Good morning, Belfast, Northern Ireland

The vibrant pinks, oranges and purples of the sunrise in Belfast greeted us this morning to bid us farewell on our journey to Glasgow. Grand!

Our flights to and from Belfast were our first with Flybe, and I would definitely use them again. They are comparable to the cheapest of all the bargain airlines on offer, and they are certainly good value for what you get (including a decent checked luggage allowance!). So they are cheap, but not ‘cheap and nasty.’ Our flight landed on time in Glasgow, we collected our bags and jumped straight in a cab to our hotel. A smooth and pleasantly uneventful beginning to our stay in the city.

Blythswood Square Hotel has a lot going for it. It’s a plush boutique hotel on the east side of the square, which makes for a fantastic location with much within walking distance. We stayed in a Superior Room, which was worth the extra money as it had a lounge (somewhere to sit other than the bed). It wasn’t a particularly large room, but they used the space wisely – love good design. The bathroom was very luxurious, with a bath for tired bodies from much walking around this gorgeous city. There were sliding ‘windows’ in the room that allow for the bathroom to open into the bedroom, giving the illusion of more space. And the bed was as comfortable as the room was luxurious.

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An early afternoon arrival in the city meant that our first priority after checking in was finding lunch – something close to the hotel to satiate our hunger. We took the recommendation of the concierge and walked the three short blocks to Opium, an upmarket “serene Asian fusion” restaurant in the direction of our exploratory walk planned for the afternoon. Lunch consisted of dishes never before tried by either of us: vegetable filled carrot dumplings, delicately spiced Macau vegetable curry and green beans in sambal sauce. It was a very leisurely affair, which was most welcome as it gave us time to gather our thoughts and plan the rest of our afternoon.

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We walked a haphazard route, yet totally planned by Lonely Planet, through the Merchant centre until we ended up at the Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis, a stroll of about 3km. Unfortunately, by the time we got climbed the hill to the cathedral, we had missed the final entry of the day. Instead we savoured the architecture from the outside, gaining further vantage points for admiration by climbing higher still to the necropolis.

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Cemeteries are intriguing places. The cities in miniature with their stately structures and ‘roads’ reveal snippets of stories engraved in stone that can leave the traveller melancholic at the tragedy that befell the individual, or dissatisfaction of unanswered questions. This necropolis provided all of that along with the magnificent city views and the atmospheric long shadows cast be the late afternoon sun amongst the crypts and tombstones.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

The location of Blythswood Square Hotel is west of the town centre and east of the university and galleries, so for those who like a decent walk to start the day, you can get to many locations on foot (and once tired, a train or cab can get you home).

Our next morning saw us grabbing a fast food breakfast rather than a £12 per person extravaganza at the hotel before setting off on our 2.5 km walk to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This museum is housed in a russet stone 1901 building that was closed for 3 years for refurbishment and reopened by the Queen in 2006. It has since become a huge tourist attraction for Scotland, with over 1.25 million visitors per year and features 22 themed, state of the art galleries that house 8,000 exhibits.

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The Kelvingrove is like many of those famous and gargantuan museums around the world that showcase internationally significant and extensive exhibits in impressive galleries, including natural history, arms and armour and art from many movements and periods of history. The big draw card at this gallery is Dali’s “Christ of St John of the Cross”, a magnificent creation that caused much controversy when it was purchased for £8,200 in the early 1950s. It is said that the Spanish government has offered Glasgow Museums £80 MILLION for the painting. Glad they didn’t sell, it’s an extraordinary piece.

The Hunterian Museum

Continued our stroll through the leafy surrounds of Kelvingrove, flinching occasionally at the cold breeze that was being whipped up through the trees. We headed north to the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery and Mackintosh House. The Hunterian is the oldest museum in Scotland, and The Mackintosh House is part of its appeal. The most disappointing thing about the recreation of the interior of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s house is that no photographs are allowed – it is worthy of its standing in 20th century architecture and design.

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A short subway ride away, followed by a bit of an uphill walk, was The National Trust Property, Tenement House. I often find that the preserved properties of the middle and lower classes are more fascinating than the imposing, ornate displays of wealth of the aristocracy. Tenement House is a little gem; a house from the early 20th century and nothing extraordinary for its time, but the very fact it is still intact and filled with its various trappings of authenticity is a gift to its visitors.

The Burrell Collection & Pollok House

On our final day in Glasgow, we made the most of our time and headed out to the Burrell Collection in a cab. We could’ve done the public transport thing, but decided efficiency was the goal.

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The Burrell Collection was amassed by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell throughout his lifetime, and donated to the city of Glasgow in 1944. This was done on the condition that the collection was housed in a specifically built gallery in a rural setting to protect it from the air pollution of the time. He even gave £250,000 for the construction of the gallery, but it wasn’t until the council acquired Pollok Country Park that a design competition was held and a building was constructed. In 1983 The Burrell Collection opened to the public, and in 2005 was named as Scotland’s second greatest post-war building. The diversity and importance in the collection is impressive, but my favourites included the works of Rodin, Cezanne and the Chinese and Islamic art. We were lucky in the timing of our visit, as The Burrell Collection is now closed for refurbishment until 2020.

There was another National Trust property, Pollok House, only 10 minutes walk away. The stroll through lush fields took us past highland cattle, whose massive heads turned to watch us as we passed, gazes masked by their long fringes. This lovingly maintained Georgian manor contained an extraordinary and surprising collection of Spanish art from the 18th century (including works by El Greco, Goya and Murillo). The Maxwell family collected Spanish art long before it became fashionable, and as a result, it is an important collection from this time period. Pollok House also has particular significance to the National Trust of Scotland – it was in its cedar-panelled smoking room that discussions for the founding of the Trust took place.

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One of our favourite culinary experiences in Scotland was had at the Ox and Finch in Sauchiehall St. Despite what one might think from the title of the venue, they offered a diverse range of inventive vegetarian choices on a separate, specialised vegetarian menu. The tapas sized portions of dishes also allowed for the sampling of more of their tasty options, which is perfect for when there are many items tempting you! The roasted cauliflower and the beetroot hummus were winners for us.

With our time in Glasgow quickly coming to an end, we grabbed a cab to pick up our luggage at the Blythswood Square Hotel before being dropped at the bus station in the centre of the city. What a convenient way of getting to Edinburgh airport! Even with the road works and afternoon traffic that added some time to the trip, it was very easy and efficient – just factor in time for delays if you have an afternoon flight to catch.

Accommodation: Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow

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About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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