If you're travelling through Glasgow en route to the Highlands, Mar Hall is a great place to spend the night away from the hurry of the city. It's 10 minutes from the airport, 20 minutes from the city centre and the same from Loch Lomond. So very soon after your flight or train arrives, you can be sipping a glass of champagne in baronial splendour and admiring the views over the river Clyde - it doesn't get more relaxing than that. It's also a great way to break a journey south from the islands. With a large swimming pool, spa and gym, you will soon banish driver's cramp.

Mar Hall was designed in full-blooded Gothic style by Sir Robert Smirke (the architect behind the British Museum) for the Earl of Blantyre. It was completed in 1845. During the First World War it served as a hospital. In the past couple of years, £15m has been spent restoring the house and transforming it into a luxury hotel.

The former picture gallery, renamed the Grand Hall, is an extraordinary place to meet for drinks or just chill out with a coffee. It has a fine Gothic ribbed ceiling, walls packed with 19th-century romantic portraits and loads of soft, squashy sofas.


Mar Hall, Earl of Mar Estate, Bishopton, Glasgow (0141-812 9999; www.marhall.com).

Time to international airport: a 10-minute drive.


There are 53 rooms. Mine had a four-poster bed, a sofa in front of the television and two chairs by the fireplace. It was a restful mix of maroon and silver, with modern lighting and good fabrics. The bathroom had a huge bath and separate shower.

I could have had dinner in the Cristal restaurant, but as I'd been filming all day and had then taken a four-hour train journey, I opted for room service - a good wine list (a bottle of Chilean sauvignon blanc was a steal at £14), a perfect risotto with baby broad beans, fresh asparagus and girolles, and an excellent green salad. Bliss.

Next morning, after fresh fruit salad, coffee, and a 20-lap swim in the respectably sized pool, I was ready to continue my journey, totally refreshed. If I'd had the time or forethought, I would have booked a massage in the spa, or gone for a walk in the grounds, which stretch right down to the Clyde. There is also a golf course.

Freebies: a full range of excellent Aveda products, including bath salts and body lotion.


Double rooms from £175, excluding breakfast.

I'm not paying that: Glasgow's youth hostel, occupying a fine old building at 7 Park Terrace (0870 004 1119; www.syha.org.uk) close to Kelvingrove Park, is very cheap (£13 a night) and cheerful.