24-hour room service: Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow
A modern classic that looks to the future
Saturday 22 January 2011
Peter Taylor knows a thing or two about Scottish luxury hotels – as founder and chairman of the Town House Collection he is responsible for launching some of Edinburgh's best-known boutique properties, including Channings, the Bonham and the Howard. But Blythswood Square Hotel, his first venture on the west coast, is a different beast.
Partially opened in Glasgow in November 2009, it has more than double the capacity of the group's largest Edinburgh hotel, with 100 rooms. Its creation involved the renovation of a listed building and the formation of a complicated new structure on a tightly enclosed plot. Now, after lengthy delays caused, in part, by the folding of the original contractor, the hotel is fully open for business. And Peter Taylor must be resting a bit easier.
Sleepless nights should not be an issue for guests. Especially not those with an environmental bent. As luxurious as its five-star status suggests, Blythswood Square is also ecologically conscious. Built using such sustainable technology as ground-source heat pumps and a rainwater harvesting system, the hotel believes its carbon emissions will be over 43 per cent less than those of a similar building without those features.
There's plenty of surface bling, too. The older section of the building, which includes the entrance and lobby, dates from 1823 and is one of four identical classical terraces that surround the eponymous square.
In 1910 the buildings the hotel now occupies were remodelled to form the clubhouse for the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC). Monochrome photos, displays of racing memorabilia in the hotel and the private cocktail Rally Bar, are a nice reminder that in the 1950s and 1960s Blythswood Square was one of eight official starting points for the Monte Carlo Rally. To mark the event's centenary, Glasgow has again been selected – along with Marrakech, Barcelona and Warsaw – as a starting point for the race; around 100 classic cars will set off from outside the hotel this Thursday.
Back inside, the heart of the hotel is a chi-chi restaurant and bar, set in what was once the RSAC's ballroom. Serving modern Scottish food, the place has an unpretentious buzz – one of those rare places that's cool enough to hang out in with friends but not so cool that you couldn't take granny for a treat. Current favourites include hand-dived scallops, Buccleuch Estates steak and chips and Valrhona Guanaja chocolate crème with cocoa soil, pea emulsion and avocado ice cream.
Blythswood isn't perfect; on my visit some requests went unanswered and drinks orders were forgotten. But, for the price and the style, it's hard to beat.
This is as central as you'd want to be in Glasgow, with Buchanan Street's shops, Bath Street's bars and restaurants and both main train stations within a 10-minute walk. Just brace yourself for the knowing winks if you mention the address; the red lights that hang from its windows are a tongue-in-cheek reminder of Blythswood Square's former incarnation.
The 25 rooms in the old building and 75 in the new are designed along one stylish theme courtesy of Graven Images, the team behind Edinburgh's Tigerlily and Missoni hotel interiors. Harris Tweed has been commissioned to fashion almost everything, from seemingly endless lampshades to sofas in muted grey and purple tones; chairs in the hotel's private screening room each get their own differently coloured blend.
Great beds, free Wi-Fi and glamorous marble bathrooms add plenty of comfort in the standard bedrooms while suites are as ostentatious as you'd expect – one has a sunken bath that could surely only have been designed with Peter Stringfellow in mind.
Elsewhere, guests can relax with afternoon tea in the first-floor salon or head down to the just-opened spa to steam away their cares in the thermal suite, or unwind with a massage. Don't be alarmed by the signature Turus treatments which use "indigenous Scottish ingredients"; this involves being expertly massaged with Ila-brand borage and juniper-infused products rather than being immersed in Irn-Bru or wrapped in haggis.
Blythswood Square Hotel, 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, G2 4AD (0141-208 2458; blythswoodsquare.com)
Double rooms start at £140, including breakfast
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