I’m on a bleary-eyed early morning flight to Glasgow. The former industrial powerhouse – Scotland’s largest metropolis – once languished in the shadow of its prettier Edinburgh sibling. But in recent years, it’s become one of Europe’s coolest cities. And after booking a two-night stay at the hot new Dakota Deluxe hotel, I’m keen to discover what it has to offer.
But first: the packing. A long weekend requires careful planning in the luggage department, especially if you’re taking a cabin baggage-only approach. I’ve cut the clothing to a minimum but the contents of my wash bag aren’t so easily sacrificed.
Luckily, Truefitt & Hill has plenty of handy, travel-friendly products available, starting with my airport security-sized 60ml Beard Oil and 50ml Beard Balm. The plan? To keep my recently-trimmed face furniture from resembling a windblown sporran that’s been dragged through a Highland hedge.
After touching down and cabbing to the hotel – my sleek, moodlit room has a raindrop shower I’m keen to fully utilize – I hit the streets. Like its southern city cousins Manchester and Liverpool, post-industrial Glasgow’s multi-columned Victorian buildings are now home to fashionable bars, boutiques and restaurants.
But while many of these line the busy piazzas and thoroughfares of Argyle Street, Buchanan Street and the Merchant City area, my window shopping takes me off the beaten path. Glasgow is a retailing hotbed serving-up every imaginable label but there are also many stylish, one-of-a-kind independent options worth discovering that encapsulate the city’s latter-day creative edge.
In a small, white-walled store on Parnie Street, I find hip, design-focused Instrmnt. Stocking a well-curated array of accessories for modern men, the flagship product here is a sleek, minimalist, Glasgow-invented watch that has to be assembled by its owner. My wallet starts to twitch as I consider the available configurations and the efficacy of buying yet another watch.
Across the city, I discover another stylish spot.
Trakke handmakes retro-look waxed cotton packs and bags in its tiny workshop. And while they’ve also been commissioned to create drumstick cases and sought-after whiskey bottle carriers, the company’s hardwearing daypacks remain a must-have for coolsters in Glasgow and around the world. I make a mental note to send their website details to my girlfriend just before my next birthday.
After a full day of on-foot and taxi-based exploring, it’s time to meet-up with a small group of colleagues who are also visiting Glasgow. Back at the Dakota, I dive into the shower with Truefitt’s creamy Coconut Shampoo – decanted into a smaller bottle for this trip – before perusing my other wash bag goodies.
Tailor-made for travel, the Creams, Balms & Colognes Sample Pack is a drawstring bag of 15 vials and pouches, each containing enough product for at least two applications. Since I’m in a hurry, though, I sidestep my usual beard-outlining maintenance shave and select an apposite scent for the evening: the classic, slightly spicy Grafton Cologne. It’s time to head out.
Glasgow has some great bars plus a near-legendary live music scene. Joining my co-partiers for cocktails in the subterranean Saramago Café Bar and then moving on for leisurely beers at long table-lined Drygate Brewery, we eventually ease into a tapas-sharing dinner at candlelit Alchemilla. Finally, we’re ready for the night’s main event: I’m not a massively religious man but it’s time to head to church.
A former Victorian chapel, Saint Luke’s was converted into one of Glasgow’s most evocative live venues a few years back, complete with a grand pipe organ that serves as a stage backdrop. Finding a standing spot on the second level, we’re soon gazing down on one of the city’s best bands: rootsy Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire have the crowd swaying and grinning after just two songs.
Next morning, I’m a little groggy. A long, coconutty shower helps but a slow, savour-worthy shave with citrusy West Indian Limes Shaving Cream and Shaving Balm – both from my Sample Pack – complete my revival. I need my energy for a day of planned attraction-visiting, including the transport-themed Riverside Museum and arts and architecture-themed Lighthouse design centre.
But first it’s time to brush the cobwebs off outside. Pollok Country Park is the historic estate of the Maxwell family. Centered on a palatial Georgian mansion that’s open to the public, its antique-lined rooms drip with high-ceilinged decadence while the downstairs servants’ quarters suggest a storied Downton Abbey ambiance.
I’m also keen to explore the surrounding parkland, though – and hopefully find one particular group of hulking Glaswegians I’ve been keen to meet ever since I arrived.
There are more than 50 shaggy-coated Highland cows residing in the grounds here. But considering how large they are, it takes me ages to find them. Finally, I discover a handful of the wooly wonders snuffling around a large tree. Covered in thick coats, faces part-shrouded by lank locks, they look like a convention of 1970s rock band roadies. In fact, they could probably use some of my Coconut Shampoo. I wonder what the biggest bottle size is?