I abhor airports and flying - the endless queues of tetchy tourists, the grouchy blokes at the scanner, the shoe removal, the lost luggage, the unsightly compression socks and the latent fear that we are all going to plummet from the skies to our death.
The ordeal is even more gruelling if children are involved. Which is why a few weeks ago our family of four decided to take the ferry and drive from Cairnryan to Glasgow for a family pre-Christmas break.
P&O operates up to seven daily sailings between Larne and Cairnryan, which means you don’t need to get up an ungodly hour to make the crossing. We opted for a 1.30pm sailing, which meant plenty of time to pack our jalopy with more bags and cases than a supermodel would think seemly.
That’s the great thing, of course, about taking the car/ferry, there’s no baggage restrictions, so you could, quite literally, take the kitchen sink. It is also just so straightforward. Hop in the car, drive to the port, drive on to the boat, go to the lounge or restaurant to relax for a couple of hours. Get off and drive to your destination.
There is space to move around and stretch your legs, rather than being squashed into an uncomfortable seat with restless-legged children kicking at your back or, listening to tinny hip-hop leaking from the headphones of the person next to you.
The crossing takes two hours, with free wi-fi onboard, a cafe/bar with drinks and snacks, a restaurant serving hearty meals and a shop, with up to 40 per cent off high street prices. There’s a kids’ club for little sailors and arcade zone for bigger ones. And for those who like a bit of luxury, there’s a Club Lounge with a range of complimentary newspapers and magazines, refreshments and wi-fi.
The drive to Glasgow is exceptionally pleasant. The coast road skirts pretty towns and villages, with heather-clad hills and beautiful, unspoilt beaches.
It took us about two hours to reach our base, The Village Hotel- a breeze to find, and with ample car parking on site.
This is a hip and happening hotel, with a fantastic riverside location near the BBC, the SEC and the Glasgow Science Museum, and it boasts its very own Starbucks, which our frappe-obsessed 10-year-old loved,
We had dinner in the hotel’s Village Grill - a relaxed place with an inventive menu and plentiful portions.
Probably the best way to appreciate Glasgow, and in particular its stunning and varied architecture, including the Art Nouveau magic of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is to take the Glasgow City Sightseeing Hop on Hop off bus, which we caught outside the SEC Armadillo.
Our first stop was the Riverside Museum. It’s a spectacular waterfront landmark designed by internationally-renowned architect, Zaha Hadid, displaying Glasgow’s rich industrial heritage, which stems from the River Clyde.
Our next stop was Kelvingrove Park and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum - one of my favourite places in the city. It has been ranked in the top 15 most visited museums in the world. The collections are extensive, wide-ranging and internationally-significant. My kids loved getting up close and personal with the mind-boggling array of animals in the natural history department.
Glasgow is well and truly on the sartorial map, with the city boasting a wealth of designer emporiums, boutiques, quirky stores and high street names. In fact the city’s retail credentials are gaining such a reputation that many Ulster shoppers are opting to go there, rather than London.
But as any seasoned shopper will tell you the key to successful retail therapy is sustenance. So before hitting the shops we decided to grab a bit of lunch.
You can virtually eat your way around the world in Glasgow as the city’s restaurant and cafe culture encompasses the entire spectrum of wining and dining. We opted for lunch at Baffo, a newly opened pizzeria located just across from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The food here is truly scrumptious - we shared a mezzo metro (a half metre pizza) which even came out on its own table
Fortified we decided to start our shopping expedition on Buchanan Street. This wide pedestrianised street is the city’s main shopping thoroughfare and is flanked by a high street hit-list of slightly more upmarket outlets than neighbouring Argyle and Sauchiehall streets.
Our first stop was Buchanan Galleries, a shopping mall with many high street names including the John Lewis department store - but we were here for one reason, and one reason only, Scotland’s only Lego Store. My Lego-fanatic son was dizzy with excitement as he made a bee-line to the ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ area of coloured bricks - as irresistible as sweeties.
Another good shopping option is Princes Square, a covered designer shopping mall and architectural showpiece, where you’ll find many upmarket brands - we had dinner there, at Darcy’s, a lovely, family-friendly little spot with wonderful food.
Our last visit was to the Glasgow Science Centre, which offers a mind-expanding amount of educational entertainment. Our only problem was slowing down our excitable duo from zipping from level to level. Four hours passed by in a flurry of intrigue.
Glasgow is a wonderful city break destination with great shopping, restaurants, arts and culture, and a vast selection of bars and clubs...but best of all are the people. Everywhere we went we received the warmest welcome, and that’s something money can’t buy.
P&O’s fares start from £74 each way from Larne to Cairnryan for a car and driver.
For further information on all sailings and the latest P&O Ferries offers please visit POFerries.com or call 0800 130 0030.
For further information on booking your trip to Glasgow visit www.peoplemakeglasgow.com’