As this trip was planned nearly entirely using resources from TAGF (especially purpleceltic!), here I go.
Premier Travel Inn (187 George Street, Glasgow G1 1YU, Scotland) – please see independent review.
Marriott Hotel (500 Argyle Street, Anderston, Glasgow G3 8RR, Scotland) – please see independent review.
Premier Travel Inn (1 Morrison Link, Edinburgh EH3 8DN, Scotland) – please see independent review.
Glasgow Int’l airport is compact. Head down the moving walkway, book a roundtrip ticket on Citylink (Round trip GBP 5.80; One way GBP 3.50; www.citylink.co.uk/), then bear immediately far left for international arriving luggage. Step out on the curb and jog a bit to the right for the 905 bus stop. It is fifteen (15) minutes to city centre with approximately ten (10) stops located close to the various hotels, high street and depots (Queen Street, Central Station, and Buchanan Bus Station). If you have more than one (1) piece of checked luggage and/or children, take a taxicab (One way GBP 15).
· Glaswegians are the friendliest single subset of people encountered. Full marks.
· George Square is the metro centre. Determine everything (convenience, noise level, access) based upon distance from your place of lodging to George Square, which is boundaried by George Street, St Vincent Place, Fredrick Street and Queen Street. If you exit Queen Street station, you will spit onto Buchanan Street or George Square. High streets are Argyle Street, George Street and Sauchiehall street (running parallel to the Clyde), and Buchanan Street (perpendicular to the Clyde). Most hotels and tourist centres have free phones to dial a taxicab. Taxicabs are aplenty.
· The weather was pleasant. It rains intermittently and briefly. It is absolute to wear lightweight raingear (which is hooded) and not lug an umbrella. Juggling your backpack, a yoghurt drink, your lovely camera and am umbrella is a fait accompli in itself. If it rains, duck into a porte cochere and admire some architecture. Step into one of several gastropubs for a wee dram of whisky. This is at least 50% w/v alcohol. Be aware that all of the wee drams sneak up on you. Mix in a bit of water or ice cubes to enhance the flavour.
· One (1) CCTV per 14 inhabitants. I was panhandled only once and felt remarkably safe wandering the streets at all odd hours, be it 0015 or 0630. The crime bureau has statistics that this is the most dangerous city in the UK but it is like any major city – you take precautions and you do not get foolish.
· As per usual, I always take the hop on/off open top bus the first day. This one has 21 stops and is valid for 48 hours. I hope you too get a live guide each time. You get a 10% discount for any additional ticketing but everything is just a brisk walk or a small cab ride away. I get a lot more walking about with my head looking up at the spires, steeples and mouldings.
· The Visitor Information Centre in George Square is a function of the persons staffing it. I was given incorrect information on two separate days, an incorrect tour booking (which was subsequently accommodated by another operator) and has differing hours on different days. There are many leaflets and guidebooks in the office. There is no facility for left luggage. All observations are applicable for its counterpart on Princes Street in Edinburgh. I inifinitely prefer "I do not know" to wanton disposal of incorrect information. I clung to my Frommer’s guide the entire time.
· Most museum admission is free. I enjoyed most the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Hunterian Museum (check opening times), St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Peoples Palace & Winter Gardens, and the Museum of Transport. Glasgow University and the Glasgow School of Art have conducted tours – book ahead of arrival. Children will enjoy the Science Centre, which is close to the SECC (“Armadillo”), Finnieston Bridge (“Squinty”) and Finnieston Crane. A tearoom is planned at the apex of the Crane, whereat will hopefully be served high tea. For now, the Charles Mackintosh Willow Tea Rooms (closes at 1600) will have to do. Nearly all taxicab drivers are rich historians. This is not always good when you are in a hurry to get to a concert from Gartnavel General Hospital.
· Walking along Cathedral and Castle roads are an architect’s delight. The Necropolis and Glasgow Cathedral are must stops. For over-the-top interior design, you must immediately go to City Chambers (off George Square; with tours daily at 1030 and 1430; check listings).
· On Saturday evening, there was a choral performance at the Cathedral. In just a few days, I experienced diverse forms of entertainment from a sing-along ABBA show and 80s drama (“Angels in America”, a double header), to Maxim Vengerov (with the UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra; all 17-29 years of age) and a community theatre rendition of “The King and I”. Opera is occasional and was not in season. Many of the pubs have amusing quiz and karaoke events nightly. The buzz is young and casual.
· Shopping is plentiful and conventional: St Enoch Shopping Centre, Buchanan Galleries, small shops in Merchant City and along the high streets. You can top off your mobile and pick up SIM cards almost as often as you espy a Costa coffee outlet or Starbucks corner. I did most of my shopping in the Highlands and countryside for clothing, honeys, whiskeys and Arran cheese. Tacky souvenirs are quite the must.
· Nearly all major cuisines are well represented. The best variety (but variable quality) is on Byres road and around Glasgow University, unsurprisingly. For pick and runs, there are Sainsbury’s, Tesco Metro and Tesco Express, and M&S Food. I had a lovely meal with wine at Amarone. Pick and run pizza can be dodgy, but the corner shop near Sainsbury’s on Buchanan Street was yummy.
· Short trips to the Burrell Collection, and Pollok House are in order. I also booked guided coach tours (all day long) to the Highlands from leaflets at the Visitor Information Centre. These are not to be missed. Different operators offer different itineraries depending on the day of the week. Your combination should include Stirling Castle, Bannockburn, Aber Foyle, Balloch, Glen Coe, Glen Etive, Pitlochry, Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine, Loch Ness, Inverness, Falkirk and Linlithgow. I am a bit of a glutton for history and naturescapes. While in the Highlands and Lowlands, please take the usual precautions for tick borne Lyme disease. The best tour was a minicoach (9 guests only) run by a native Glaswegian named Stewart Hunt; have the Visitor Information Centre arrange a bespoke tour with him. All the tour operator companies have similar names so save your tickets and check time and location of pick up (one leaves from Buchanan Bus Station Stance 6). Tour operators may cancel the tour if they do not meet viability quorum. This was disappointing but the operator arrived at the appointed pick up time and arranged for an alternative, going so far as to pay the difference for the more expensive tour! I was touched.
· I railed it to Edinburgh (Virgin Rail; Queen Street to Haymarket GBP 9.50 Standard Each way; Premier Travel Inn at Morrison Link) where I did the hop on/off open tour bus, usual visits to the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre (discount coupons at www.whisky-heritage.co.uk), Edinburgh Castle, Camera Obscura (check timings), The Gallery of Modern Art, The Museum of Scotland, Palace of Hollyrood House, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen’s Gallery (lovely exhibit on “Amazing Rare Things”), and the Scottish Parliament (no guided tours on days when Parliament is in session but you can hear their flowery prose and drama: pick you poison). Witchery tours (the earlier ones in the evening are more child-friendly, but you soon realize you get more scared more easily than your wee ones) start near the Castle (check timings) that are a bit of fun. Children will also enjoy Dynamic Earth and the Zoo. Discounts are enjoyed with the Day Pass (www.edinburgh.org). Regrettably, my three days were peppered with heavy rain and I could not walk about much to enjoy the local flavour. I caught “Man of La Mancha” (Royal Lyceum, Lothian road) and some stand up comedy.