Glasgow, Reinvented

The Scottish city sidesteps its gritty reputation with a slew of game-changing new developments

BY ADAM H. GRAHAM — Spring 2018

ong considered Scotland’s skippable tourist city, gritty and tenacious Glasgow has historically played bridesmaid to Edinburgh as well as the bonnie islands and highlands of northern Scotland. Not anymore. The former industrial “port of vices” that once dominated the cotton, sugar, and tobacco trade now embraces its leisure side with glittering starchitect museums, an eye-catching arena that glows, a vibrant resurgence in its distillery industry, increased culinary credibility, and an upgraded hotel scene.

Welcome to Glasgow 2.0. — a far cry from medieval “Glas Cau” (Gaelic for “green hollow”) founded by sixth-century St. Mungo — where more than 300 development projects will continue reshaping the city through 2025. Here, a look at several projects already changing the local landscape and boosting Glasgow’s appeal to travelers.

The SSE Hydro. PHOTO BY KAROL KOZLOWSKI / ROBERT HARDING.

Cool Attractions You’ll Want to See

Projects That Got the Reinvention Rolling

You’ll find the most significant changes at Queen’s Dock, once home to hundreds of bustling shipyards that opened in response to Scotland’s brisk international trade before the city became a 19th-century power port that earned it the title Second City of the Empire. The shipyards started closing in the 1960s as shipbuilding ebbed and new docks opened in the Firth of Clyde, leaving the city’s waterfront to fall into neglect. The ’80s and ’90s saw some growth sputters, but it wasn’t until 1997 that the new Norman Foster and Partners-designed Clyde Auditorium (sec.co.uk), nicknamed the “Armadillo” for its scalelike exterior, kick-started legitimate redevelopment.

In 2011, Zaha Hadid’s iconic Riverside Museum (glasgowmuseums.com) opened, a massive hangar filled with more than 3,000 vintage cars, trolleys, trains, scooters, and skateboards. But the architecture itself is the real draw, with a white zigzag facade that’s a contrast from the late architect’s usual curves.

Foster and Partners returned in 2013 with the SSE Hydro (thessehydro.com), a coliseum-shaped arena encased in colorful translucent skin with an interior that’s Wi-Fi-enabled and features more than 200 digital screens across the campus.

Clydeside Distillery. PHOTO BY ASHLEY COOMBES.

Lively New Places to Wet Your Whistle 

(With a Little Booze) 

While developers leading the next generation of Glasgow’s builds mostly remain forward thinking, some also look to Glasgow’s past for inspiration. In an effort to preserve the city’s unique rough-and-tumble characteristics, many new developments aim to restore the city’s industrial heritage instead of demolishing it.

Opened last November, Clydeside Distillery (theclydeside.com) helps return a bit of whisky heritage to a city that once had 40-plus distilleries, most of which closed by the mid-1970s. The distillery, a $14.5 million renovation project on the River Clyde at Queen’s Dock, is located in a 19th-century blond sandstone Pump House. Executives of Morrison Glasgow Distillers Ltd., the distillery’s owner, expect it to draw 65,000 visitors annually with its tours, tastings, interactive historical whisky experience, and retail shop with whiskies from all over Scotland.

Look for Douglas Laing & Co. (douglaslaing.com), another distillery, to open in 2019 directly across from Clydeside on the opposite side of the river in Govan. It will feature a visitor center, archive, bistro, and bar (serving whiskies such as Old Particular and Timorous Beastie, as well as its own single malt made with water from Loch Katrine and Scottish barley).

In 2014, Glasgow Distillery Co. (glasgowdistillery.com) opened in a former warehouse in Hillington on the south side of the River Clyde. The company makes several vodkas and gins, including a signature Makar gin, a juniper-forward expression with rosemary and black peppercorns among its botanicals. It has also bottled a peaty Speyside-style whisky aged for 27 years that retails for $700 a bottle.

The city is also seeing a massive resurgence of microbreweries, gastropubs, and taphouses, with the following crowd-pleasers either debuting last year or touting new developments.

PHOTO BY TILL BRITZE.

Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery (tennents.com), the city’s biggest and oldest continually operating brewery (it started brewing beer on this site in 1556), will enhance its visitors’ experience with a major expansion debuting in July. Expect a new tasting room, museum, and bar where visitors can finish with a pint of premium Caledonia ale or Black T Scottish lager. In its classrooms and kitchens, the brewery regularly hosts culinary and spirits workshops, tastings, and training sessions.

The craft brewers of Edinburgh-based Innis & Gunn opened a flagship Glasgow locale called the Beer Kitche(innisandgunn.com) on Ashton Lane in the West End. The three-level facility features a ground-floor microbrewery and a casual dining level with exposed brick walls and caramel leather banquettes where diners can indulge in barrel-smoked beef and house bread with aromatic hop-infused oil.

In the hipster-dense neighborhood of Finnieston, Glasgow’s version of London’s Shoreditch and home to its best new restaurants, look for the buzzy Taphouse Bar & Kitchen (taphousefinnieston.com). Besides an endless list of beers and ciders, sample heaping burgers, salads, and pizzas.

The stylish gastropub Mallard (themallardbar.co.uk) opened in Kelvinbridge and specializes in homemade cocktails such as rhubarb Old Fashioneds and fresh, local British fare such as braised ox cheeks and glazed pork belly.

In 2016, Shilling Brewing Co. (shillingbrewingcompany.co.uk) opened in the City Centre, making excellent craft brews such as its coconuty Black Star Teleporter, an ideal pairing to its crispy haggis pizza made using its own beer.

Citizen’s dining room and bar.

New Hot Spots for Your Dining Pleasure

Glasgow’s dining scene is having a major renaissance with a nod to traditional Caledonian flavors and a punch of international flair. This culinary uptick is challenging Edinburgh’s starred chefs to up their game and giving Londoners reason to be jealous (and journey north for dinner).

Foodies consider the city one of Europe’s most vegan-friendly cities, so it’s no surprise that In Bloom, a “cruelty-free cafe” that takes its name and inspiration from the classic Nirvana song, opened last fall in St. George’s Cross. Menu standouts include vegan haggis and cheese toasties, smoked tomato soup, and chocolate fudge cake. The press-themed Citizen (thecitizenglasgow.co.uk) also fired up its kitchen last fall on St. Vincent Place in the City Centre in the cozy and elegant former offices of the old Evening Citizen newspaper. An instant favorite, it serves up locally sourced fish and meat dishes such as potted oak-smoked salmon and prawns, Shetland mussels, creamy fish pies, and harissa-cured Scotch lamb shanks, slow-cooked for 12 hours.

Although the city may lack Michelin stars, Michelin has recognized 19 Glasgow restaurants and honored two with the Bib Gourmand award, which recognizes restaurants offering exceptional value. You’ll find those two — Gannet and Ox and Finch — in the dining hot spot of Finnieston, between the West End and the City Centre.

At Gannet (thegannetgla.com), opened in 2013, the dining rooms offer a pared-back loft ambience. But its satisfying and elegant dishes are anything but minimalist: The duck breast in Hertfordshire cherry and elderflower sauce has hints of pastilla and is served aside salt-baked turnip. Pickled herring comes with apples and horseradish-infused creme fraiche. Smoked Perthshire pigeon coddles a cured yolk, atop a nest of roast hazelnut, bramble, and radicchio. For dessert, try salted caramel fondant with tonka bean and malted barley ice cream.

Seasonal fare at Ox and Finch.

Chef Jonathan MacDonald, former head chef of the McLaren Formula One team, heads up the neighboring airy and sun-flooded Ox and Finch (oxandfinch.com), opened in 2014. His menu features seasonal sharing plates such as smoked mackerel pate with radicchio and pink grapefruit and chicken liver with orange blossom. Options on an extensive flavor-forward vegetarian menu include grilled haloumi with black-eyed peas and roast garlic tahini.

Another don’t-miss spot just a block away, Porter & Rye (porterandrye.com) features a menu emphasizing wild and foraged food, locally sourced dry-aged beef, cured meats, and sausages. The tile-and-cast-iron interiors recall a Jazz Age speakeasy, but the dishes are modern European comfort masterpieces: bone marrow macaroni and cheese, chestnut mushroom Wellington, venison haunch with sweet potato and pickled cherries, and slow-cooked Gaindykehead ox broth.

If you can’t decide on one eatery, embark on the Finnieston Food Crawl (theglasgowfood.co), designed by local food blogger Briony Cullin, who structures the crawls so that diners can try one course at each place before grazing on to the next. Cullin is currently organizing a beer and whisky pairing food crawl for this year.

For a lot of variety in one locale, head to Govan on the city’s south side and pop into the Big Feed (bigfeedstreetfood.com), Scotland’s largest street-food market, which opened last spring. A dozen-plus vendors serve up wood-fired pizzas, Mexican fare, vegetarian options, and more amid guest brewers, DJs, kids’ games, and themed events.

Not new, but definitely a must-try: Glaswegian go-to the Ubiquitous Chip (ubiquitouschip.co.uk), which has been satisfying locals for nearly 50 years with dishes such as Scotch Aberdeen Angus beef, Shetland cod fillet, and Laggan red deer haunch, not to mention a hundred-plus selection of whiskies to help whet your appetite or digest your meal. Check out the colorful Alasdair Gray’s murals on the way to the loo.

The Dakota Deluxe Glasgow hotel.

Cozy New Places for a Good Night’s Sleep

Glasgow’s hospitality scene has also seen major changes with new and upgraded facilities offering a modern, markedly less tweed style. In St. Vincent Place in the City Centre, look for the Anchor Line Hotel to start welcoming guests this summer. Housed in the 1906 art deco Anchor Line Building, it’s undergoing a $7.5 million refurb to become a luxurious 64-room aparthotel featuring glazed tiles, terrazzo flooring, timber paneling, and fireplaces. Also coming this summer: the 180-room Moxy (moxy-hotels.marriott.com), Marriott’s youthful tech-forward brand, opening in May in the city’s Collegelands neighborhood. It will feature an “industrial chic” lounge, video wall, and games area.

Less new, but still fresh and inviting options include the Dakota Deluxe Glasgow (glasgow.dakotahotels.co.uk), which opened in spring 2016 with 83 rooms in subtle gray tones, a cigar lounge, and a discreet champagne room. It’s a one-minute walk from Blythswood Square and is walkable to the City Centre.

On a tree-lined street in Kelvinbridge sits the Hotel du Vin Glasgow (hotelduvin.com), which Frasers Hospitality bought in 2015. This stately luxury hotel has 49 rooms in a row of elegant townhouses furnished with Edwardian and Victorian touches such as velvet sofas, clawfoot tubs, flocked wallpaper, and spacious beds dressed in soft Egyptian linen. Don’t miss the full Scottish breakfast, with Cumberland sausage, potato scones, haggis, and black pudding.

In another 2015 acquisition, Starwood purchased the Blythswood Square Hotel (blythswoodsquare.com), which opened in 2009 and is considered Glasgow’s first luxury property. The contemporary facility features handsome Harris Tweed furnishings and its spa offers Hebridean seaweed treatments and a hydrotherapy pool, sauna, and steamroom.

A Golf Must Just a Short Drive Away

No doubt, all you golfers know of the Gleneagles Hotel, a true golf mecca with its three 18-hole championship courses, one of which hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup. But did you know it’s just 45 miles northeast of Glasgow in Perthshire? The storied resort, originally built in 1924, looks especially good these days because new owners purchased it in 2015 and launched an ongoing multimillion-dollar project to spruce up the historic 850-acre estate. That, combined with a previous $8.25 million refurb four years ago, has breathed new life into the 232-room property. Its seven restaurants and bars include the two-Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie, serving haute Caledonian cuisine such as Perthshire Roe deer. A new ultramodern spa features ESPA products, violet LED-lit vitality baths, and warm Kährs Vermont walnut wood throughout. Other activities include archery, cycling, fishing, off-roading, shooting, and tennis. From $383. gleneagles.com

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