The old heart of Glasgow is beating hard and fast again… The marbled, utterly palatial Scottish Automobile Club HQ has become one of the most talked-about modern hotels in Europe, impeccably dressed-up with custom-fashioned charcoal grey Harris Tweed furniture and accessories and plum accents. The upstairs bar area, with its white gilt-topped columns, is as peaceful as it is grand. There’s old school glamour in abundance here, with a sweeping staircase, crystal chandeliers and an imposing façade, but much of the new interior is also boldly modern, handsome and markedly masculine.
It’s dead central – so it’s perfect for shoppers heading to Sauchiehall Street, adventurous eaters visiting the Merchant City, and late-nighters off to the Sub Club (we fell into the latter category, visiting for a one of their now sadly rare Optimo club nights), though be aware your sleep may be disturbed by some noisy post-nightclub banter from outside the hotel – and its restaurant, with crimson-fringed lampshades installed in bawdy homage to the Square’s enduring reputation as a red light district, has become quite the destination. You could spend a small fortune on the mod-Scot a la carte menu (there’s a £40 10oz fillet steak) or you could have three courses for £20 from the set ‘Market Menu’. We opted for the more offbeat dishes from the ‘contemporary’ menu, whose ingredients are gathered largely from local producers – lamp, scallops, beef – and which features familiar textures/styles given a 21st century twist (parsley porridge with crispy artichokes, salsify and hazelnut milk). We loved the marinated foie gras cremeux with hibiscus-Cabernet jelly, rye crisps and Bramley apple.
More than a hotel, Blythswood is a grand statement about modern Scotland. Kitted out by Glasgow’s Graven Images – the coolest design company in Europe – most of its textiles have been woven by Harris Tweed Hebrides, with angular and contemporary, but impressively plush furnishings. Rooms are on the immense side, with neat direct-plug-in facilities for iPods and very sexy black marbled bathtubs for two: Blythswood is the kind of place that is business-sleek during the week, but also a magnet for Comme-clad locals looking for the most luxe of dirty weekends. The Penthouse Suite has its own private lift with rooftop terrace, bar, kitchenette and dining room and is the most glamorous hotel room in the city.
High-as-a-kite design aside, the basement spa – dark and sexy, with subtle thistle motifs – is the big draw. More than a little sci-fi, bathed in tranquil coloured light, it has the loveliest and most unusual set of treatment rooms I’ve found in Scotland. Treatments use Anne Sémonin and ila products. Monthly membership for the pool and gym is highly prized as well as priced (£500 joining fee and £125 a month, as of 2012). With 10,000 square feet of wet areas and treatment spaces, its Scottishness runs from product to attitude: you can bathe in Highland seaweed and then spend the rest of the day in the architecturally stunning Thermal Experience spaces – though to my surprise, hotel guests are charged for access to the spa’s Thermal Experiences between 9am and 6pm. “It’s designed to be social,” explains the spa manager. “Glaswegians love to gossip.” Blythswood Square – a talking point in more ways than one.
Blythswood Square, 11 Blythswood Square, Glasgow, G2 4AD
0141 248 8888; blythswoodsquare.com