FROM the outside, Glasgow’s tallest hotel is as likely to be praised for its architecture as one of the city’s last remaining 1960s high rises.
But the Hilton, which towers over William Street, offers a five-star refuge to anyone who ventures inside its dull, modern facade.
Built next to the M8 in the financial district, its location is not about beauty but convenience. It is in easy reach of the city centre on foot or by taxi for visitors to any of the events throughout the year that showcase the city’s talent, history and cultural attractions. And next year there will be even more to see, as Glasgow plays host to the Commonwealth Games.
Scotland’s biggest city is also renowned for being one of the friendliest in the UK, and staff at the Hilton certainly live up to that reputation well.
WINING AND DINING
The dinner buffet offers a variety of dishes mixing Scottish cuisine with international cooking, from fresh smoked salmon starters to tasty curries and a delicious citron tart for dessert. The wine waiter is friendly and tables are well spaced, though the dining room itself is nothing special and the background music is a bit bland.
Breakfast – in the same room and also buffet-style – is a sekection of standard cooked fare plus an appealing array of fruit, yoghurt, bread for toast and pastries.
With only about ten minutes until the end of service, staff are starting to clear up but there is no sense of trying to hurry the remaining guests and I overhear a chef cheerily agreeing to cook a poached egg for someone who apologises for being a bit late.
It takes a few tries to get through on the phone to room service late one afternoon, but once I’ve ordered my club sandwich and chips the meal arrives within the promised half-hour and tastes fine.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE
Rooms start from £119 per night, including breakfast, while a three-course dinner costs from £21.50.
You probably wouldn’t choose a motorway view but it’s strangely soothing watching the traffic go by when you can hardly hear a sound.
The beds are comfortable, the colour scheme a modern mix of muted browns and reds with large black and white architectural photographs. The power shower in the bathroom is great for blasting you awake in the morning.
We couldn’t open the minibar, but as we didn’t want to buy anything and the hotel charges for putting your own drinks inside it, we didn’t bother asking for help.
There didn’t seem to be a hotel guide in the room either, but staff were happy to provide information about dinner or checkout times when asked.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
You don’t even have to leave the hotel for a perfect, lazy day if you like spa treatments: a relaxing hot stone aromatherapy massage (from £50) is wonderful, especially during the winter months.
Unlike many hotel pools, the one here is big enough for swimming lengths. When I visit, there is only a handful of other people in the water, the sauna and jacuzzi.
Outside, the city has plenty of events and attractions to keep guests entertained at any time of year. There’s something for everyone, with music at some great venues, as well as a wealth of culture in its renowned galleries and museums and international sporting events.
The complimentary plate of fruit includes the biggest strawberries I’ve ever seen – though, on closer inspection, a few have seen better days.
The Connich bar serves whisky-tasting slates, which sound tempting even to someone who has yet to learn to love the water of life – including ten-year-old Talisker “seduced with dark chocolate”.
On the morning we are due to check out, the hotel is evacuated. As we hurry down the stairs and gather at the front door, staff don’t seem to know what is happening and, after waiting around for about ten minutes, we have to ask a nearby waitress in order to find out that it is a false alarm and we can return to our room to pick up our things.
Aside from this, service is very good and the Hilton provides a relaxing haven in the centre of Glasgow.
• The Hilton, 1 William Street, Glasgow (0141-204 5555, www.hilton.com)