Our trip officially began when we landed in Scotland. Glasgow was a small airport, but it was super quick to get through customs! We used Apple Pay to get on the Airport Express Bus 500 downtown, then took the subway to our hotel, the Argyll Western. The orange subway cars were adorably small. Despite it being rush hour it was sparse with passengers! I was glad of this as I navigated the inaccessible platforms with my heavy MEC suitcase.
We found our hotel easily and checked-in early. I had emailed the front desk on two occasions about early check-in and the host was very accommodating! He took our bags, gave us two bananas and some orange juice, telling us he’ll email us as soon as our room was ready.
We went across the road to a Papercup Coffee, an independent cafe that reminded me of the old cafes I used to frequent in the West End of Toronto – thrown together look but very hip. The service blew our mind away – a young man greeted us at the door and sat us down in a cosy quiet corner. Americanos were brought to us pronto and we placed our order for fried eggs and sourdough toast.
When we went to pay, we discovered there was no tip option for credit card. I then tried to break a 5£ note for tip, but they said they didn’t break bills. I felt very stressed out by this as I was so smitten by the exceptional service – but we had no way to tip!
Once fed, we made our way to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. I’m always up for a nice garden, and this was HUGE with not one, but two gigantic historic greenhouses! It was endless – and free! There was a spectacular collection of plans at this 200 year old indoor garden. Definitely worth the time to visit.
The gardens were full of small dogs and parents with prams. We killed time walking through the greenery and playing the public sound-making instruments in the children’s garden (amazing!). Matt’s feet were beginning to hurt in his new bulky hiking boots, so we went back to the hotel to switch footwear.
Back at the Argyll Western, the host said our room would be ready soon and set us up in the dining room with tea, coffee, and wifi. He then continued to bring us out plate after plate of food: fruit, cake, potato scones, and cereal! We had a feast – for free!
Out host recommended the Kelvin walk along the river to the Kelvin art gallery, which is free. After our nap in our freshly made-up room, he gave us two apples for the road. Glasgow hospitality is amazing!
The walk around the river was gorgeous! You wouldn’t think you were in the city unless you looked up at the apartments rising above the trees. There were dogs off leash galore, running around with toys in their mouths, joggers, cyclists and parents pushing prams along the path.
Bar Hopping in Glasgow
Inn Deep – Part I
A riverside pub called Inn Deep took our fancy as we were feeling hungry. We ordered a lamb shank appetizer and each a beer. They had an impressive selection in full, half, and third pints! I ordered a fruit sour and Matt got an IPA. However, with the exchange, the pint cost 9GBP ($15 CAD!) Oops. Apparently we missed the sign for the 3-3.70 GBP house beers.
As we munched on our breaded lamb tatters, Matt remarked how Glasgowians reminded him of Haligonians back home – super friendly! We had gotten such exceptional service everywhere since we arrived. Everyone has been so nice! However, I gotta say people from Halifax look a lot more sharp. Matt’s been getting a lot of looks – he’s one classy man!
After walking to the Kelvin Gallery and through the Glasgow University campus, we went in search of dinner. Byers and Highbuegh Road was full of enticing thrift shops, but were all closed up. We found Tennant’s, a pub with reasonable priced meals – we got two burgers and two pinks for 12£. My opinion of the place heightened when a dog wandered in off the street and was served a bowl of chunky soft dog food by the bar. Dogs are everywhere in this city!
We went to Oran Mòr for a nightcap. It was a highly recommended pub in a church with high vaulted ceilings and an authentic Celtic pub. It reminded Matt of St. James Gate in Moncton, right down to the smell!
I ordered a glass of a scotch I hadn’t seen before: Kilchoman Sanaig. It burned! Staff at this bar were just as friendly as everywhere else, and the other guests just as jovial. The scotch was a bit harsher than I was expecting, but felt appropriate in our surroundings.
There was a scotch tasting club meeting in the alcove next to us. They were having a grand old time! They had about six different scotches in front of them and at the end of the night, the thirty Scots voted on their favourite. I couldn’t quite comprehend what they were saying, so went up to the event host to inquire on the winning scotch. With his thick accent and the scrawl on the paper he showed me, I deciphered “Palo Cortado” by a distillery with a bunch of inaudible characters in it.
Back at the table, Matt and I started googling possible matches. In the end, I ended up asking the bar tender who then went and asked the host. He returned with a bottle. There wasn’t enough left to sell me a full dram, so he gave me the remaining scotch free of charge! Turned out the winner was Bunnahabhain Ceobanach – and even Matt, a non-Scotch drinker liked it!
As the night was young, we did a Yelp search for the top affordable bars in the neighbourhood. After Òran Mor was The Belle, strategically placed between our current location, our hotel, and Inn Deep. It was a cozy pub full of people our age. We hunkered ourselves down at a table by the fireplace. I ordered a local pear ginger kombucha tea and Matt had a Brewdog beer with the intriguing name “Dead Pony Club”. Matt described it as a dead beer. He much preferred the William Bros. we had at Inn Deep earlier.
Next to us sat a young man sipping a beer, reading a novel, with a dachshund sitting on his lap. If anything could solidify “Glasgow is a City for us” – this was it! Where else can you read a book by candlelight by a fire, sip a beer in the company of others outside your home, with your dog on your lap?!
Inn Deep – Part II
We decided to end our night at our favourite bar of the day: Inn Deep. It was crowded and lit in neon lights when we arrived at 10pm. They had poetry open mic going strong with an enthusiastic crowd – Student Poetry Slam. We joined a table of welcoming young people just as the set ended to a round of applause and hollers.
End of the Day
By the end of our first day in Scotland, both Matt and I proclaimed Glasgow as one of our favourite cities – it and Berlin are high on our list of Top Cities to Live in One Day. It is so walkable, friendly, and chill! We love it! Plus it has all the creature comforts of a big city – yay!
Breakfast at the Agyll Western
We slept in until 8am. When we headed down to the dining room at the Argyll Western Hotel, we were greeted with two steaming plates of sausage, bacon, pea meal, blood pudding, eggs, fried mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, and potato scones! They brought us two pots of coffee and a pot of tea for our table too! Wowee!
Makintosh Tea House
We stopped by the Makintosh Tea House on our way to pick up our car rental. It was about half a hour from the hotel. The Tea House was built in 1903 and holds an important place in the design history books. We stepped inside to admire the tea room briefly – it was lovely! Everything was black and cream with accents of green and an occasional dash of burgundy. Reminded me of a jewelry box my mum had.
Sixt Car Rental
A couple people also got there ahead of us for 10am pickup, so we waited for almost half a hour. One of the couples had a young baby and I was amused that the car rental company supplied them with a Sixt branded car seat! Everyone got an Audi which was also entertaining as Audi is a total luxury back home!
Once we finally got to the front desk, they asked for our passports which we didn’t have on us. So, we had to take an Uber-taxi back to our hotel as we had to check out by 11am. Our plan had been to drive back to the hotel with our car to pick up the bags – that plan was out the window!
The Uber driver arrived in what looked like a regular city taxi. It was pretty triply riding in the back witnessing driving on the opposite side of the road with a taxi driver’s confidence behind the wheel!
We checked out of our hotel and took another Uber back to the car rental. There were no Audi’s left when we arrived, but we were upgraded to an automatic BMV! It had heated seats and a built-in navigation system – both of which proved very handy.
Getting in the car on the opposite side we are used to back home we pretty triply – and driving with traffic coming at you was pretty scary! But without much error, we soon found ourselves on the highway out of Glasgow.
Glencoe, here we come!