We’d come to Glasgow to follow our passion for Charles Rennie Macintosh’s architecture and design, so a hotel only a five-minute walk from Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street seemed a natural. It turned out to be a better choice than we could have imagined. Location, it turned out, wasn’t the hotel’s only perfection.
Our room was large and lovely, with big windows letting in lots of light, and a large window connecting to the black marble bathroom made it seem even more spacious. I was immediately drawn by the colors – black and white, with dark purple upholstery and bronze silk pillows.
Above headboard of our king-size bed was a blown-up photo of the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, which once began at the hotel’s front door. That’s when the building was the Automobile Club of Scotland, a venerable institution whose memorabilia is preserved in the hotel (racing fans should ask to see the souvenirs and framed photographs). Throughout the hotel are blown-up photos of auto races and events, some novel settings such as inside the overhead lampshades in the dining room.
The closets were large, with plenty of hangers, a large safe, iron and ironing board. Big throw pillows made the cushy sofa at the foot of the bed a pleasant place to sit in front of the large flat-screen tv. A good-sized desk with outlets doubled as a bed stand at one side of the bed.
Here and above the stand at the bed’s other side, the bedside reading lights are hanging, so it’s not possible to move them closer to shine on a book – one of only two quibbles we had about the room. The other was that I couldn’t find any place in the bathroom to plug in the hair dryer. I looked everywhere. The only place I could find to dry my hair was sitting on the edge of the bed looking at the mirror through the opening between the bedroom and bathroom. Since I was fresh out of the tub, I didn’t want to call for a bellman to show me where the outlet was!
But I managed, and appeared with dry hair at breakfast, which was served in the high-ceilinged dining room. We could have chosen a full Scottish breakfast of Ayrshire back bacon, pork sausages, haggis, black pudding, tattie scone, eggs, grilled tomato and Portobello mushrooms, but opted instead for the lighter continental breakfast buffet. Here we found good granola, fresh and poached fruits, sliced ham, cheeses and smoked salmon.
That lasted us until an early tea, which we took in the Salon, a bright and lovely space above the lobby that overlooks the sedate Blythswood Square from an almost solid wall of windows. Relaxing in comfortable, stylish armchairs after a day on our feet, we ordered a cheese plate and cream tea, with freshly baked apple and sultana scones served with preserves and Devonshire clotted cream. On the cheese plate, I discovered Anster farmhouse cheese from St Andrews, so delicious that it set me off in search of a cheesemonger the next day.
We saw no need to leave the hotel for dinner after our late afternoon spa appointments, and chose the Market Menu in the hotel’s restaurant. We began with a minted soup of pureed fresh peas and a mixed mushroom risotto, creamy and filled with flavor, garnished with pea vine shoots and shaved parmesan. Dinner was off to a delicious start. My perfectly cooked sea bass was served on a bed of finely diced carrot and fennel in a saffron broth. Hake, with a crisp skin and flaky interior was topped with smoked tomato jam and samphire, a delicately flavored green sea vegetable we encountered elsewhere in Scotland. Served with the hake were artichoke hearts and zucchini. We didn’t really have room for desserts, but who could resist “savoury lemon curd ice cream”?
Among the most memorable features of Blythswood Square Hotel is its amiable and helpful staff. I know we’re spoiled. We expect our hotel rooms to be beautifully decorated and supremely comfortable, the spas to pamper us, the restaurant service to be friendly and flawless. But if I were handing out prizes for the best hotel concierge I’ve met, David at Blythswood Square would be in the top contenders. He was everywhere, thinking of everything before we did. When we left to walk to dinner the second evening, he was at the door to hand us an umbrella, because rain was forecast for later. When we asked where to buy local cheeses he advised Mellis, Scotland’s best cheesemonger, and suggested that it was a lovely walk through the park from the museum we’d asked directions to earlier. He advised us that taking a taxi directly to the airport cost the same as taking one to the station and riding the bus. His directions, whether for walking or taking public transport, were flawless, which was important to us because we had a lot of ground to cover in a short time.
He was not alone. The whole staff seemed dedicated to making our stay pleasant. When we had arrived early in the day, before our room was ready, the receptionist heard my husband’s raspy sore-throat voice (we’d walked all over Edinburgh the two previous days in a downpour) and asked the bar tender to make him a hot Scotch toddy and bring me a pot of tea while they expedited having our room readied. When we finished these, the concierge had already sent our luggage to the room.
There is more to tell about this delightful hotel: the spa has been rightly acclaimed as one of the best in Britain. But that’s a story for another time.
Learn more about the Blythswood Square Hotel at www.townhousecompany.com/blythswoodsquare