Ready to (Glas)go(w) to Scotland?
The saying goes, according to my Glaswegian flatmate, that you’re either an Edinburgh person or a Glasgow person. And while Edinburgh might often be the destination of choice for Londoners, it’s definitely worth venturing even further up north to check out its cooler, grittier older sister: Glasgow.
I was given the opportunity to visit Glasgow with The Botanist Gin. Distilled on nearby Islay and made up of 22 botanicals found on the island, it’s a beautiful part of the UK just waiting to be explored. So, I flew up north to see exactly what the city of Glasgow and the inner Hebrides had to offer.
Let’s start with some fun facts: Glasgow boasts the oldest surviving music hall in the world and it’s widely accepted that chicken tikka masala originated in the city. But niche historical facts aside, here’s how to spend 48 hours in Scotland’s finest: sipping gin, eating seafood and making the most of the remarkably fresh air.
DISCLAIMER: This article was not paid for but the press trip was gifted. I’ve starred the places I visited during this trip, like this ⭐️.
Where to stay:
Dakota⭐️ is your best bet for a centrally located and suitably swish hotel. Grab a taxi from Glasgow airport and you’ll find yourself outside Dakota’s doors in under 20 minutes. It’s tempting to throw yourself down onto the huge, comfy beds, but try not to stay there for more than a few minutes because we’ve got lots to see! Unpack your bags and head down to the bar for a quick drink while you get used to your surroundings. The cocktail menu covers a bit of everything so grab a Southside Royal (The Botanist gin, Italicus Bergamotto, Mint, Fino Sherry, Lime & Sparkling Wine) to pay homage to your Scottish surroundings and head out to explore the city.
How to get around:
Glasgow is incredibly walkable and, if you’re visiting in the summer months, you’ll want to make the most of the sunshine while admiring the gorgeous surroundings. Lace up your comfiest shoes, download the Glasgow Walking App and you’ll be all set. Rest assured, you’ll find plenty of cheap taxis if you decide your legs can’t hack the walk later on.
You’ll want to start your day with a full stomach and Glasgow’s East End is the place to head. We said you’d be able to walk for most of this visit but we’ll ease you into the winding roads and brisk air with a quick taxi journey to start your day. First up is breakfast at East Coffee Company. A favourite for locals and tourists alike, we recommend the Rye toast with walnut pesto, mozzarella, prosciutto and roasted vine tomatoes topped with peppered pear peals, rocket and plenty of olive oil.
From ECC, walk about 15 minutes towards our first stop of the day: Glasgow Cathedral. As the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow, you’ll want to spend some time admiring the architecture both inside and outside of this impressive building.
From the cathedral, you’re only a short walk away from The GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art). This world-class art museum contains four different galleries and is free to enter. Lovers of modern art will appreciate the well-curated contents of this Glasgow gem and it’s the perfect way to soak up some culture of the city before stopping for lunch.
If you haven’t had your fill of culture yet but you’re also getting peckish, BAaD in the East end should be your next stop. Also known as Barras Art and Design, BAaD is one of Glasgow’s greatest creative spaces and has a constantly changing series of events. From vegan markets to live music and theatre screenings, you’ll always find something there. But due to the short nature of this trip, we’ll stick to getting comfy and stopping for a well-deserved lunch. A’Challtainn (pronounced “A Cawl Tain”) serves everything from Scottish fish to meat dishes and vegetarian options.
Ready to get high in Glasgow? We jest, but only sort of: next up on our list is The Lighthouse. Depending on how much time you’ve spent at our previous spots, you might want to head straight up to the top. Don’t be put off by the seemingly endless steps because it’s barely an exaggeration to say that there are views for days at the top of The Lighthouse.
We said it’d be a cultural day and our next spot (before you can stop for dinner, don’t worry) is no exception. The Kelvingrove Museum is one of Glasgow’s most popular spots and for a good reason. Another free museum, there are 22 galleries covering everything from art to animals, Ancient Egypt to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and so much more. The Kenvingrove closes at 5pm so make sure you’ve got enough time to check out all the exhibitions on your list.
You’ll probably want a quick pit stop before dinner so it’s a good thing that we’ve made our way back towards Dakota. Grab a taxi or wander back through the tree-lined streets to get changed before heading out for dinner.
Ready to eat? Dinner tonight is at the West End’s Five March⭐️. It’s no exaggeration to say that quite literally everything on the menu here is delicious (and I know, because we tried almost all of it) so dig into their globally inspired sharing and small plates. If you’re like me and want to know exactly what you’re ordering before you’ve even arrived, here’s the menu.
The goal here is to eat enough so that you can’t possibly order any more dishes – you’ll leave with regret, otherwise. Before you turn in for the night, stroll round the corner to Kelvingrove Cafe⭐️ for a couple of drinks. This cosy bar offers craft cocktails served on a kitsch menu and it’s the best place to round off your first night.
What’s a weekend getaway without at least one brunch spot? Incomplete, that’s what. So we’re starting day two in Glasgow’s South Side at Cafe Strange Brew. Recommended by locals as one of the city’s best spots for breakfast, Strange Brew has enough plants to keep any millennial happy and some truly beautiful looking dishes. It might be slightly out of the way, but it’s worth the journey. Go for the Crayfish on toast with avo, grapefruit and fried eggs for a smugly Instagrammable choice or feast upon their famous pancakes for an unforgettable breakfast.
We’re going into the wild for our next spot: to Pollok House – located in a park that contains highland cattle. This beautiful property is found after a walk through Pollok Country Park and fits as a suitably wholesome way to start your second day.
Head back up into the centre for day two in Glasgow. You might have pushed all thoughts of University out of your head since graduating so try to focus on the amazing 19th century architecture rather than exams when you’re exploring the next spot, the University of Glasgow.
You should probably try some more traditionally Scottish dishes while you’re up north, right? So we’ve got two options for you for lunch. Either feast upon everything from haggis to tablet and smoked salmon in the centre or, if you’d prefer another sit down meal, jump in a taxi and visit Buchanan Street. Here, you’ll find Cranachan, a lovely little Scottish cafe serving up traditional food. Music to your ears? There’s more: keep walking and you’ll find musicians and buskers lining the streets.
If you’re not all culture-d out then we’d recommend walking towards the water to the Riverside Museum. Depending on time, you can head inside to explore the exhibitions or, if not, just take in the views of the extraordinary building against the water.
For the rest of the afternoon, we recommend wandering around Glasgow’s many winding streets in order to fully appreciate the city’s incredible graffiti. If you’re the organised sort, you’ll find a city centre graffiti trail here, or else just follow the twists and turns of the roads and see what you stumble across.
We’ll head back towards Dakota for the final evening but not before checking out Crabshakk on Argyle Street. Serving a simple changing menu of fish, whole crab and lobster from Scotland’s Western Isles, it’s an unmissable last supper before you venture back down south.
Once you’ve eaten, the best place to spend your final evening in Glasgow is Brel. Order a round of Negronis and sit back in the twinkly, fairy-light covered garden to watch the sun go down. Perfect!
🌟 BONUS 🌟
If you’ve got more time up north, it’s worth extending your Scottish discovery to the beautiful island of Islay. Pronounced “Eye-la”, it’s the home of The Botanist gin as well as various other distilleries. Only a 20 minute flight from Glasgow International, it’s easy to spend a couple of days lost in the magic of Islay.
While you’re there, learn more about the creation of The Botanist in a guided tour of the distillery⭐️and see how many of the 22 botanicals you can spot in the highlands (hint: they’re all found on the island). Make sure to spend some time exploring Port Charlotte, watch the waves crash against the shore at Machir Bay and spy some friendly seals at Pornahaven. When you get hungry, visit the Port Charlotte hotel⭐️ and get whatever you like – but make sure you start with the cold seafood platter.