Travel: Having a laugh - and enjoying life in Glasgow

Shoppers on Glasgow's Buchanan Street
Shoppers on Glasgow's Buchanan Street

With great bars and restaurants, shopping that is second to none, and a top-class comedy festival, our reporter discovers that Glasgow is a real hoot

While those of a superstiti-ous nature prefer to avoid travel on Friday 13th, we had no such qualms when we embarked on our recent trip to Glasgow to enjoy the city’s annual Comedy Festival.

Thankfully, there was no comedy of errors, despite the challenges posed by the congested roads due to the public transport strike, and we soon found ourselves boarding at Larne enjoying the benefits of the club lounge of P&O’s Ferries European Causeway.

A beautiful spring day provided us with perfect conditions for the sailing to Cairnryan, and an hour and 45 minutes later we were pulling out of the ferry terminal.

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and in recent years has undergone something of a renaissance, from a rundown former industrial giant, to a thriving hub for shoppers and clubbers.

It is now the second largest shopping city in the UK, just behind London, with a square mile in the centre of the city housing an extraordinary concentration of shops within a walkable space.

As host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the city found itself with the opportunity to shine on a truly global scale and with the focus on 2015 being the year of food in Scotland tourism is really coming into its own.

Our accommodation for the weekend - the luxurious Fraser Suites are located at Albion Street within Glasgow’s prestigious Merchant City area and is a renovated 1850s Victorian building which was once used as a bank.

While each apartment boasts a separate bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette, it is perhaps the location – close to the shopping mile, with convenient, secure parking and surrounded by bars and restaurants - which really sets it apart.

On Friday night we dined out at the Gannet, a modern seasonal Scottish bar and restaurant located at Argyle Street. The Gannet was recently named as one of 10 finalists in the Restaurant of the Year category in the first ever Glasgow Award. It is one of the few establishments in Scotland to have achieved a Michelin award. The menus are designed to celebrate the best of Scottish produce, dictated by the rhythms of the seasons in a stripped back and relaxed setting. We were not disappointed with the food and thoroughly enjoyed a delicious meal of artichoke soup, fillet of beef with lentils and baked Ricotta cheesecake with lime ice-cream.

Feeling replete we made a short taxi journey to the Stand Comedy Club for one of the first events lined up as part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival which has been bringing world class comedy to the city for over a decade and in 2015 celebrated its 13th anniversary.

The festival draws comedy stars from around the UK and further afield, complemented by the very best of home grown Scottish talent. This year’s event took place from March 12 to 29. The Stand Comedy Club was sold out as there were five top class acts who delivered the lines for an enthusiastic crowd – great value and craic for £15 a head. Previous guests in the venue have included Kevin Bridges, Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Johnny Vegas, Des Clarke and Sarah Millican – and so the list of stand up royalty goes on.

Saturday morning provided some time to take in the sights and sounds of the city and we embarked on the city sightseeing ‘hop on, hop off’ tour of Glasgow, which takes in 28 stops and lasts approximately an hour and 45 minutes.

Some of the highlights of the tour include Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis, the Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship, as well as art galleries and museums galore. The tour also adds in fascinating facts which bring the city and its people to life. For example did you know the last woman executed in Scotland was Susan Newell in 1923 after she was found guilty of murdering her 13-year-old paperboy who had the temerity to ask her to pay him? Susan Newell was also the only women ever executed at Glasgow’s Duke Street Prison.

We decided to dine out, on Saturday night, in a restaurant called the Italian Café, again just a two minute walk from our apartment, before making our way to the Blackfriers Basement, on the corner of Albion Street, for two shows. First on stage was local lad Jamie Dalgliesh who was making his third appearance at the festival. During the hour long stint he recounted tales of his Easterhouse roots and his comedy travels since with subjects ranging from international politics and fake La Coste trackies. He even takes a swipe at the Northern Irish claiming our accents are the most sinister in the UK! After hearing his impression of a Belfast taxi driver, it’s hard to disagree with his assessment!

The second show for the night featured Ellie Taylor, the star of ITV’s Fake Reaction, Channel 4’s 8 Out of Ten Cats and host of BBC3’s Snog Marry Avoid. She is currently taking her critically acclaimed fringe show ‘Elliementary’ on her debut UK tour. During her performance she took on issues such as love, life and Matalan.

Both acts were brilliantly entertaining and the audience participation helped make the evening thoroughly enjoyable.

Walking round Glasgow it’s hard to miss the signs dotted here and there and on tourism literature – ‘people make Glasgow’, and while that is certainly true, there is much, more to the city than its people.