Scotland’s Gleneagles just might be the most magical place on earth. The five star four-season resort on 850 lush acres in Perthshire offers something for everyone, regardless of their age. And, as it is less than an hour away by car from Edinburgh and Glasgow airports (and with direct train service from London), it is easy to get to.
The resort is the ideal destination for a holiday, a romantic getaway or to celebrate a special occasion with family or a group of friends, as there are endless options of activities from which to choose, from golf, tennis, shooting and fishing to simply relaxing at its full-service spa. There are also a number of historic sites worth visiting in the area as well, including castles and working distilleries.
This five-star resort goes above and beyond to make sure its guests’ every need is attended to. Gleneagles has virtually thought of every detail and how it can make each guest’s visit a special and memorable one.
A Countryside Estate In The Heart of Scotland
Originally built in 1924, as a “countryside estate in the heart of Scotland”, the property was once described as a “Riviera in the Highlands” and the “eighth wonder of the world”. It was developed to be a country house hotel by Caledonian Railway Company (later merged into London, Midland and Scottish Railway) which operated a railway line through the picturesque valley of Strathearn. During the gilded age, Gleneagles was a popular destination for glamorous Londoners who would take the LMS Railway from London through the Scottish countryside on seasonal voyages to the resort.
Like other grand railroad hotels built around the world, from the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia to The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida, Gleneagles sought to “provide leisure to the travelling public.” Gleneagles was soon world-renowned for its beautiful and challenging golf courses.
Since 2015, the property has been under new ownership and management. Its new owner, Ennismore, a London-based hospitality developer and operator (which also owns and manages Hoxton Hotels), is passionate about the resort and has made it a top priority to return Gleneagles to the grandeur it once enjoyed. Ennismore has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish the property and the result is outstanding with attention paid to every last detail.
A Country House Hotel
Approached via a long picturesque driveway, Gleneagles doesn’t have the appearance of a typical hotel. Rather, it more closely resembles a rambling, glamorous country house that might be seen on the likes of Downton Abbey or The Crown—a magnificent estate where aristocrats might be found roaming its halls and gardens or playing croquet on one of its lawns. This is Scotland, after all, so it is not unusual to see a guest donning a kilt or a bagpipe player puffing traditional Scottish music while walking through one of its halls.
There are 232 well-appointed guest rooms, which includes 27 suites. Guest rooms are beautifully decorated with some featuring traditional interiors while others have modern décor. Suites are the epitome of luxury with canopy-dressed four poster beds, fireplaces and oversized bathrooms. The Royal Lochnagar Suite, for example, offers uninterrupted views across the beautiful Glendevon and Ochil Hills. It has a sitting area with and its own dining room in addition to a marble hallway, powder room, dressing room, bedroom and an oversized master bathroom.
With a staff that numbers more than 900 and a guest population that is typically fewer than 500, there is an abundance of attention and high-touch service at a level not seen at most hotels and resorts around the world. It is not unusual, for example, for a staff member to greet a guest by name as the resort aims to make each visitor feel at home.
Another example of the high level of customer service at the resort is the outerwear loaner program. Wanting to make sure Gleneagles’ guests are adequately outfitted for its full range of outdoor pursuits, the resort offers a loaner program that includes a wide selection of Barbour waterproof jackets in every size (including children’s sizes) that are available to wear on a complimentary basis throughout a guest’s stay. There are also Hunter boots (called “Wellies” here) in all sizes so that a guest won’t “sully” his or her shoes.
The loaner program certainly makes it easier to pack for the visit and to be prepared for all weather conditions. And if you fall in love with your Barbour, as many guests do, the resort has a shop at the Equestrian Center that sells a wide variety of jackets, hats, boots and much more.
Gleneagles offers an outstanding retail arcade as well, so you won’t need to leave the property if you want to pick up a souvenir of your trip. There are several high end boutiques as Hawico Scottish cashmere, Escada and Dunhill. There is a Gleneagles shop that offers its own line of luxurious handcrafted leather goods and a bookstore that also sells old-fashioned candies. More shops will soon open including Petit Bateau, Le Toy Van, Caramel and Hop & Scotch.
Dining At Gleneagles
The dining options at Gleneagles are exceptional and there are many options from which to choose, from casual dining to formal dining.
Gleneagles’ elegant Strathearn restaurant was recently reopened after an extensive refurbishment. Inspired by first class railway travel during the 1920’s, it is reminiscent of the grand dining venues of the gilded age. The elegant dining room is a dramatic space that is almost theatrical with its sumptuous décor. Jackets are required in this elegant dining room. Its dinner menu features Scottish halibut, wild venison, native Hebridean Salmon and Tweed Valley beef in addition to local, seasonal produce.
Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, which specializes in French cuisine with a Scottish twist, is the only restaurant in Scotland to be awarded two Michelin stars (there are no three star restaurants in Scotland).
Casual dining can be had at The Birnam Brasserie, which offers brasserie-style dining with classic French-American style dishes, from steak frites and bouillabaisse, to sandwiches and salads. Featuring a beautiful mosaic floor and bistro-style décor as well as a Winter Garden, the restaurant is reminiscent of a grand Parisian café.
The Golf Clubhouse offers a pub called The Dormy that offers beautiful views across the King’s and Queen’s Courses. Its menu features a hearty menu of grill classics, comfort food and specialties from its tandoor and pizza ovens.
While at the stables, Auchterarder 70 offers small plates, including haggis pakora, duck spring rolls, and vegetable tempura as well as an extensive selection of local craft beer.
Cocktails, Scotch Whisky and Local Brews
The Blue Bar, located on the 18th hole of The King’s and The Queen’s golf courses, is an opulent showcase for Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky. Appointed with leather sofas, luxurious throws and a large circular firepit, The Blue Bar also offers a wide selection of Cuban cigars.
Reminiscent of the iconic bars of the 1920s and 30s, and personifying effortless elegance and glamour, The American Bar is a truly special space for intimate drinks. Complemented by an exquisite caviar selection, the drinks list showcases an exceptional collection of cocktails inspired by the roaring 20s era; and an impressive range of Champagnes by the glass, bottle and magnum. Opulent and beautiful, The American Bar is the perfect place to toast a special celebration or enjoy a memorable drink before or after dinner.
A traditional afternoon tea is offered daily and features French pastries, cakes, finger sandwiches and scones. Held in the Glendevon room, it offers magnificent views across the hotel’s grounds.
Gleneagles is world-renowned for its golf and offers four courses. There are three 18-hole courses and a nine-hole par three course that is ideal for beginners and families.
Golf legend, James Braid, who had won five Open Championships between 1901 and 1910, designed the picturesque King’s and Queen’s courses, which opened in 1919 before construction of the hotel was even completed.
The championship PGA Centenary Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, opened in 1993 and was modified in 2012 by Nicklaus in preparation for the Ryder Cup which was held at Gleneagles in 2014. In September Gleneagles will host the 2019 Solheim Cup, which is one of the biggest events in women’s professional golf.
The golf club house offers a full selection of rental clubs for both women and men, featuring such brands as TaylorMade, Titleist and Calloway and there’s a pro shop that sells a full range of golf clothing and other equipment.
Though Gleneagles is world-renowned for its golf courses, there is a plethora of outdoor pursuits from which to choose from falconry to fly fishing and archery to shooting and cycling. There’s even a ferret school and gundog classes for guests who are 12 years and older that instructs how to work with gundogs in the field, with training in receives, agility and basic obedience (children ages 8 to 11 can enroll in a junior gundog program).
As Gleneagles believes that age should not be a barrier to enjoying the activities on offer, everything adults can do, children can do too, from driving scaled-down Land Rovers through an obstacle course to riding miniature ponies.
All guests should start their visit at Gleneagles with the Playground Planner. Located in the main building of the resort, the Playground Planner is the concierge that expertly books for guests all of their outdoor pursuits, as well as other activities, such as tennis, golf and horseback riding.
Gleneagles is one of the only places in the world where guests can take falconry lessons, as it is home to the British School of Falconry. Gleneagles is Scotland’s top destination for falconry lessons as it instructs more than 4,000 people in this ancient pursuit. Family lessons are available as are group hunts—-Gleneagles even has hawks and a Golden eagle on site.
The Ferret School at Gleneagles
Gleneagles is also the first resort in the world to offer a ferret school which provides guests a chance to learn how to handle and work ferrets, which in Britain have been domesticated to hunt rabbits since the thirteenth century. Children aged eight and up, and adults, can take a 45 minute lesson during which they learn how to handle and hold a ferret correctly and how to walk it on a harness lead. The ferrets can then be put to the test in a race through tubes, which resemble the burrows they hunt naturally. The lesson ends with a simulated hunt at the Gleneagles Warren, an artificial rabbit warren, where guests fit tracking collars to their ferrets and learn how to track them underground as they pursue a dummy bunny.
Shooting Programs At Gleneagles
Shooting is a Scottish tradition, and as such, the Gleneagles Shooting School is set on spectacular grouse moor. Here, guests of all skill levels, from beginners to experts, can learn or practice the full range of shooting disciplines as the school offers the very best in terms of sporting clays facilities and equipment.
Guests can shoot in a world-class clay shooting range with a wide variety of stations in which the clay pigeons simulate a wide variety of birds, from Blackcock to Queen’s Pheasant and Woodcock. There is also a shooting course with clays that simulate teal, High Pheasant and running hare. Instructors can simulate a driven shoot to allow more experienced shooters to practice their techniques. The shooting school also offers deer stalking and game bird shooting at local private estates, although both should be booked in advance.
Gleneagles owns a fleet of 14 off-road vehicles and offers a variety of trails and experiences with a team of off-road instructors. One popular excursion is an off-road half-day safari that departs from the front door of the hotel. Safaris explore remote private estate roads and tracks accessible only by private invitation from the land owners. These excursions take place at exclusive hill farms, in picturesque valleys and at heather uplands with majestic vistas as instructors point out Munros, lochs and lochans and historic landmarks, as well as local wildlife. A gourmet picnic with champagne can also be arranged for an additional charge while binoculars and field guides are provided. (There are even half-scale Land Rover Series 1 vehicles for children who can enjoy a mini off-road obstacle course on the resort’s property).
The property offers an equestrian school that has both an indoor arena and outdoor facilities. Guests can take a wide variety of classes from dressage to show jumping and cross country. There is also a polo school and instruction in carriage driving. For guests who prefer touring the Scottish countryside on horseback, trail rides are also available.
Tennis Facilities and Programs
Tennis champions and brothers, Andy and Jamie Murray, grew up in the area and spent a great deal of their childhood at Gleneagles, where their mother, Judy, remains a member to this day, so it is not much of a surprise that Gleneagles offers a world-class tennis program with expert instructors (including former members of Great Britain’s Davis Cup Team).
For guests who want to play or learn how to improve their skills on the court, Gleneagles offers nine tennis courts and a full program that offers instruction for players of all ability levels. The 2,500 square meter Gleneagles Arena includes an indoor tennis center (that doubles as an events space).
Each year, the resort hosts an exhibition tennis match, most recently featuring 1987 Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash who played against fellow pro Greg Rusedski.
Spa, Health and Fitness Programs
The Gleneagles Spa offers a full menu of treatments by ESPA in 18 treatment rooms, from facials and massages to body treatments. Visitors to the spa have exclusive access to a wellness center where they can enjoy heat and thermal experiences before or after their treatment, or enjoy a snack at The Spa’s café, with a menu focused on revitalizing superfoods. The spa also offers a team of alternative health and fitness specialists who can design treatments and individual programs for its guests.
Gleneagles’ health and fitness center, which is complimentary for all guests, offers a wide range of fitness classes, from Pilates to cardio, seven days a week. The fitness center features a full range of state-of-the-art Technogym equipment
The health center has two indoor swimming pools—-one is an enormous lagoon-shaped pool for families while there is also an 18.5 meter-long indoor pool that is specifically for adults and is ideal for those seeking to swim laps without interruption. With chaise lounges located along the length of one side, the adult pool is a peaceful place to relax as it is enclosed, quiet and dimly lit. Here, there is a steam bath and a sauna as well as a rain shower for rinsing off.
Gleneagles Is Easy To Get To
While Gleneagles can be enjoyed over a long weekend, it is best to spend a week at the resort in order to take advantage of the plethora of activities from which to choose.
Getting to Gleneagles is easy. From London, there is a direct train service that will take you to the property, which has its own depot on site. From elsewhere, the best way to get there is by flying into either Edinburgh or Glasgow, both of which are less than 50 miles away from the property. Direct flights are available from Amsterdam, Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris and Beijing, among other cities. There are daily direct flights from New York and seasonal direct flights from Boston.
Delta Airlines offers year-round non-stop service to Edinburgh from New York’s JFK Airport while United offers a non-stop from Newark Liberty International Airport. During the summer months there are non-stop flights offered by Delta Airlines from Boston Logan to Edinburgh while nonstop flights to Glasgow are also available with Delta from JFK or from Newark with United Airlines (seasonally). The resort can arrange for a luxury car or shuttle service that will pick you up at either airport and take you back for your return flight home. Arrangements can also be made to land a helicopter at the hotel.
A dream come true for anyone who ever dreamed of spending time at a proper British country estate, Gleneagles in Scotland has it all—-and then some. Upon the end of your stay, be prepared to leave a piece of your heart behind, because falling in love with Gleneagles is easy to do.
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