Visited nearly 40 countries, nearly 27 years old (gulp), UK born, bred and resident and yet I had never been to Scotland. A shocking and embarrassing fact. So when I got an invite last week to a bloggers event that Thistle Hotels were holding in Glasgow I couldn’t say no. I am so glad I didn’t because after just 4 and a half hours on a super speedy and relatively comfy (thank you free upgrade to First class) journey on a Virgin train, I found myself immersed in vintage shops and quirky bars full of friendly Glaswegians.
Every bar we entered had some kind of unusual design or quirky activity that would have deemed the venue over crowded and over priced in London. Likewise many of the shops were full of original designs and unique trinkets at irresistibly modest prices. Enhancing the whole experience is the people. Easy to approach, full of good advice and natural charm; not only did the Glaswegians I met make me feel extremely welcome but I wouldn’t have discovered half of the cool places below without their insider advice.
Here are my top picks for quirky eats, drinks and shops in Glasgow:
This is the very first bar I walked into in Glasgow and boy was it a good start. Above a thumping nightclub in a Bath Street townhouse, Lucky 7 is like a trendy timewarp. Candle lighting, mismatched vintage furniture and cushioned seats in bay windows provide the perfect low-key backdrop to watch the Glasgow revellers pass by. On a coffee table sits coloured wool and knitting needles – I added a few lines of dodgy stitches to a garment someone else had previously begun. As a beverage I plumped for the infamous Scottish soft drink Irn Bru with a generous dash of vodka – something which I am told is a popular drink in Glasgow – and I certainly enjoyed it.
By day Lucky 7 hosts the pop up vintage shop – Postcard Limited. Pretty dresses, dainty bags and teapot necklaces line the tables. You can shop, play scrabble, take up knitting and sip an Irn Bru – what more could you ask for!
Opposite Lucky 7 are the Tea Rooms. Here you can enjoy an afternoon tea of home-made cakes served on mismatched china whilst seated in mismatched chairs. A deliciously quirky afternoon delight.
I heard of this bar via someone on twitter who recommended their cocktails – it was a spot on tip (thank you Scottish Emma!). This rabbits warren of a bar contains different rooms for different moods, each with their own style and music. My favourite spot was on the mezzanine level overlooking the dance floor where you can sit in giant egg swings hanging from the ceiling. Just don’t spin in them, the bouncer will tell you off!
In the student hub of the West End almost every doorway takes you through to a cool bar or funky shop. My absolute favourite of the West End venues is the Hillhead Bookclub. The interior looks like a converted concert hall; a dramatic setting of ornate cornering and vaulted ceilings. A mezzanine level borders the 4 sides of the venue and in one corner of this lives a cage where boys play nintendo games and on the other side of the venue is a cage for ping pong tournaments. The hidden upstairs bar is less busy than the main one downstairs and there is even a snug made of cushions you can settle into in one of the windows.
On sunday the bookclub hosts a ‘Granny would be proud‘ vintage sale. The upper mezzanine level becomes full of stalls selling vintage clothes, trinkets and home-made cupcakes. I fell in love with a stand selling soy candles in china cups and saucers – you wouldn’t find a home-made present like that for £7.50 in London!
Oran Mor is a restaurant/pub/theatre in a church. Yes, a church, with parties in the spire and punters sitting on pews. This multi functional venue has the tag line; a play, a pie and a pint. I’m in.
The funky lady running Postcard Ltd told me I must check out Ashton Lane and she was right. Postcard Ltd pop up on this cobbled West End street on a sunday along with other unique stall holders like a man that makes cake stands out of vinyl records – so cool! Late night venues like The Loft at the Grosvenor Cafe become flea markets on the weekend and hidden among arcades along the street are more vintage and trendy designer retailers like La La Land. La La Land have an unusually large selection of items depicting moustaches, from greetings cards to necklaces, perfect presents for movember mavericks.
I could go on and on about the great vintage shops in Glasgow but in the interest of brevity I will simply give honourable mentions to; Vintage Guru, Watermelon and Starry Starry Night in the West End. Another place you must check out if you are a fan of old-fashioned books (i.e those on paper as opposed to a Kindle) is the larger than most and extremely well priced Oxfam Book store on Byres Road. I got lost in there for quite a while!
Combining my two favourite food types this restaurant specialises in Italian Tapas! A great excuse to order all your favourite dishes at once, Spuntini recommend you order at least 3 per person, meaning you have full permission to order pizza, meatballs and lasagne in just one sitting.
The bars and shops of Glasgow remind of Shoreditch in London; except there is no cover charge on the doors, pints are never more than £3 and sales staff are über friendly rather than pretentious. I’m a huge fan of the scene in Shoreditch but I much prefer its cheaper and friendlier version in Scotland!
Huge thanks to the Thistle Hotel Glasgow for hosting me this weekend. Located 3 mins from Lucky 7 on Bath Street and 2 mins from the subway system which takes you to Hillhead, it’s perfectly located for all the above activities. Thanks also to Red Spotted Hanky (they sell cheap train tickets online and offer a loyalty points scheme) who provided the train ticket to get me there in style!