As an Edinburger, I will always prefer Glasgow Queen Street Station.
The train from the capital to the west coast central station is to be avoided, as it takes almost double the time.
Once, when one of them stopped on the Haymarket platform, I heard the station attendant announce over the tannoy; “If you are taking this train to Glasgow you will need your sleeping bag and a water bottle.”
Very wise. Everyone gets it by mistake once, then never again.
However, the central station has one advantage, and that is the fact that it is attached to the 19th century Class A listed rail hotel, the voco Grand Central.
After being taken over by InterContinental Hotels Group under its voco brand, this space reopened in April 2021 after a major renovation.
They were sensitive to its grandeur, and the subtle, contemporary new decor in no way detracts from the original features.
Built in 1883, this hotel, with the statue of Kenny Hunter, Citizen Firefighter standing guard outside its front door, was designed by architect Robert Rowan Anderson, whose other works include the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Mount Stewart House on the Isle of Bute.
Unlike some rail hotels, it’s an integral part of the station – it surrounds it, with 180 rooms, as well as 21 meeting spaces and a restaurant.
The things this vast property must have seen. These could include shenanigans from his star-studded guests, including the Rolling Stones, Diego Maradona, and Winston Churchill (not all at the same time, though that would be fun). You’ll see their portraits on an accent wall in the stairwell, in front of an exhibit of vintage train trunks and luggage.
You can also follow many comings and goings of the station from inside the hotel, where some areas, such as the bar, overlook the lobby.
As in all the stations in the city, there are a lot of colors. We enjoyed watching spray-tanned women (and men) in bright, tight Tubigrip outfits arrive for weekend nights in this party town. They’d take a chippy from the Blue Lagoon, or a bagy up an elevator from the taxi rank outside, and they’d sped off into the night.
However, we were completely oblivious to this from the perspective of our room.
It’s a Premium Deluxe, with a view of the roof of the resort, which looks a bit like the whitewashed skeleton of a whale. (If you like your roofs, know that this one contains 48,000 panes and dates from 1879). From here we could also see the jagged silhouette of Glasgow’s south side, which is punctuated by spiers, cranes or the occasional skyscraper.
Surprisingly, there was no railroad slam or rumble, tannoy noise, or noise at all. It’s almost completely silent in our luxury attic on the third floor. Our dove-gray painted boudoir was decorated with framed images of Glasgow’s coat of arms, hung above the bed. There is a small adjoining living room, with a TV in both areas, and a huge bathroom with a claw-foot tub, walk-in shower and Antipodes toiletries. (They also offer Premium Deluxe rooms with two double beds, so they are particularly suitable for families).
Breakfast is served in Champagne Central, downstairs and with some areas facing the lobby.
This restaurant and bar consists of a series of large, high-ceiling rooms, most of which feature original cornices and columns, along with paperback-themed decor and abstract locomotion wallpaper.
Although Glasgow is our oyster, with the best shops and restaurants on the doorstep of the station, we are coming back for dinner. Champagne Central’s menu is comprehensive and casual, with dishes like the Hawaiian-inspired poke bowl, which includes salmon, edamame beans, and sticky rice. There are also burgers, including a Korean chicken number, salads, and entrees such as shawarma wraps or crab linguine. Of course, whatever you eat, you need to accompany it with a glass of sparkling good, rather than prosecco (although they have some too). Prices start from £ 10.50 for a glass of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial and go up to £ 250 for a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal.
We were very tempted to go this route on our last night, but money is a problem and we had an early train to catch the next day.
Queen Street Station, of course (although Central is my new favorite).
voco Grand Central Glasgow, 99 Gordon Street, Glasgow, www.ihg.com. Rooms from £ 110.