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The Mail checks in to Glasgow’s poshest hotel, which boasts a labyrinthine luxury spa, gloriously stately rooms and ‘staff that actually care about the guests… ‘


Even in February, Glasgow has a whip-fast vibe and the city moves at pace. Maybe it’s the wind blasting up the Clyde that gives an energy, but it’s more likely the posters on buses and hoardings have the answer: People make Glasgow.

So upbeat and easy to engage with are they, that my nine-year-old daughter and I agree that what makes the difference between a good and a great trip to Glasgow is indeed the people of Glasgow.

It’s taken me years to check out this city with edge – the street-wise younger sibling to the slightly twee, traditional Edinburgh. It was worth the wait.

And if I’d waited this long then we’d bypass the centre’s budget hotels (Travelodge and Novotel) and unpack in Glasgow’s finest.

Edinburgh boasts swish hotels such as Gleneagles Townhouse, and my favourite, the high-gloss Virgin hotel, plus plenty of robust offerings such as The Balmoral and The Scotsman. In Glasgow there’s really only one hotel that waves jazz hands above the rest – the 100-room Kimpton Blythswood Square.

The Mail's Sarah Hartley checked in to Glasgow's Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel (above), located in a 'pristine Georgian garden square' that used to be a red light district

The Mail’s Sarah Hartley checked in to Glasgow’s Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel (above), located in a ‘pristine Georgian garden square’ that used to be a red light district

'Step inside the Kimpton and it's the staff who steal the show,' writes Sarah

‘Step inside the Kimpton and it’s the staff who steal the show,’ writes Sarah

Not so long ago, Blythswood Square was a red-light district. It’s a real stretch of the imagination today given this pristine Georgian garden square is lined with expensively restored residential properties and offices and is now home to a luxury hotel face-off, with the Kimpton on one side and on the other, new contender the Dakota, which is lavish enough, but doesn’t do old-school sophistication.

Usually, I’d be intrigued by the hotel itself first, the actual fabric of the building, but step inside the Kimpton and it’s the staff who steal the show.

You’ll be greeted by Chuck the charming concierge, a local chap of vintage years and a good barometer of the team. Just like The Goring Hotel in London, and the Gainsborough Bath Spa, it’s the staff who infuse the Kimpton with a lively atmosphere you’ll want to bottle and take home as a souvenir.

Post-pandemic so much criticism has been hurled at young, inexperienced hospitality workers for not being up to scratch or lacking the joie de vivre that guests expect (I’m guilty as charged). Yet from the knowledgeable waiters in the restaurant to the front of house team and bar staff, nothing was too much trouble. Each person took an actual interest in guests (imagine!) and they operated with confidence.

But let’s wheel back to the light and bright lobby where two Brompton bikes plus maps are available for exploring. Fitness alert! If you hadn’t taken note on your way to the hotel, let’s just say so steep are the hills of Glasgow they are often used by Hollywood to portray the streets of San Francisco – so just make sure you’re match fit.

Two Art Deco alcoves are where guests mingle with cocktails at 4pm each afternoon if they aren’t lounging in the subterranean spa (more of which later).

These two Art Deco alcoves 'are where guests mingle with cocktails at 4pm each afternoon if they aren't lounging in the subterranean spa'

These two Art Deco alcoves ‘are where guests mingle with cocktails at 4pm each afternoon if they aren’t lounging in the subterranean spa’

The bedrooms at the Kimpton feature high ceilings and trays of make-your-own cocktails

The bedrooms at the Kimpton feature high ceilings and trays of make-your-own cocktails

Take a sweeping staircase up to the Salon and you’ll find a grand space that takes up a vast part of the first floor with a colonnade of white pillars over parquet flooring, with soft furnishings of charcoal tweeds and heather velvets. There are sofas in front of the fireplace and board games on the tables so if you are a gin fan – Glasgow gin is wonderfully dry (although not as dry as Plymouth gin) there’s no better spot to try one and gaze out of the ceiling-to-floor windows or tuck into a good book.

However, if you’re looking for a hotel with intimate lounges and nooks, this isn’t it – the Kimpton is not cosy like a Pig hotel. It is an enormous space, so you’ll be settling down to read in a stately home atmosphere.

Our double-aspect corner room – with high ceilings of course – looked over the square and was big enough to invite friends in for aperitifs. White blinds kept out the glare of sun and thick blackout grey tweed curtains kept out any chills. A rather lovely touch was a tray of make-your-own cocktails with gin and vodka, two salt-rimmed cocktail glasses plus ice bucket.

If you're looking for a hotel with intimate lounges and nooks, writes Sarah, this isn't it ¿ the Kimpton is not cosy like a Pig hotel

If you’re looking for a hotel with intimate lounges and nooks, writes Sarah, this isn’t it – the Kimpton is not cosy like a Pig hotel

Sarah's double-aspect corner room

Sarah’s double-aspect corner room

We didn’t need to waste time trying to work out the lighting – the switches were either on or off (bravo!), whether it was to the entrance, the desk lamp or the standard lamp.

I’m partial to a marble bathroom and this one was wraparound chocolate Labrador marble, which gave a suitably decadent feel. The Rainbow Bar products were in giant recyclable bottles – great quality and I’m sure I’m not the first guest to be quite tempted by the note that tells guests they can ring reception if they’ve forgotten anything from curling tongs and hair rollers to a yoga mat and anti-static spray. And if it’s not on the list they’ll try and ‘grab it for you’. What a service.

My daughter was able to lounge in dressing gown and ginormous slippers on the sofa at the end of the bed (also warm grey fabric) and watch the big screen. Having finished a project on the Romans she fell in love with the room’s plaster Doric columns with gold leaf flourishes at the top.

It wouldn’t have been a compromise to order room service: roasted squash agnolotti, black trumpet mushrooms and crispy sage anyone? Or do you fancy a salmon and prawn burger?

But we headed downstairs to check out the Kimpton scene, where lights are dimmed at night so glamour slinks into the bar and restaurant.

It’s so good to see a hotel buzzing with non-residents piling out of taxis and into the hotel. Of course, there were men who’d made minimal effort attire-wise, knocking back negronis, but women in long dresses and glittery sandals elevated the mood.

We tucked ourselves into a semi-circular booth with marble table in the restaurant, mesmerised by the open kitchen, a carefully choreographed arena of chefs executing precision amid sizzles and steam and the odd ‘yes chef!’

It says on the menu how to pronounce seafood restaurant IASG (‘ee-usk’), meaning ‘fish’ in Gaelic. The sustainable Scottish seafood menu with Shetland mussels, plaice on the bone, red gurnard and scallops will have pescetarians salivating. I went for soft-shell crab with dashi mayo, prettily adorned with ribbons of crispy seaweed salad and preserved lemon, but pinch some of my daughter’s delicious fish and chips from the ‘wee ones’ menu. She’s a foodie and this, she declared, is the best fish and chips ever. Generous portions saw me tuck into another sensational starter instead of a main: the lobster and prawn ravioli with thermidor sauce. And we couldn’t resist a side of fried new potatoes just to try the seaweed mayo.

The sea décor theme is cleverly subtle – from giant light shades like lobster pots to the long bar covered in giant iridescent turquoise fish scales, while above the bar are perhaps 100 or more crystal decanters of various shapes and ages.

Plenty of pot plants keep the place en trend and white shutters keep morning sunlight out at breakfast in the same restaurant. This feast is masterminded by Roberto from Tenerife, who was a whirlwind of organisation – looking after parties from Japan, the US and a few like us, from south of the border.

It took a couple of sweeps of the buffet to take in the array of juices, breads, pastries and the hot fare, including haggis, black pudding and local sausages. You could also pick one item ‘from the kitchen’ and the organic porridge with heather honey, berry compote, fig, pistachio, maple and cinnamon was a such a picture and so simply done, we said we’d try to make it just like that at home.

Guests at the Kimpton can make use of the labyrinthine subterranean spa ahead of non-residents between 7.30-9.30 am and 5-8pm in the evening

Guests at the Kimpton can make use of the labyrinthine subterranean spa ahead of non-residents between 7.30-9.30 am and 5-8pm in the evening

You won't have to ask for anything twice at the Kimpton, declares Sarah - 'the staff are on it'

You won’t have to ask for anything twice at the Kimpton, declares Sarah – ‘the staff are on it’

They know how to make a decent strong macchiato here too and kept them coming. Not bad for £23 per person.

Guests at the Kimpton can make use of the spa ahead of non-residents between 7.30-9.30 am and 5-8pm in the evening – perfect for a wake-up and wind-down steam and sauna.

Ignore the website, which makes the spa look teeny. It’s a labyrinthine subterranean hub of treatment rooms, café, a fabulous therapy pool, steam, sauna and drum roll, Scotland’s first (world first?) snow room. After a scorching session in the sauna step inside this cabin with an alpine scene projected on the wall and douse yourself from a bucket of real Scottish snow…

TRAVEL FACTS 

Sarah was hosted by Kimpton Blythswood Square Hotel, where rooms start from around £172 per night.

Visit www.kimptonblythswoodsquare.com

PROS: You won’t have to ask for anything twice – the team here are on it. The restaurant is airy and capacious so you’ll never feel you’re sharing your meal and conversation with other guests. Kids under 12 stay free.

CONS: I was travelling solo with my young daughter, but there was no baby-sitting service so I could not leave her for an hour while I had a spa treatment. So I didn’t. And the spa does not allow children – even when accompanied by an adult.

Rating out of 5: 4.5 (I would have loved that massage or a dip in the pool).



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