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Travel: Have a right laugh at Glasgow comedy fest

The scene overlooking Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.

The scene overlooking Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.

 

An Irish woman and her Welsh friend drive to Scotland – there has to be a joke in there somewhere?

If it’s laughs you’re after (better than the one above I promise) Glasgow is the place to be for the next few weeks as the annual comedy festival descends on the city, bringing with it an array of stand-ups sure to help you crack a smile during your stay.

Perhaps lesser-known than the Scottish capital’s fringe festival which takes in comedy as part of its arts theme, Glasgow’s offering runs for three weeks and is actually the biggest event of its kind in Europe.

The main man behind the festival is, as with many good things, from Northern Ireland.

Born in Coleraine but now a resident of Edinburgh, Tommy Sheppard told me he was sorry he had to leave the opening show of the festival early to catch the train back home.

And what a (second half of the) show he missed – a Glaswegian compere, Pete-Doherty lookalike, ukulele-playing student, very irreverent Reverend and...a tall skinny man with glasses.

With the audience seated at round tables, The Stand venue is intimate – something akin to a students’ union in atmosphere.

It would be easy to happen upon lots of new talent at the festival, with 416 shows across 46 venues, finishing up on April 5, but there are a few established names on the line-up too. Miranda Kerr played two nights earlier this week while Sarah Millican will help bring the festival to a close next month.

Belfast’s very own Colin Murphy even makes an appearance, taking the stage at The Stand on April 4.

But when your cheekbones hurt and you’re simply sick of all the laughter what else does Glasgow have to offer?

Plenty. This year is dubbed #Homecoming2014, with a seemingly endless list of events and activities set to take place in the next nine months.

In the world of music Radio One are bringing their Big Weekend to the city in May, while the MTV awards will be presented there in November.

For sports lovers the summer Commonwealth Games are sure to spark interest, followed by golf’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September.

These are just a smattering of the high-profile happenings across Glasgow this year, but of course the city still has all its usual charm, ensuring your stay is interesting, relaxing and memorable.

With so much on offer I found the City Sightseeing tour was a great place to get an overview of the main attractions, bringing us around the city in comfort, accompanied by a recorded narration of everything we saw and how it got there.

For a few moments of quiet reflection a visit to the burial site of the city’s patron saint Kentigern - or Mungo - is a must. The man who brought Christianity to Scotland back in the sixth century is thought to have been buried where Glasgow Cathedral now stands.

Another attraction worth stopping by is the museum named after St Mungo, on Castle Street.

In terms of culture there is lots on offer at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Huntarian Museum, and among the Burrell Collection at Pollok Country Park.

I found Glasgow to be a manageable size of a city, with an easily negotiated grid-like formation of streets - which is essential for someone with my questionable sense of direction.

After all the culture and laughs you will be in need of a good meal – and there is any number of places to fill an empty stomach.

A visit to the trendy Ashton Lane provides plenty of eating and drinking options.

Ahead of our Saturday night comedy show featuring Hardeep Singh Koli at the Oran Mor - a converted church - just a few metres up the road from Ashton Lane, we dined in the venue’s John Muir room. The red fairy lights provided a chic atmosphere in what are otherwise quite homely and traditional surroundings.

For an adventurous food experience Stravaigan’s ‘think global, eat local’ motto is true to its word. Crispy pig’s ear, braised ox cheek and of course haggis are all on the menu. A special mention must be made of the vanilla poached rhubarb crumble - delightful.

The end of a weekend break is rarely an enjoyable part of the experience, but the scenic drive back to Cairnryan from Glasgow city somewhat softens the blow.

A journey dotted with picturesque little villages, and completed with a gorgeous coast road surrounded by vast swathes of green mountainside and beautiful sea views, certainly flies by.

All of the signs en route invited me to Haste Ye Back (hurry back).

After such an enjoyable weekend of food, sightseeing and laughs I think it is pretty certain I will.

P&O Ferries operate from Larne to Cairnryan and Troon. Online fares start from £74 single for a car plus driver. If you fancy treating yourself to an extra comfy seat and guaranteed peace and quiet on the crossing Club Lounge offers just that - plus a few drinks and snacks thrown in.

Visit www.POferries.com for more information.

Hotel Indigo,with its convenient location just off the M8 coming into the city, offers a comfortable and trendy base from which to enjoy your break, The complimentary snacks and drinks in the minibar are a rare and very welcoming touch.

www.hotelindigo.com/glasgow.

For more information on things to do and see check out www.visitscotland.com, and www.peoplemakeglasgow.com.

 

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