Scotland: Glowing Glasgow

By Ann Newbery

A treasure trove of rare and unusual delights - from kitsch to fine art - await you at Kelvingrove. Photo / Supplied
A treasure trove of rare and unusual delights - from kitsch to fine art - await you at Kelvingrove. Photo / Supplied

Once notorious for slums, industrial grime and hard-drinking locals, Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and the third most populous in Britain, has staged a whopper of a comeback.

Heavy investment in the arts over the past two decades is reaping dividends, regenerating dead urban areas and giving the city a rich cultural life. Here are some ways to spend your time.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Argyle St

If it were up to me, all museums would be as daftly eccentric and entertaining as Kelvingrove. A former gloomy Victorian Gothic pile now given an impressive makeover, it boasts one of the finest civic collections in Europe, from French art to the Glasgow colourists, and houses one of the world's top three collections of rare arms and armour.

But the real delight here - apart from the fact that it's free - is that at every turn you should expect the unexpected.

Dinosaurs, kitsch pop art, silverware, stuffed wildlife, fine art and Doctor Who exhibitions share close proximity - and all are displayed with a charming, often humorous touch.

The fact that Kelvingrove was packed with happily engaged families during my visit was surely the best sign that its revamp is on the right track.

Glasgow School Of Art
167 Renfrew St

With its soaring windows, elegant ironwork, and nature motifs, architect, designer and artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th-century European architecture. Graduates read like a who's who of the modern art world.

As 2009 marks the centenary of this striking building - standing opposite a vile block of concrete monstrosities that serve as the school's art departments - there is a series of exhibitions, tours, talks and activities, here and at the city's other Mackintosh venues. Just remember you will have to book to tour the hallowed corridors of the GSA as it is a working school.

Glengoyne Distillery
Dumgoyne

Situated in a wooded valley in the southern Highlands, close to a small river that flows into the famous Loch Lomond, Glengoyne Distillery - just 30 minutes outside Glasgow - has been called Scotland's most beautiful distillery, and not without reason.

In operation for almost 200 years, the folks here produce 10-year-old single malt scotch whisky - the "water of life" - that's been known to bring a tear to the eye.

If the fermenting process fails to capture your imagination, just wait for the opportunity to play with the test tubes and concoct your very own blend. Slainte Mhath (good health).

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Emirates flies three times daily from Auckland to Dubai, departing late afternoon, with direct connections to its daily Dubai-Glasgow flight, arriving at 12.35pm the following day (local time).

Where to eat: The Ubiquitous Chip Restaurant, 12 Ashton Lane

Located in the heart of Glasgow's upmarket West End, Ashton Lane is a pretty cobbled mews is filled with small restaurants, bars and brasseries. The Chip, as it is affectionately known, is in an enclosed courtyard with green vines creeping up much of the award-decorated walls. It opened its doors in 1971, making its name with a then-revolutionary idea - a modern-take on Scottish cuisine using the finest local materials. Venison and vegetarian haggis, Aberdeen Angus, famous Caledonian oatmeal icecream - and some 150 malt whiskies - are just some of the delights you'll see on the menu. Delish.

Michael Caines Restaurant at ABode Glasgow, 129 Bath Street

The name of owner Michael Caine had been tossed around plenty before I even set foot across the door of this boutique city hotel's fine dining establishment. No gourmand me, imagine my surprise to discover the references weren't to the Cockney Oscar winner but to a one-armed Michelin-starred chef with an extra "s" to his surname. All the dishes are exquisite and mouthwatering, although given the surroundings the experience is more suited for a special dress-up evening out.

Ann Newbery travelled to Scotland as a guest of Emirates and VisitBritain.

- Herald on Sunday

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