Nine storeys above the river Clyde, it’s Saturday night and the sun is setting on a blustery Glasgow evening. The Red Sky Bar at the Radisson hotel is open for business and Glasgow is open to being entertained.
Leaving the wind behind as we walk through the rather pleasant foyer to the dedicated lift, I’m fairly sure the bluster topside will continue. But this is Glasgow, so that would happen whether it was blowy outside or not.

Unabashed, I stroll into a welcoming rooftop bar with panoramic views to the west showcasing a sunset that cinematographers would pay millions to orchestrate. This is a nice bar.

Being Clyde-built in the 60s myself, as a kid I couldn’t have imagined that Glasgow could have such an impressive rooftop bar. To be honest, I wouldn’t even have known what a rooftop bar was.
Glasgow pubs in the 60s were dark dens of iniquity, no women allowed (certainly no toilets provided for them), dour men sitting waiting for brawls to erupt, spit and sawdust joints where the previous night’s furniture provided the sawdust coating the next day’s saloon floor to soak up the blood.
And given that my parents weren’t much in the way of drinkers, that was the view I held till I was old enough to pretend I was old enough to drink. At which point I found it to be uncomfortably true.
As a teenager I drank in many of those pubs, and I worked in at least one, where we opened the doors hesitantly each day at 6:30 am to serve the night shift escaping from the ship yards.

That was then, this is now.

The Radisson Red hotel is a great addition to the eco-system that has grown around the Scottish Event Campus – the SEC Armdadillo, SSE Hydro and SEC Centre. With a huge range of events constantly taking place around the campus from Business through Exhibitions and Sport to Music, there’s something for everyone. If you’re looking for a great venue to catch an act then look no further. I’ve seen INXS, Neil Young, Roger Waters, Status Quo, Stephen Stills and Lynyrd Skynyrd all put on great shows in one or other of the amphitheatres. (Bear in mind, the Red Sky Bar will be hoaching for any major event).

The view is West of Scotland rather than Glasgow. It swings from the Glasgow University tower of the Gilbert Scott building in the north, past the Kelvingrove Art Gallery, round by the hilly Campsie Fells and distant Ben Lomond, and over the Clyde to the Gleniffer Braes past Paisley in the south. The river flows purposefully past ancient docks to the cloaked Govan shipyards building the next generation of Royal Navy frigates, then beyond to the tail o’ the bank. From this vantage point, you’d recognise your patch whether you’re Alex Ferguson, Gerard Butler, Robert Carlyle, James McAvoy, Kevin Bridges or Billy Connolly.

I’m enervated by this view. Glasgow’s architecture has always fascinated me. It was still staunchly, stonily Victorian in my 60’s youth yet I always felt it a very personal relationship rather than academic.
Endless instances:
Studying beneath the bronze domed roof of the Mitchell Library as a kid.
The astonishment I felt the first time I entered the stunning Glasgow City Chambers with its Beaux-art style with ornate Italianate Features, to stand before a dreamscape staircase of carrara marble under a mosaic ceiling, granite pillars and spanish mahogany panelling. (I didn’t even know what those things were in those days).
Playing in the grounds around the towering medieval Cathedral that is still going strong to this day as a house of worship.
Darting past Provands Lordship when I should have been in school, the oldest house in the town dating back to 1471 still standing guard on the Necropolis where as a schoolkid we used to drink illicitly with the ghosts of Glasgow past.
Living in broken down tenements older than Australia (the commonwealth not the continent), before I moved there.
And I remember one grey day in the sixties after my my grandpa died, my dad detouring through Govan and pointing out the tenement his father had been born in, in the 1890s. A tenement which had been condemned in the twenties, and was still standing to that day.
Things were built to last round here.

The Finnieston Crane, the Scottish Event Campus and the North Rotunda

Modern Glasgow architecture is as engaging as the old.
Immediately below the hotel the Scottish Event Campus spreads its tentacles. Starting with a somewhat conventional exhibition space in the SECC, it expanded with the 2,000 seater Clyde auditorium.
Be careful what you wish for. Though the architects of the auditorium hoped for resonance with Glasgow’s shipbuilding past through reference to ship hulls, modern generations, with little connection to that past, saw an armadillo or a poor man’s Sydney Opera House.
In my view it’s still an excellent mid-size concert venue.
The SSE Hydro is the newest addition to the campus. A rampant gig venue that in 2016 handled 751,487 ticket sales, making it the eighth-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales. Eighth-busiest in the world. It puts on a GOOD show.

But this is not an architecture class. I’m in awe of the guys and girls that design that stuff, but I’ll stick to my knitting, so that means drinking, and here we’re talking about the Red Sky Bar.

I like the set up and the decor of the Red Sky bar.
Somewhat elegant but never over the top, it’s a bold interior design with floor-to-ceiling windows wrapped around the bar area, talking to Glasgow’s industrial heritage. Looking to seat around 130 people with a tidy outside terrace acommodating 30 or so more, it’s conventionally urban with a Glasgow twist.
Basically, it looks good and despite the tattoos it comes without the grinding urban beats of a downtown Miami sky joint.
It presents really well.
The bar front is made from Portora Gold, an elegant black marble with sleek gold veins. The transparent back wall features LED illuminated glass shelves with amber nectars from around the globe standing proud in the glow. The contemporary fireplace to the north may provide a welcome show in winter but the colourful modern artwork lining the hallway draws the eye all year round.

The outside terrace is concise and coherent. The single umbrella covering a dozen or so tables does its best to reconcile its commitment to conforming to Scottish parliament anti-smoking laws and to combatting the vagaries of Scottish weather. The walls are well-dressed, ready for a night on the town, with the neon signature announcing its arrival.

I’ve heard conflicting opinions about the service and the state of the facilties but our experience was good. Pleasant staff, attentive and friendly, and a clean, well-appointed space.

Radisson’s website invites visitors to Discover edgy, energetic Glasgow and the DJ beats are geared to that younger crowd. But the Red Sky Bar is equally welcoming to tourists, kids, gig-goers, families, and, I notice, even the odd dog in with its people, looking for a unique glimpse of the city.
I wouldn’t take my grannie there when the DJ is on – mainly because she’s dead and it would cause a scene – but I wouldn’t hesitate to invite colleagues, visiting relatives, friends and family any other time.

The drinks menu is conventionally varied. Given the location, house cocktails and wines are not outrageously priced and bourbon is well represented alongside the scotch. As the craft beer epidemic seems yet to reach this high you won’t find a pint of Burnistoun’s favourite Fisherman’s Jaggy Jaw IPA, but the selection of brews is good.

The ‘gantry teeming with opportunity’ inevitably skews towards the younger crowd but it’s definitely fully loaded for fun. The Bro-hee-to caught my eye, but I wasn’t in the mood for rum, nor for the vodka and vermouth in the Nae Martini. Beer is always a great way to cool a hot summer evening so a bottled Blue Moon and a pint of St Mungo kickstarted the evening. An excellent wheat beer duelling with a very quaffable local lager.

Later, sinking into an easy-drinking MacAllan Gold gave me space to remember how much history I have with Glasgow, despite having spent so much of my life elsewhere.

As I lean back, to the left I can see the only other rooftop bar I’ve ever been to in Glasgow sitting just across the river Clyde, past the Squinty bridge atop the Pacific Quay Headquarters of BBC Scotland. A decade ago I spent over a year of my life running the projects to take BBC Scotland into the digital age as built the new headquarters. For me, it was like being given the keys to the toy shop and not having to pay for anything.
To the right I can see the SSE Hydro, where a month back I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd’s last UK tour, having seen their first UK tour for less than 100th of the price way back when at the Glasgow Apollo for 50p.
And – tissue alert – behind the Hydro I can see the 560 year old University of Glasgow where I met and married my teenage sweetheart.
Hint: If you ever do make it to Harvard, it’s inadvisable to say, even in jest, that it’s the youngest university you’ve ever been to.
My bad!

Escaping from Pacific Quay. Lynyrd Skynyrd rocking it.

Is the whisky good?
The whisky list is strong, though the offered cocktail opportunities are limited.
Is it a good place to go?
It’s cracking. Great for tourists, friends, families and even dogs.
Friday and Saturday nights are for the Love Island crew. So get there before the DJ. And do remember it’s Glasgow. Folk can be loud.
Would I go back?
I certainly will.
The Red Sky Bar is a fantastic addition to the Glasgow scene. Egalitarian, accessible, confortable, and not too expensive, the Red Sky Bar would be welcome in any city.
If you love rooftop bars you’ll love the Red Sky Bar.