Jo Fletcher-Cross heads to the The Spa at Glasgow’s Principal Blythswood Square Hotel for some quality pampering
Glasgow’s only five-star hotel overlooks a private garden square. The hotel’s Georgian townhouses were originally home to wealthy merchants and later turned into the headquarters for The Royal Scottish Automobile Club. I’m travelling with my seven-year-old daughter, who’s initially a little intimidated by the grand — and very beautiful — lobby. However, a warm welcome soon makes us feel at home and my daughter is utterly won over when we get to our junior suite and discover a tipi set up for her to play in, complete with a cuddly fox. She even gets a miniature ‘Little VIP’ soft robe and her own set of Elemis toiletries, which she makes the most of later in the huge freestanding bath. The suite, one of 114 rooms in the hotel, is appealingly decked out in tweed and marble. With high ceilings and big sash windows overlooking the square, it feels very large and airy. There’s lots of gentle lighting from lamps around the room, and a stunning glass globe chandelier. I’m particularly impressed by nifty adjustable reading lights tucked into the grey tweed headboard of the bed. The bed is appealingly soft and squishy and I sleep extremely well. The bathroom is completely marble-clad, with aforementioned wonderful bath. The only wrong note is the shower door, designed in such a way that makes it nigh-on impossible to get in and out.
There’s lots of dark wood as I enter the 10,000sq-ft spa, and some rather sweet Scottish touches — the waiting room is called Time to Bide. There’s no music playing in here, which I rather like, but it does feel a tiny bit awkward sitting in silence with the others waiting to be taken into one of the nine treatment rooms. Stepping into the thermal experience and pool area is like entering a dim, cosy, sparkling cave — it’s clad in marble and tiny, dark, glistening tiles. There’s a very large hydro pool, like a massive whirlpool bath, and a very warm, small pool with water jet massage.
I’m booked in for the Luxurious Seawood Foot Experience, a 55-minute treatment using ishga organic Scottish seaweed products. I don’t normally like feet treatments but I’ve been doing a lot of strenuous walking recently and it feels like it might be just the thing I need. After a soothing foot bath, rough skin is pumiced off and then a Scottish seaweed wrap is applied to my feet and lower legs, followed by a detoxifying seaweed gel mask. I’m fairly blissed out, but then comes the cuticle work — not terribly relaxing — followed by a thoroughly invigorating salt scrub, then a firm massage that leaves my feet feeling very supple. I’m offered a choice of a shiny buff for my nails or polish. I go for a bright pink-purple polish, which looks fantastic and lasts for weeks. Afterwards, I’m taken to a lovely relaxation room, with beds, chairs and chaise longue to loll around in while enjoying a choice of teas, fruit and water.
We were made to feel extremely welcome in the elegant restaurant. Jazz played as we sat in the low, tweed-upholstered seats. There’s lots of dark wood in here too, and some nice touches hinting at the hotel’s history — the big overhead lampshades have images of classic cars from the days of the Scottish Royal Automobile Club. There’s also a fabulous long, rectangular arch with mirror tiles inside, which is like walking through a geometric disco ball.
There’s a very good children’s menu, and the grown-up menu made me very happy too. Caraway loaf with goat’s butter was followed by scallops and a delicious Kintyre smoked cheddar macaroni with lobster. The excellent breakfast was also taken in the restaurant: the porridge with whiskey a truly Scottish way to start the morning for the adults. There was a very good selection of pastries, pancakes, cold meat and smoked fish, as well as a full Scottish cooked breakfast.
It would be all too easy for a five-star hotel to shower guests with luxury but also make them feel like they could be anywhere. The Principal Blythswood Square Hotel succeeds in both cossetting guests but also celebrating the history of this beautiful building and the very best of Scotland, all with kind and warm service. The perfect place to retreat.
The Spa offers a 55-minute ishga Luxurious Foot Experience for £87. A deluxe double room is £309 on a B&B basis.