Adrian Gillan takes the high road north of the border for a queer cultural and culinary treat in tasty, gutsy Glasgow!
Scotland’s largest and most vibrant city: or so it says on the tin. Dockyards and access to America and beyond meant Glasgow quickly grew to become one of the most important trading hubs of the British Empire, as still witnessed by her imposing architecture and squares. She has since re-emerged triumphant from industrial decline, to reinvent herself as a modern, vibrant city of style and culture.
Take in the central George Square itself, with its imposing columns, statues and City Chambers; the old Cathedral, especially spooky in the basement; the renovated Merchant Cityquarter; and Glasgow Green with its People’s Palace pleasure complex.
Explore the amazing masterpieces of Glasgow’s most famous architectural son,Charles Rennie Mackintosh – notably the Glasgow School of Art and The Lighthouse centre and tower.
Out west take in Kelvingrove Park and its renovated museum, Glasgow Uniand the lovely Botanic Gardens; or peruse the renovated dockside area, with its Science Centre and Tall Ship across the way. For art’s sake, enjoy the latest exhibitions at the vibrant Gallery of Modern Art or Centre for Contemporary Art.
Near the Central Railway Station, The Waterloo (306 Argyle Street; T: 0141 229 5891) claims to be the city’s oldest gay pub, but is just as buzzing and packed now as of yore. That said, it’s enough to make you crave a touch of class, so wait no more: a whole clutch of newer gay style venues in the Merchant City quarter await! Court Bar (69 Hutchinson Street; T: 0141 552 2463) makes a perfect springboard into Merchant Pride (20 Candleriggs; T: 0141 564 1285); thenRevolver (6a John Street; T: 0141 553 2456), shoots a mean load in its basement bunker full of pool, poofs and grooves.
Delmonica’s (68 Virginia Street; T: 0141 552 4803) is a triumph of glass, mirrors, vistas and tunes to set chic toes a tappin’. When Del’s bars shut shop and lights flood up, pouting punters dutifully file next door to co-owned Moda(58 Virginia Street; T: 0141 553 2553) – a quieter, more atmospheric haunt late into the evenings – and larger annex, the plush Polo Lounge (84 Wilson Street; T: 0141 553 1221). Don’t be fooled: Polo’s not quite as pretentious as its ground-floor leather-and-oak gentlemen’s club upholstery may suggest. Venture downstairs and you’ll soon find your fair share of mature strong cheese in theTrophy Room and some trancy dance in adjoining Club Room.
But to view Glasgow’s true queer teeth-n-tits roots, visit timeless Bennets (80-90 Glassford Street; T: 0141 552 5761) that still seems to pull in the crowds, a few of whom slur loyally that they’d “never visit Polo”, as they bop to cheese or slump into their tenth cheap pint of the night.
- Abode Glasgow (129 Bath Street; T: 0141 572 6000;www.abodehotels.co.uk/glasgow) – Reflecting the city’s own modern renaissance, Abode Glasgow combines striking traditional architecture with the most exciting contemporary design and high-tech facilities. Bedrooms have been designed with a sense of luxury and relaxation, features including Vi-Spring beds; bathrooms with monsoon showers; luxury toiletries; personal DVD players and state-of-the-art LCD televisions.
BOX-OUT: GAY GORMET GALORE
Glasgow boasts many fine gourmet eateries like Nanakusa(www.nanakusa.co.uk), the award-winning stylish but informal Japanese restaurant on Sauchiehall Street; The House for an Art Lover(www.houseforanartlover.co.uk) featuring a smart little restaurant tucked away in one of the city’s chicest buildings; or Café Gandolfi(www.cafegandolfi.com), one of the trendy Merchant City’s longest-established restaurant-bars. You can even don your apron and get cooking yourself at The Cookery School (www.thecookeryschool.org), again in Merchant City!
For details of over 600 restaurants across Scotland as well as information on food festivals, trails and local Scottish flavours: www.eatscotland.com
Homecoming Scotland 2009 is a year long celebration of Scottish culture, heritage and some of the many great contributions Scotland has given the world: www.homecomingscotland2009.com
Glasgow is little more than 4 hours away from London Euston and even closer from other major UK cities, by Virgin Trains:www.virgintrains.co.uk