The McCague family from Carryduff discover just a short hop, skip and jump across the Irish Sea awaits the perfect ‘Dear Green Place’. Bursting with culture, world-famous attractions, spectacular shopping and incomparable hospitality...Welcome to Glasgow.
"Booking a break when the kids are tiny tots is a doddle, hand over a bucket and spade or find a park and they’re happy enough. But when the more demanding ‘Tween’ years arrive, especially if you have boys and girls, it becomes a much more difficult task to find a short-trip destination that has something to excite the entire family. Happily, our recent spring weekend stay in Scotland’s largest city ticked all the wish list boxes for Jack (15) and Abby (13).
We travelled on the 7.30am sailing from Larne to Cairnryan with P&O Ferries. It was an early start but we were all keen to arrive in Glasgow by lunchtime and make the most of every minute of our stay. The completion of the newly improved A8, the main route network which links Larne to Belfast, made the journey to the port town even quicker and more accessible than previous visits and we were soon on board, heading straight for the luxury of the Club Lounge. We ordered a delicious full Irish, and the kids delighted in being let loose on the vast array of guest facilities and complimentary goodies to bring us several lattés, hot chocolates, pieces of fruit and shortbread – a real novelty for everyone as that kind of service is not usual practice in the McCague household. Upgrading to Club Lounge offers exceptional value at only £12 per person (advance booking price, £14 if booked on board) with unlimited complimentary hot drinks and refreshments, newspapers and of course the all important Wi-Fi access (them) and serene setting to relax and enjoy the views on the two-hour crossing (us). If you have younger children to entertain, the ship also has a play area and video screen for kids’ shows and movies, and a games arcade. After devouring our breakfast – delivered promptly by the friendly steward – we checked out what was on offer in the onboard shop.
There’s a wide range of souvenirs, books and toys in addition to temptingly good perfume prices – many high street favourite brands are up to 40 per cent off. We opted for a few good old-fashioned board games and had loads of fun until it was time to head back to the car.
As anticipated, we arrived in Glasgow by midday, checking into the ideally located city centre Hallmark Hotel on Washington Street. Built on the site of an historic Rice Mill, thehotel features a superb health and leisure club with on-site parking in addition to spacious and stylish guest rooms and 12 apartments – if you’re looking for a real home away from home. After a warm welcome from the staff, we couldn’t wait to get going and were quickly back out on the city streets to catch the ‘Hop on Hop off’ bus tour to our first destination – lunch! If you’re unfamiliar with Glasgow (as we were) it’s a fantastic way to take in all the main attractions first and get your bearings.
We hopped off in the West End at the award-winning Butchershop Bar and Grill, just opposite Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. The eatery has gained its reputation by being proud to source and serve only the very best of dry-aged, grass-fed Scottish beef, alongside an impressive selection of whiskies, world wines and signature cocktails. The restaurant literally buzzes with its high-energy atmosphere and we were drooling at the smells and sight of the amazing dishes coming from the kitchen. There’s a saying that we became familiar with during our visit, which is ‘People make Glasgow’. The truth of that statement was reflected several times over the weekend but we have to give special mention to our first lunch waiter Andy who couldn’t possibly have done any more to make us feel like VIP guests. Steak of course was the order of the day, accompanied by a huge leaning tower of the best onion rings ever. Kudos to the talents of the chef who did something so wonderful with Brussels sprouts that our kids even asked for more!
Our next stop, Kelvingrove, is ranked in the top 15 most visited museums in the world with 22 themed, state-of-the-art galleries displaying an astonishing 8,000 objects! Entry is free and a great day out for families with lots of interactive displays to engage young, and older, minds alike. Behind the museum you can also take a walk through the Botanic Gardens. Glasgow is teeming with parks and home to over 90 stunning green spaces – more than any other European city. In fact, Glasgow translates as ‘Dear Green Place’ in Gaelic. Time flew by as we enjoyed browsing the extensive collections of art and Scottish relics taking us through to the late afternoon when we
strolled back to our hotel for a rest, swim, and then to get in our glad rags for a dinner date in one of Glasgow’s top style locations, Princes Square.
Set in the centre of Buchanan Street, Princes Square is alive with shoppers during the day and hungry diners at night, housing many great restaurants on its top and basement floors. We had booked a table at Darcy’s, a Glasgow institution with a reputation for its sophisticated food and drinks menu. The experience certainly lived up to our high expectations and afterwards the short walk back to our lodgings gave us just enough time to make our master plan for a super Saturday.
We had decided to use this break away, not only to spend quality time together as an entire family, but also to have some mother/ daughter and father/son bonding time which took the girls off on a pampering experience and shopping spree, while the boys, well let’s face it...we were in a city with a museum dedicated to football, headed to Hampden.
Some of Britain’s greatest young fashion designers including Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders hail from Glasgow and it’s not difficult to see why the city inspires such style and creativity. Glasgow is a Mecca for dedicated followers of fashion offering the best shopping opportunities outside of London. You want it? They most definitely have it! Designer boutiques mix with high street heroes in the oh-so- cool quarters and along the city’s ‘style mile’. Another treat are the hearty buskers who keep shoppers entertained on bustling Buchanan Street. After calling a halt to any more damage on the credit card, we were ready for a scrumptious afternoon tea at The Corinthian Club a ‘Grade A ‘and one of Glasgow’s most elaborate and richly decorated listed buildings with an iconic dome above Teller’s Bar and Brasserie.
The afternoon was heavenly sweet at a ‘Bath Bomb’ beauty experience at The Beauty Kitchen in Saltwater, one the oldest quarters of the city and in close proximity to Glasgow Green, the city’s oldest park, which features The People’s Palace and a large children’s play area with pirate ship. We had fantastic fun, as the aromatherapist helped us create our own signature bath bombs using their variety of scents and ingredients. Abby even found a de-stressing scent to help her revise for her exams!
Meanwhile on the south side of the city the boys were loving the Hampden Football Experience with a tour of the stadium, getting a taster of how the stars of the sport feel walking down the tunnel, striking a ball in the Hampden Hotshots Gallery and having its speed electronically measured, visiting the team changing rooms and the national football museum.
Next on the agenda? The Glasgow Climbing Centre, a converted church with climbing/scrambling on high/low walls with colour coded foot/hand aids to make you work out the quickest way to the top. All very safe and child friendly with expert supervision from the friendly and capable instructor, Matt who happily showed the McCague boys ‘the ropes.’ It’s also home to the Balcony café where you can take a culinary journey with the menu, from traditional Scottish ingredients to curries busting with South East Asian flavours.
Dinner for everyone that night was again just a short pleasant stroll away from our hotel in Nelson Mandella Place at Amarone Restaurant. In the intimate and atmospheric setting we adored the fine Italian dining options of melt-in-mouth beef carpaccio and wild mushroom risotto for the adults while the kids were more than satisfied with the delicious rustic pizza.
The next morning we departed, sorry to be saying goodbye so soon but at least full of a real Scottish breakfast of Haggis and poached eggs. We still had time for a two-hour pit stop at the out of town retail complex Silverburn located on Barrhead Road in Pollok, Glasgow, Scotland. Another great shopping destination, the shops in Glasgow are open for business on Sunday mornings meaning you can squeeze even more retail therapy in on the way back to the boat!
We absolutely loved our weekend break, our only regret? We didn’t book for longer and get to a few more must- see attractions such as the Riverside Museum and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed House For An Art Lover. On the plus side, with so much to see and do, it means we have the perfect excuse to return."
The McCague Family travelled to Scotland with P&O Ferries. P&O’s great value fares start from £74 each way from Larne to Cairnryan for a car and driver. For further information on all sailings and the latest P&O Ferries offers please visit POFerries.com
Stay at the Hallmark Hotel, 27 Washington Street, Glasgow G3 8AZ
Contact Tel: 0141 222 2929 or visit hallmarkhotels.co.uk/hotels/glasgow for offers and room rates
For more information on visiting Glasgow see peoplemakeglasgow.com