A slice of five-star luxury beneath the Ochil Hills in the heart of Scotland
The very name Gleneagles conjures up thoughts of opulent country escapism. Known as the “Glorious Playground”, the luxury hotel and 850-acre estate beneath the Ochil Hills opened in 1924. With more than 230 rooms, four golf courses, a spa, shopping arcade and eight restaurants and bars, Gleneagles hosted a G8 Summit in 2005 and was the setting for Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in 2014. It was bought from drinks company Diageo by private investment firm Ennismore in 2015 for a rumoured £150 million and the new owner is nearing the end of a major refurbishment programme.
Budget or boutique?
Gleneagles is not “budget” by any measure, but “boutique” doesn’t seem to do it justice either, apart from some of the stores in the shopping arcade. It’s full-blooded tartan-bedecked luxury.
Our room had everything you would expect: a spacious bathroom with double basins and Asprey products, a roaring fire, an enormous bed, a smart TV, a mini bar, a coffee machine and sweet treats. But what pleased us the most was the care that had been taken to make us feel our two-year-old daughter was especially welcome. In her wooden cot were her Gleneagles slippers and gown, along with a cuddly toy, from all of which she has since been almost inseparable.
Wining and dining
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is the only Scottish restaurant to have been awarded two Michelin stars and it has held them for several years. But much as we would have loved to dine there, the experience would have been wasted on our energetic toddler. Fortunately there is no shortage of alternative options.
The recently opened Birnam Brasserie, named after nearby Birnam Wood of Macbeth fame, has a fittingly 1920s feel with its Parisian bistro-style décor and mosaic floor. It is open all day and has a children’s menu. The kitchen was happy to rustle up a mash with peas and carrots instead of chips for our exacting toddler to enjoy with her fish goujons.
We had lunch at the Dormy, which has a relaxed clubhouse feel to it and views across the King’s and Queen’s Courses. The eclectic menu includes Indian and Italian classics cooked in the restaurant’s tandoor and pizza ovens.
Breakfast was in the Strathearn, with a breakfast buffet as complete as you could hope to find anywhere.
Worth getting out of bed for
I tried my hand at shooting, taking aim at clays projected hither and yon by various contraptions to simulate assorted game. With the expert tutelage of my instructor, John, I was soon blasting discs out of the sky with a rather beautiful Beretta shotgun like a pro. The shooting school was established by Sir Jackie Stewart in 1985 and John has been on many excursions with the Formula One legend.
There can be few better ways to relax and unwind than in the Gleneagles spa. It is a designated Luxury Spa Resort, with the extensive list of therapies and treatments that title entails. After a massage that left me wondering where I had left the achy and stressed husk I previously inhabited, we took our daughter for a swim in the pool which was the highlight of her trip.
Little Glen crèche is for two to nine-year-olds, and The Den caters for children aged six to 15. They offer parents peace of mind while they enjoy the multitude of pursuits on offer, including pitch ’n’ putt and Pashley bikes, sledging and igloo building if it snows, and countryside walks with Henry the hotel dog and the team. There is also an impressive array of activities for children, including mountain biking, Agrocat driving, falconry and tennis.
Gleneagles built its reputation on catering for city types seeking a slice of hedonistic Highland luxury, which it still does in spades. But it is also a perfect place for both a relaxing and action-packed family break.
Prices for a family room start from £360 based on two adults and two children sharing a Sovereign Room during February Half Term (9th-24th February), and kids stay free, saving £50 per child aged 6–14 years old per night. Visit https://bit.ly/2QQE2hu for the half-term programme.
Gleneagles, near Auchterarder, PH3 1NF (Tel: 01764 662231, 0800 704705, gleneagles.com)