Earlier this month Gaz and I were ridiculously excited to be invited to Glasgow for a two night stay with Campanile hotels, child free! As parents to four children, it’s an opportunity we took with both hands and, with the madness of Christmas just around the corner, it felt like the perfect break to take some time for ourselves and explore a city we have been desperate to visit for such a long time.
Just two and a half hours by train from Preston to Glasgow Central Station, we then took a low level train to the Scottish Exhibition Centre before a short walk across to the Campanile Hotel.
Despite arriving early the receptionist checked our room and, seeing that was ready, handed over our keys so we could drop our cases before going back into Glasgow to explore. The room was simple but comfortable, with adequate space for the two of us, but most importantly, was spotlessly clean.
With an en-suite, television, tea and coffee facilities, and a hairdryer, the room had everything we needed for a weekend break. For those wanting to visit a city location on a budget, Campanile can offer exactly that.
Not wanting to waste a minute of our child-free break, we dumped our bags and made our way back over to the station. The great thing about the hotel being so close to the Scottish Exhibition Centre and The Hydro, a major Scottish arena, is that you can take advantage of the fully covered walkway leading right back to the station. It is lit after dark, a welcome shelter in wet weather, and even has a cycle path running down one side.
Stepping into the centre of Glasgow I was amazed at how big the city is with swarms of people on the streets, music playing, lights twinkling, and the smell of Christmas in the air. We had been told that St Enoch’s square was home to some of the best Christmas markets and, despite having been to some lovely markets throughout the UK, I have to agree that Scotland certainly knows how to do Christmas!
Every stall had something different to offer with so many gorgeous hand made crafts and some really fun stocking fillers for the children. It was lovely to just take our time and wander around together without having to say “Don’t touch!”, “No you can’t have that!” or take the children to the toilet every two minutes!
It’s a good job we didn’t have the kids with us to be honest or they’d have bankrupted me on every food stall. From delicious cookies and freshly baked waffles, to sugar crepes and pick and mix sweets, had we not have travelled by train I think I’d have stocked up for Christmas!
Being gluten free and having recently discovered I have a severe allergy to nuts, I was super nervous about eating on the markets and yet I was amazed just how thorough each stall was with a full allergen menu which was hugely reassuring.
Both Gaz and I went for Chinese which we both declared to be the best Chinese chicken we’ve ever tasted – a bold statement, I know! I guess everything tastes better in the open air.
Of course there were several beer stalls and pop up bars and Gaz was more than happy with his first pint of many. With Christmas carols playing around us, huddled up beneath the warmth of a patio heater, it was the perfect start to our weekend.
For those who love to shop, St Enoch’s shopping centre has recently undergone a renovation and has some fantastic shops and restaurants. It was the perfect opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and coincidentally, with it being Black Friday, we got some real bargains!
New this year is Hamleys toy store which is the most fun to wander around, even without the children! It’s the kind of shop which always makes me revert back to being a child and although we didn’t buy anything, we got plenty ideas of gifts for the children which I later ordered on-line.
Outdoors along the main shopping streets, the Christmas decorations are amazing! Coming from a small town with just a few string lights, I am always fascinated by how extravagant the Christmas lights are in the city, and at times it felt as though we had landed in the middle of our own Christmas movie.
After a long day exploring we made our way back to the hotel and were met by the bright lights of the Scottish Exhibition Centre and The Hydro. With Lauren Hill playing at The Hydro there was a huge crowd of people gathering outside and yet back in the hotel, you would never have known that a major concert was happening just across the road. For anyone attending The Hydro, the Campanile could not be any better positioned!
We had already booked our dinner reservation in the hotel restaurant and were looking forward to seeing what they had to offer. The menu wasn’t extensive but it does have some great dishes on and Gaz and I chose french onion soup, which was absolutely delicious!
For our mains we both went with the waiter’s recommendation – the cheese and bacon burger, which came in a brioche bun, coated in a charcoal glaze to give it an unusual black appearance. With being gluten free I mine without the bun but Gaz said the bread had a smoky flavour and I think it’s great when chefs are experimental with classic dishes. The portion sizes were huge and although the dessert menu looked delicious, we were both way too full to even attempt one!
It’s funny how, in the days before kids, a weekend away would have meant a quick change of clothes after dinner before going out for drinks til the early hours. Instead Gaz and I went back to the room, watched the telly, and then milked every single second of a good nights sleep!!
The following day we went down for breakfast where there was both continental and cooked options. We both went for a full English which was tasty but wasn’t very warm, something which had been rectified the following day and was piping hot. The Campanile pride themselves on their range of coffees, teas and hot chocolates and I have to say their Creamy Hot Chocolate was one of the best I had tasted.
I always think that the best way to see a city is to go on a guided bus tour, that way you can be sure to see all the sights, learn all about the history, and hop on and off at places of interest. The City Sightseeing tour starts at George Square and costs £14 for a one day ticket or £15 for two days.
Despite the cold and rain, we decided to sit on the open top deck of the bus which is a great way to really appreciate the view. It was only as the tour started that I realised when you look past the Christmas lights and the busy shopping streets, the architecture in Glasgow is just beautiful!
One of the most surprising, and utterly amazing, things about the streets of Glasgow is the wall art, all done by incredibly talented local artists. Started in 2008, the murals have expanded over the last decade to rejuvenate streets and revitalise buildings and vacant sites that look a little tired, and reincarnate them as beautiful pieces of public street art.
As we approached Riverside Museum, Glasgow’s award-winning transport museum with over 3,000 objects on display, we hopped off the bus for a flying visit. The outside of the museum is so impressive, which it should be given it cost a whopping £74,000,000 to build!
Free to enter, as all National museums in Scotland are, the museum has the most amazing selection of transport to look at – from cars to steam trains, bicycles to motorbikes. My initial reaction was just how much the children would love it, especially Harry who is obsessed with any form of vehicle!
With the next bus passing by just an hour later, we had to rush through the displays and yet with the museum just a fifteen minute walk along the river from the Campanile hotel, we returned the following morning for another visit.
At the back of the museum you can board the Tall Ship and go down into the cabins which was really interesting. It made me determined to get another visit to Glasgow in the diary for the six of us!
Back on the bus we enjoyed the views before jumping off at the stop closest to the Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1817 by Thomas Hopkirk, a distinguished Glasgow botanist, the Botanic Gardens are a popular tourist attraction in Glasgow with indoor and outdoor displays as well as a tea room.
The gardens are lovely although I imagine in the spring, when the flowers are all in bloom, they would be beautiful. Although they were nice and peaceful, and a welcome shelter from the rain, we didn’t get to stay long as we wanted to explore as much as possible!
We decided to walk to our next stop, passing various monuments and points of interest, and of course taking lots of photos. Glasgow is a dream for photographers with something to see on every corner!
The barman at Campanile had recommended we pop by Ashton Lane at some point during the day, a small cobbled street off Buyers Road, with bars, restaurants and even an old cinema down there. He told us that of an evening the lane was a popular spot for a night out and with the pretty fairy lights hung side to side, I can imagine it’s swarming!
Our next stop was Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, opened in 1901 and a from favourite with local people and tourists. With 22 galleries you can discover everything from art to animals, Ancient Egypt to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and so much more. And we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves!
The building itself is unlike any museum I’ve ever visited, and exhibitions aside, it’s worth a visit just to see the interior with it’s high arched ceilings and extravagant chandeliers.
Downstairs there is the most amazing animal exhibition which my children would go crazy for, with elephants and giraffes, monkeys and tigers, looking even more spectacular in such a grand setting. From just that room alone I declared it my favourite museum we have ever been to, and I felt exactly the same way by the time that we left.
Over in the Egyptian display the exhibitions were equally as impressive and, with the children learning about Egypt in school this term, it would have been the perfect way to really help them with their understanding of Ancient Egypt.
We spent a couple of hours exploring the museum, marvelling at the huge aeroplane hanging from the ceiling, the randomness Elvis, and the most amazing display of heads above us.
I also knew that Harry would have gone crazy to see the dinosaur bones and I did feel a pang of guilt that we hadn’t brought the children. I guess even when you know they are having the time of their lives with the grandparents, that Mum guilt is strong!!
Upstairs the exhibitions continued and I honestly could have stayed there all day reading all of the information signs, the sculptures, stained glass, and art displays. It’s somewhere that, should I live locally, I would pop in each time that I passed, enjoying the displays just as much as I did the last time, and as we left I knew undoubtedly that we would be back with the children on our next trip north.
Back on the tour bus we gave ourselves a much needed break and enjoyed the whole 22 stops again without getting off. It was lovely to see Glasgow by night, and the commentary about the history of Glasgow was fascinating.
We finally got off again at the Gallery of Modern Art which again was free to enter although perhaps, with hindsight, not really our kind of thing! Perhaps I’m just not educated enough to find modern art interesting to look at, but we did have a good giggle walking around the museum and pretending to have half a clue what we were looking at!
We didn’t stop long but to either side of the museum are the most gorgeous streets, with canopies of light the whole way across, and there are countless restaurants and bars tucked away. I think that’s one of the things I love the most about Glasgow, that even with the city tour and two days of exploring, there was still so much hidden away that we didn’t get to see, and I don’t think I would ever tire of exploring!
Despite the many, many beautiful restaurants on every corner, Gaz and I always find ourselves gravitating to our old favourite – TGI’s. I think after a full day seeing the sights, both of us were in desperate need of a cold drink and a filling meal.
We did have plans to hit a few of the bars with it being our last night and yet honestly, by the time we had eaten and the tiredness kicked in, we were both more than happy to head back to the hotel and enjoy our final chance of some peace and quiet.
The following day as we boarded the train home it felt as though we had been away for far longer with how much we had managed to cram into our time there. Glasgow is undoubtedly one of the most welcoming, interesting, and beautiful cities I have ever visited and I feel as though not only did Gaz and I get to enjoy some much needed quality time together, but we also broadened our horizons.
I have previously been put off staying in large cities, worried that I would feel on edge, that it would all be very commercialised, that hotel rooms would be extortionate. And actually, I felt completely at ease, it was wonderfully historic, and with hotels like Campanile you can stay in prime locations without it breaking the bank. Not only will we be returning to Glasgow, but I know that we will definitely be staying with Campanile for future trips too.
** We were invited to stay at Campanile Glasgow for the purpose of our review, inclusive of food and travel. All words and opinions are my own. **