Glasgow has undergone a sweeping makeover in recent years, partly in anticipation of hosting this July’s Commonwealth Games (one of the world’s largest athletic tournaments). In the formerly gritty Finnieston district—where some of the Games will be held at the just-unveiled UFO-shaped SSE Hydro arena, which will also host concerts ranging from Kings of Leon to the MTV Europe Music Awards—the main strip of Argyle Street has become a veritable Bedford Avenue: Sample tawny port and local deer loin from new bar-restaurant the Gannet; browse indie shops for local designs like Silvia Pellegrino’s fur-lined tartan hoodies; sip a cold beer while getting chopped at Soul Barber Room. Just a 20-minute walk away is a new outpost of the boutique-hotel chain CitizenM (from $170; citizenm.com/glasgow), complete with futuristic pod-style rooms and Vitra furniture.
Isle of Islay
Drive two or so hours from Glasgow to Kennacraig, then take the misty two-hour ferry crossing to Port Ellen. Separated from mainland Scotland by 16 miles of ocean, this untamed 240-square-mile island has remained mostly an insider secret among intrepid whiskey geeks and bird-watchers. Book a room near the port at the Old Excise House B&B (from $207; theoldexcisehouse.com), which has deep cast-iron bathtubs and views of the occasional otter darting along the shore. Start the day at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ Oa reserve—Islay is home to more than 100 species—where a guide will point out golden eagles and peregrine falcons. Then hit up one or two of the eight distilleries on the island (a ninth is slated for 2015), a whiskey powerhouse since the 18th century. At Laphroaig, the most famous, put on a pair of rubber boots and traverse the rugged peat banks before enjoying a boozy picnic at the distillery’s pristine water source. For dinner, head back to the B&B and curl up by the wood-burning stove while the owners serve just-caught seafood. In the morning, the freshly baked goods come with a local-whiskey-infused marmalade.