.

The vessels P&O use to service the route are modern, spacious and relaxing, even for landlubbers like myself.

After a crossing of pure plain sailing I was treated to the beautiful scenic drive along the coast and through dramatic countryside towards my final destination of Glasgow.

Having briefly visited Glasgow once before, I was looking forward to returning to a city steeped in history.

I arrived at the Double Tree by Hilton hotel in the centre of town in the late morning and was greeted with freshly baked cookies by the welcoming staff before being shown to my room.

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Glasgow P&O ferries
Glasgow P&O ferries

The plush deluxe double room was tastefully decorated in a modern, minimalist style with a huge double bed, plenty of wardrobe space and a smart TV. The bathroom was equally roomy and contemporary and came complete with a rainfall-style shower.

After freshening up it was time to head out and explore Glasgow on what was a gloriously sunny day.

First stop was Argyle Street Arches, formerly the site of world-famous nightclub The Arches. The space under the railway bridge is now a multi-purpose venue used for a host events including food markets, gigs, weddings and corporate events.

I was given a guided tour of the space by venue director Scott Taggart before grabbing some lunch at Platform, an independent street food market which takes up residence at the arches every weekend.

There was a large range of choice amongst the vendors but I opted for Korean style Gochujang burger from Tiny Dancer's. The grass-fed beef, vintage cheddar and smokey Korean sauce made it the best burger I've ever eaten. A bold statement I know but it was divine.

With the beautiful flavours of the Gochujang burger still lingering, I popped in to the on-site micro brewery to wash it down. The bar offers a huge selection of brews, including a curious grape beer and a robust double-hopped 6% IPA which isn't for the faint of heart.

Having been thoroughly fed and watered, it was off to the next stop on my itinerary, Trongate 103, an art gallery hosting creative exhibitions including the Transmission Gallery, Glasgow Print Studio, and Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre.

Founded in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1989, the kinetic theatre was taken to Trongate 103 in 1996 by creator Eduard Bersudsky.

The theatre brings inanimate objects to life as sculptured pieces of scrap with tiny carved figures perform humorous and tragic stories set to haunting music.

Bizarre, macabre and thought-provoking, the exhibition explores the Soviet Union, life and what it means to be human as well as the relationships between human beings.

After leaving Trongate 103 I made my way across Glasgow towards Benihana for what I understood would be an immersive Asian dining experience.

The staff certainly didn't disappoint. My cocktail was served with a flourish on a wooden board whilst it was brewing in a miniature teapot. It also came with a backstory explained to me while I studied the menu.

Benihana Glasgow
Benihana Glasgow

For my starter I had a delicious onion soup followed by crunchy tempura shrimp with salad.

Then the chef Gary came over to my table to begin cooking on a hotplate in front of me. He was funny, engaging and even got me up trying my hand at flipping an egg into his hat from the grill. Alas, I failed all three attempts.

He made a number of dishes from scratch at the table including sliced and grilled prawns, special fried rice and sliced Wagyu beef which had an incredible taste and texture to it.

The next day I decided to walk off the Benihana feast with a wander through the delightful Kelvingrove Park. Families and couples were basking in the sun and the park was full of life as I ambled towards the Kelvingrove Art Museum.

It was playing host to Dippy the diplodocus dinosaur skeleton on the weekend of my visit with a T-Rex exhibition including Trix, an almost complete T-Rex skeleton, across the road at the Kelvin Hall.

After walking through the park and exploring the Kelvingrove Art Museum I had worked up an appetite and enjoyed a light lunch at the beautifully restored Mackintosh at the Willow, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh himself, which first opened in 1903.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

As the glorious spring sun continued to beat down on Glasgow I whiled away the rest of the afternoon by wandering back towards the city along Argyle Street, taking in the Monday afternoon ambience before visiting the Wester Spirit Company rum distillery in the early evening.

The small, boutique operation is the first operational rum distillery in Glasgow for 300 years and my tour guide Ben took me through the history of the drink and how it came to be made by hand in the west of the city. With a few tasters included along the way of course.

After an action-packed two days I made my way back to the hotel for a good night of sleep conscious of an early start in the morning for my final indulgence of watersports.

Pinkston Watersports in the north of Glasgow is Scotland's only artificial whitewater rafting course and I was booked in for a half an hour session splashing and crashing around it.

The cold water, adrenaline and excitement of traversing the course was the perfect tonic after several days of plentiful food and drink and I left feeling energised and ready for my drive back to Cairnryan and ferry on to Larne.

In the space of three sunny days in Glasgow I was lucky enough to absorb a range of cultural experiences, enjoy some incredible food and drink and meet some truly wonderful people along the way.

Travel factfile

  • P&O fares From £94 each way for a car (up to 9 people)
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central - from £99 bed and breakfast

Summer offer 2019: Standard Flexi Upgrade

A Standard Flexi ticket will allow you to travel on the ship leaving before or after your booked crossing time. Plus you can choose which leg of the journey you would like the option to be flexible with depending on what would benefit you the most. To take advantage of the offer, simply enter the eVoucher code on the payment page when you make your booking. eVoucher code: SUMFLX-19

Free Priority Boarding

Free Priority Boarding offer means that you can be one of the first to board the ferry allowing you to get your holiday started quicker. The Free Priority Boarding can be redeemed against one leg of your journey. You can choose whether to be one of the first to board on your outward journey or when you're coming home, giving you time to get yourself settled for your ferry crossing. eVoucher Code: ISPRIORITY19

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