Stay the night: Blythswood Square Hotel, Glasgow
Glasgow's latest opening offers a stylish take on Scottish tradition. Jackie Hunter reports
Sunday 18 July 2010
Green light or red light? Glasgow's newest five-star hotel, which became the headquarters for the Royal Scottish Automobile Club in 1910 and was a starting point for the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally, is as posh as it gets, yet not too grand to hint at the more colourful history of its setting.
Blythswood Square's Georgian townhouse terraces were originally built for wealthy merchants and Clydeside shipping magnates at the turn of the 19th century. Much later the square became known as a base for the city's sex trade. So, when this property – the latest addition to the Town House Collection, a five-strong group of luxury hotels in Scotland – opened late last year, its designers incorporated a small red-shaded light into each front window.
Step up to the pillared entrance and its prosperous origins hit you full in the face. The grand, marble-floored reception area features a breathtaking chandelier, over a staircase that cries out for sweeping entrances. The original lift shafts have been scooped out and upholstered in plush red velvet to create sexy after-dinner love nests, where guests might linger.
Vintage motoring memorabilia – photographic murals from the early 20th century, framed advertisements and trophies – have been tastefully incorporated into the decor.
The owners have also made a theme of Harris Tweed throughout, from lampshades to waiters' waistcoats. It may bring to mind stiff and scratchy school uniforms, but be assured that only the softest, lightest Hebridean wool is used here – and Scotland's textile heritage is properly celebrated without a whiff of tartan.
The 100 bedrooms and suites are not as classically imposing as the high-ceilinged public areas, but they are all distinctive, well-proportioned and luxuriously comfortable. The Harris Tweed rolls on, and if Scotland sees another winter as brutal as the last one, then the floor-length tweed curtains could act as a warm front. Such is the five-star comfort of the beds that it's tempting to stay under the Egyptian cotton duvet whatever the weather. There's more tweed, in shades of heather and slate, on the easy chairs and sofas, headboard, cushions, carpet and oversized lightshades, but it's well balanced by powder-white walls, modern and minimal wood tables, old marble fireplaces, and solid oak floors. The overall effect is quite masculine, but stylish and not too heavy. Bespoke Spanish marble bathrooms feature both a deep bath and a separate shower stall.
The food and drink
Seemingly as popular with local families as it is with hotel guests, the elegant restaurant and bar was once a ballroom and has all the panache of a top-notch continental brasserie. Service is swift and friendly and the stress is on Scottish produce, incorporated into ambitious dishes such as West Coast halibut with pearl couscous salad and oyster emulsion, as well as rump of Scottish lamb with Toulouse sausage, and – this being Glasgow – seriously good chips. The seasonal Market Menu is good on quality and value, at £15 for two courses or £20 for three. You can sample cocktails created by head bartender Mal Spence or get adventurous with the comprehensive New and Old World wine list. And there's afternoon tea (from £9.50 for a cream tea to £75 for the vintage rosé champagne version), in the long Salon Bar.
A 10,000sq ft luxury "wellness" spa, with a thermal suite, two relaxation pools and nine treatment rooms is due to open next month. You can also book the Screening Room, a bijou private cinema. Each room has free Wi-Fi, digital TV and MP3 player.
Wheelchair access is via the West George Street entrance. The ground-floor restaurant has three steps but is having a wheelchair lift installed. Some rooms and bathrooms are designed for wheelchair users. Children welcome. Dogs allowed.
Classic rooms from £160 to £245 per night, including breakfast. The Penthouse Suite Apartment will cost between £1,415 and £1,500 per night.
Blythswood Square Hotel, 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4AD (0141-208 2458; townhousecompany.com/blythswoodsquare).
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