The Getaway: An unlikely gourmet break in Glasgow

Can the home of the deep-fried Mars bar really be a gourmet getaway?

One plate answers that question. One yummy plate, served up on a wooden table in Ox & Finch ( in beard-bendingly hip Finnieston.

The dish is not deep-fried. Nor does it contain a crumb of chocolate, nougat or caramel. It’s a racion-style serving of slow-roasted pork belly with white onion puree, golden raisins and capers in a gorgeously simple pottery bowl. And it’s mouthwatering. As is the beetroot, orange, candied pecans and goat’s cheese that follows. And the sea-bream with shredded Thai salad.

Heck, even the chips rock. They’re fried twice, mollycoddled in truffle oil and salt, and served with garlic aioli. Bam! It’s a hipster heart attack, in a humble bowl.

Guilty Pleasure

Ox & Finch, Glasgow

My question is answered. But it’s not just answered at Ox & Finch. Scotland is celebrating a Year of Food and Drink at the moment, a marketing wheeze aimed at tempting visitors into a second taste… and Glasgow’s right at its vanguard.

During my whistlestop tour of the city, I don’t see a single haggis supper (by choice, admittedly). Instead, I devour a 35-day-aged rib-eye – a cross of Angus and Limousin beef – in the sophisticated cellars of Alston Bar & Beef ( I take a tour of the bierhaus-style West Brewery ( before knocking back a crisp and malty lager named after Glasgow’s patron saint, Mungo. I even get a 101 in coffee roasting from master roaster John Gartly at Gordon Street Coffee (gordonst

“If it’s not fresh,” he asks in a melodiously matter-of-fact lilt, “what’s the point?”

Hotel Intel

I’ve got one night in Glasgow, and I spend it at the Arthouse Hotel, a historical townhouse on Bath Street. Its 59 bedrooms combine contemporary styling with ace original features (check out the old lift, coiled up in the stairwell) and a cool central location.

Cheap Kick

Glasgow, Traffic Cone.JPG
An iconic student prank

Exchange rates aren’t exactly encouraging UK visits at the moment, but Glasgow’s free museums and galleries go a long way toward easing that particular pain.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum houses treasures as diverse as a Spitfire plane and Salvador Dalí’s Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951), for example. GoMA is Scotland’s most visited modern art gallery – although its main attraction is found outside, perched atop of the Duke of Wellington’s head. A traffic cone was first mounted here as a student prank, and has gone on to become an iconic image of Glasgow.

“The council’s tried to stop it,” the lady in the gift shop tells me. “They take it down, but it just keeps going back up. It’s the Glasgow sense of humour. Plus, it keeps the pigeons off.”


Gourmet treats in Glasgow – who’da thunk it? I’m delighted to have my stereotypes dashed, though it’s still very easy to eat badly here (a little research will go a long way before a visit). Sterling will smash your euro, you just have to soak that one up. Like any city, Glasgow can have a hard edge after dark too… so choose your gin and whisky joints wisely.

Glasgow skyline



Ireland Wants Star Wars Fans to Visit Location Used in New Movie

Tourism Ireland has released a video it hopes will attract Star Wars fans to Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of Kerry used as a location in the box office blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The video shows film director J.J. Abrams and other crew members discussing why the team chose the UNESCO World Heritage Site as a film location.

“I remember when we all flew in, it was special and we knew it,” executive producer Tommy Harper said in the video. reports the video will be shared around the world. The campaign comes despite concerns last year that filming at Skellig Michael would damage the island’s ecology, although government officials said there was no substantial damage.

Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe said Skellig Michael’s appearance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens exposed the island’s beauty to “potentially hundreds of millions of people.”

“By the end of November 2015, we had surpassed our best ever year on record for the number of overseas visitors,” Donohoe said. “We are determined to build on that.”

Skellig Michael will also feature in the next film of the series, which will be released in 2017.



Lonely Planet names Dublin one of world’s Top 10 cities to visit in 2016

Dublin has been named one of the top cities in the world to visit in 2016 by travel bible, Lonely Planet.

The accolade comes in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016, an annual collection of the hottest trends, destinations and experiences for the year ahead.

The bestselling yearbook, which last year named Ireland as a Top 10 country to visit in 2015, highlights the top countries, cities and regions to visit next year.

“The diaspora has turned inside out and Dublin is now a truly cosmopolitan capital, with an influx of people, energy and ideas infusing the ever-beguiling, multi-layered city with fresh flavours and kaleidoscopic colours,” Lonely Planet says.

Dublin has a huge amount to offer any traveller, it adds.

“Meet the perfect stranger through the Little Museum’s brilliant City of a Thousand Welcome’s initiative, where an ordinary Dubliner will tell you about their home town over a free drink in a local pub.

“Follow the Independence Trail around key sites where nation-forming events took place… Plunge into the Irish Sea at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, or nurse a deep dark pint fireside in Mulligan’s on Poolbeg St., where the atmosphere is as potent as the stout.”

The news comes just over a week after Dublin was rebranded as more than just a “party town” in an effort to secure its long-term future as a tourism destination.

A new brand and logo – ‘Dublin: A Breath of Fresh Air’ – were unveiled as key elements in a €1 million reboot of the capital’s “dusty” image this month.

Lonely planet also mentions the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising as a particularly good reason to visit Dublin in 2016.

2016 Centenary

“Dublin should be on every traveller’s must-see list,” said Lonely Planet spokesperson, Noirín Hegarty. “It’s pulsing with vibrancy, optimism and creativity.”

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe said the accolade would “propel Dublin even further”, while Tourism Ireland CEO Niall Gibbons said it would “surely help to inspire travellers everywhere to put Dublin and the island of Ireland on their holiday wish-list for 2016.”

Earlie this year, Dublin was voted the world’s second-friendliest city by readers of Conde Nast Travel magazine, another hugely influential travel publication.

The city is the “new Barcelona, without the sunstroke”, one reader said.

See more on



Ireland set for “best tourism season since downturn”

Powerscourt House
Powerscourt House

Trips to Ireland by overseas visitors are up 10.3% for the first half of 2014, according to CSO figures released today.

The figures show a steady gain compared to the same period in 2013, with over 3,469,100 overseas visitors recorded by the Central Statistics Office between January and June (inclusive).

The latest figures on Overseas Travel show:

Visits from Mainland Europe grew by 6pc, to over 1,218,100 visits
North America registered an increase of 10.6pc (over 574,500 visits)
Visits from Great Britain were up by 13.6pc (1,473,200 visits)
Visits from the rest of the world were up 13.6pc over 203,300 visits
Growth from Britain will be seen as particularly good news. The UK is Ireland’s single most important inbound tourism market, and figures had fallen off drastically in recent years.


Fáilte Ireland CEO, Shaun Quinn, said:

“The increase in numbers from the UK is extremely impressive and the performance of our biggest overseas market is exceeding all expectations. All our other key markets are also delivering extra visitors; tourism businesses around the country are upbeat and we seem set for our best tourism season since the downturn began.”


Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, added:

“We are undertaking an extensive programme of promotions around the world throughout 2014 which includes a major focus on the Wild Atlantic Way, as well as on major events like Limerick City of Culture and the Croke Park Classic, when the University of Central Florida takes on Penn State in their college football season opener, on August 30th.”


Tourism Minister Paschal Donohoe commented that the figures showed “Irish tourism is having, yet again, another excellent year.”

“Last year was the year of the Gathering and the challenge was to grow visitor numbers even further in 2014… [the figures are] excellent news for everybody involved in Irish tourism and reflect the hard work carried out by Government and all those involved in the tourism industry and in promoting Ireland overseas.”

Minister Donohue, new to his role following the recent cabinet reshuffle, is finalising a new Tourism Policy Statement which will set “ambitious targets” for the sector in the period to 2025.

It will be released later this year.