The largest city in Scotland may not be best known for its prettiness, but the terraced houses that surround Kelvingrove Park are impressive and grandiose. 15 Glasgow is one of these buildings, a Victorian townhouse that is large even in comparison to some of the corkers nearby. So where are the screaming gangs of translucently pale, knife-wielders that I had been led to expect by stereotype-peddling southern friends? No bottles of tepid Irn Bru were thrown at us on arrival, nor were we scalded by deep-fried confectionary. In fact, our first 40 minutes of being mildly lost in Glasgow’s city centre was infinitely more pleasant than our morning in Luton airport. And the journey to 15 Glasgow proved one of the easiest airport-to-destination rides I’ve ever had.
Now, the thing is, 15 Glasgow calls itself a bed and breakfast. But, unlike any B&B I have ever stayed in, it is far removed from the last one I stayed in while writing about unemployment and heroin addiction in Rochdale for Vice magazine – but that's a story for another time and place.
On arrival at this stylish stay, we were welcomed by Laura McKenzie, one half of the gracious husband-and-wife pair behind this chic guesthouse. Their son was excitedly readying himself for some professional football training, and while I am usually extremely susceptible to the feeling of awkwardly intruding on people, this interaction was totally relaxed and endearing.
The proportions of 15 are spacious yet cosy, not vacuous and minimal: it’s a cavernous thickly carpeted, chandeliered palace. Original features such as the wooden banister with iron railings, corniced ceilings and stained glass window halfway up the staircase have been enhanced with contemporary flourishes – silver mirrors, a feather-filled sofa and monochrome pieces by Glaswegian artist Hannah Frank on the wall.
Shown to our room we discovered a map waiting, and this was soon being carefully and generously annotated for us with the best places for us to visit. Handy as we had exactly zero idea where we were, or where to go. We were then handed forms for us to mark which of the many breakfast variations we’d like to be carted up four floors to our room the next morning. Then, with perfect timing, we were left alone to collapse in comfort onto the floor/enormous sofa/improbably large bed. I have never been good with measurements, but I’d say our room was half the size of a five-a-side football pitch (that being one of few dimensions I am familiar with), not counting the bathroom.
Close by are Argyle Street’s bars, pubs, and restaurants, including the highly recommended Crabshakk. Our first night has us watching our first-class seafood being cooked up a mere two feet from our faces, just beyond the marble countertop. Crab, oysters, scallops, fish club sandwiches (a great deal more promising than they sound) and icy beers were exactly what was needed in preparation for about six White Russians in Lebowski's down the road. (Had someone invited me to a bar themed on a film, even one as excellent as The Big Lebowski, I would not be enthusiastic. Somehow they’ve pulled it off.) Argyle Street and its side roads are home to tens of great-looking eateries and watering holes including Mother India, a curry house with a seemingly tireless flow of customers. We were soon looking forward to our next meal out.
After staggering back all of about 200 metres to our residence, we took turns to flop about in the gigantic shower like a drunken seal in Water World. Having raided the well-stocked cabinet of DVDs on the half landing we passed out halfway through In the Loop (this is less a critique of the film, more in praise of the comfort of the surroundings).
And so to that breakfast. Delivered in a polite and friendly fashion it was ideal: and we were grateful for the motivation to get out of bed. Glasgow may be a world away from the gritty beast we’d incorrectly envisaged, but on a grey, cold autumn day when you are perched in the middle of the Most Comfortable Bed even talk of an architectural tour of the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh is insufficient enticement to leave it.
Galvanised by a full Scottish, we hauled ourselves out for a wander through the nearby Kelvingrove Park over towards the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery. Its sinister-looking framework tower offers an orienteering aid as you weave up and down the surprisingly steep paths, dodging housewives being drilled by their personal trainers.
We were glad we made it to the Gilbert Scott-designed section of Glasgow University where William Hunter’s bequeathed peculiar collection of pickled amputated body parts and the world’s greatest numismatic collection (extra points to those who even know that is something to do with money) resides. Not your average romantic-weekend foray but who could refuse a squeamish peek at jars of human limbs? Mrs Smith, apparently. She was more taken with the chance to pop into Mackintosh House, a concrete reconstruction of where he once lived – most certainly not somewhere designed by him.
As edifying as it was to discover the culture and cocktails of this city for ourselves, the highlight of our escape was definitely 15 Glasgow. It treated us to the best night's sleep we’ve had in months, excellently discreet service, and easy access to the bohemian and boutiquey West End. I feel that in order to seem professional and thorough, it is important that I offer at least some criticism of 15 Glasgow before I sign off. After sitting on the corner of the bed for a few minutes staring at the room, all I could come up with was an observation that the kettle (next to the fully stocked basket of high-end teas) was possibly, maybe, slightly too snug a fit for the shelf it was on.
So there you have it: the only possible way in which 15 Glasgow might have dropped the ball was in terms of the ratio of kettle to shelf. That’s it. In every imaginable way, it is without doubt the most luxurious and comfortable B&B you could experience. We were rather sad to have to leave, but knowing we had a few misguided pals back in London to smugly set straight, the blow was softened.