Scottish Travel Itineraries: Glasgow and the West

The Willow Tea Rooms. Picture: John Devlin
The Willow Tea Rooms. Picture: John Devlin
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THE West of Scotland has a wealth of castles, national parks and beaches just waiting to be explored.

If you are thinking of a holiday in Glasgow, Ayrshire, or elsewhere in the west, take a look at our carefully planned itineraries for ideas about what to do, where to stay and where to eat.

Culzean Castle. Pciture: NTS

Culzean Castle. Pciture: NTS

GLASGOW

As Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow offers visitors a diverse range of places to explore, such as the stylish Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street.

Start off your day with an indulgent breakfast, while gazing at the sublime interior design. Architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of Glasgow’s most famous figures, was the inspiration behind this unique eatery.

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During his collaboration with Kate Cranston at the turn of the century, he designed the spectacular Ingram Street tea room. This tea room was recreated in 1997 by current owner Anne Mulhearn, at her Willow Tea Rooms on Buchanan Street.

While taking in the bright and airy “White Dining Room” or the atmospheric “Chinese Room”, you can sample the hearty Scots porridge, the French toast with Ayrshire bacon, or the full traditional breakfast with black pudding and Lorne sausage.

The Willow Tea Rooms are located on Glasgow’s best shopping street, so after breakfast, you can indulge in a little spree.

The Buchanan Galleries have all the most popular high street brands, while Princes Square is a 19th century fashion heaven. After admiring the mall’s ornate architecture, you can pop in to Ted Baker or Vivienne Westwood to discover the latest trends.

A short bus ride away from Glasgow city centre is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of Glasgow’s top tourist attractions. There are over 8000 objects on display, in 22 themed galleries, with exhibits to suit all tastes and interests.

Art lovers will be enthralled by the Dutch old masters and the French Impressionists, while history buffs will be fascinated by Scotland’s archaeological discoveries. There are also exhibits on Ancient Egypt, weapons, Scottish wildlife, and much more besides.

Less than ten minutes’ walk from the gallery is a Victorian-style café with a whole lot of character. First opened in 1869, and returned to its 19th century origins in 2013, the Kelvingrove Café is the height of European sophistication. With a Grand Café-inspired look, including beautiful floor tiles, Chesterfield booths and brass fittings, anyone who drops in will feel like a Parisian society lady or gentleman. The menu changes with the seasons, so expect a brand new experience each time you visit. Current cocktails include the prosecco concoction Death on the Nile, and the peach-flavoured Venezia.

If you are staying the night in Glasgow, you cannot go wrong with Blythswood Square Hotel.

It is in a convenient central location, and has an award-winning spa. The hotel is a blend of Georgian elegance and modern style, which will make you feel utterly at home. The restaurant, which used to be the Royal Scottish Automobile Club ballroom, is also popular with guests, serving innovative breakfasts and delectable dinners. In the spa, try out the moodily lit hydrotherapy pool, and browse the huge list of luxury treatments.

AYRSHIRE

Staying in Ayr is a truly luxurious experience if you take a room at the Western House Hotel.

This four-star venue is right next to Ayr Racecourse, giving the Jockey Club Restaurant its name. Food is sourced sustainably and locally, with prime Scotch beef, Ayrshire bacon and Perthshire mushrooms among the ingredients used.

The rooms are comfortable and elegant, decorated with gold accents and furnished with four-poster beds.

There are all sorts of historic sites and attractions nearby, including the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Scotland’s most famous poet was born in Alloway in 1759, which is only ten minutes’ drive from the Western House Hotel. Visitors can discover the cottage in which he was born, the memorial and gardens which honour him, and an informative exhibition about his life and works. The Bard’s Bakery and Café is a perfect spot to try out some haggis or sample some scrumptious home baking.

Just 20 minutes by car from Burns’s birthplace is another fantastic historic site, Culzean Castle. Set on a clifftop, this celebrated example of Robert Adam’s architectural skill has a lot to recommend it to visitors.

It is surrounded by Culzean Country Park, which has gardens, woodland and coastline, and is ripe for exploration.

The castle is brim full of treasures, and the adventure play park is ideal for children. There is also a Deer Park with bonus llamas, and a beach for a pleasant afternoon stroll.

If you fancy trying out the local seafood, you can visit MacCallum’s Osyter Bar which is twenty-five minutes’ drive from Ayr, in the seaside town of Troon. After a leisurely walk along Troon beach, you can drop in to the bar for the best fresh fish in the area.

The MacCallum brothers have been in the seafood business for over thirty years, so you can be assured you will be in safe hands.

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ARRAN

The isle of Arran is rich with history and breathtaking landscapes. One place on the island which combines both is Machrie Moor, the home of some magnificent standing stones.

There are six stone circles to be found on the moor, which were built over pre-existing timber circles thousands of years ago. Carbon dating has revealed that one of the original timber circles is around 4000 years old.

Thirty minutes’ drive from the moor is Brodick castle, which dates back to the 13th century. Rare silver, porcelain and portraits are dotted throughout the castle, which was previously used as a summer residence by the Hamilton and Montrose families.

In addition, there are woodland walks, ornamental gardens and a replica Bronze Age round house to find in the Country Park.

For a gastro-pub dinner with a difference, you only need to drive 15 minutes from the castle to reach the Drift Inn at Lamash.

The Inn’s garden overlooks the Holy Isle, and the menu specialises in premium seafood. There are also daily specials and a large selection of beers, whiskies and gins to choose from.

If you want a place to rest your head, look on further than Kilmichael Country House Hotel. Offering five-star rooms and self-catering cottages, this place is a perfect base from which to explore the island. Although it has a grandness about it, with its period furnishings and ornaments, it is also very intimate. The food is as fresh and local as possible, with eggs from the House’s own chickens and ducks.

LOCH LOMOND

Taking a trip to Loch Lomond Shores is surely worth it, because the awe-inspiring landscape is only just the beginning.

There are so many activities on offer that making a choice is almost impossible: a cruise on the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer, a tree-top adventure with Tree-Zone, a gentle game of miniature golf, a bracing walk through the national park, an educational visit to the Sea Life aquarium, and more.

Furthermore, the exquisite Cameron House Hotel is only a thirty minute walk or a five minute drive from the Shores. With its leisure facilities, luxury spa and excellent golf course, you will never be bored.

The soft tartan furnishings and stunning views make the rooms a perfect spot for a rest, and the five restaurants and bars give you tons of options for first class dining. The best of them all is Martin Wishart’s restaurant, which prides itself on its fabulous seasonal menu and Scottish produce. You can sample Orkney scallops, west coast brown crab, grouse and partridge against a gorgeous backdrop of the loch.

BUTE

No visit to the island of Bute would be complete without a trip to Mount Stuart House. This imposing neo-Gothic mansion was a forefront of innovation in the 19th century. It was the first home in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool, and the first in Scotland to have in-built electric light, central heating, telephones and a passenger lift.

Fifteen minutes away by car is the fascinating Bute Museum, which gives visitors an insight into the natural and historical heritage of the island. You can learn about the ancient neolithic artefacts found on Bute, as well as its unique geology, flora and fauna.

You don’t have to look far from the museum for a delicious evening meal. Harry Haw’s is only two minutes walk from Bute Museum, and offers a wide selection of dishes, including a 70s-inspired prawn cocktail, a traditional Scottish Cullen Skink, and a Mediterranean spaghetti with chorizo.

The Bay Glenburn Hotel is also nearby, set above fabulous terraced gardens, and offering a wonderful view of the bay. It is a marvellous Victorian building, grand and ornate. The rooms are spacious and the pinnacle of comfort, and facilities include a relaxed bar and a well-decorated lounge. 200 Voices: find out more about the people who have shaped Scotland