At a Glance
A pastoral playground ideal for families seeking to balance a variety of interests and schedules, Gleneagles offers a seemingly infinite range of outdoor activities within easy reach of Edinburgh.
- Proximity to Edinburgh makes logistics blissfully hassle-free
- Miniature ponies and miniature Land Rovers for wee sportsmen
- Culinary and spa offerings to satisfy even the most jaded city-slickers
Spanning a panorama of heathered foothills on the fringes of the Highlands, Gleneagles, formerly a distinguished railroad property serviced by its own dedicated station, is a gracious country resort in the tradition of iconic leisure hotels like the Greenbrier. It is a place of such plenitude and ease, and a place so prolific in recreational possibilities, that it speaks even to those who would otherwise forego grandeur in favor of subtlety or mystery. While properties of similar magnitude can sometimes feel bland and cavernous, Gleneagles is rich in substance – and graced with a distinctly Scottish warmth.
There are 232 rooms at the resort, with rooms in the main house decorated in tasteful shades of gray with elegant, fresh touches and artwork. Braid House is an extension of the Main House with 59 rooms. The rooms are more contemporary, but have distinctly Scottish touches and fantastic views over the property.
Gleneagles is perhaps best known as a golf destination, and with good reason; it is home to the PGA National Academy for Scotland and three championship courses, among them the PGA Centenary Course, whose designer Jack Nicklaus called it "the finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with." The resort's reputation as a golfer’s mecca is indeed richly deserved, but it is not the whole story; part of what is so remarkable about the host of the 2014 Ryder Cup is how brilliantly it manages to entertain, pamper and regale the legions of guests who find their way to Gleneagles on the coattails of a golf-obsessed sibling or spouse.
The menu of aristocratic country pursuits practiced at Gleneagles is as encyclopedic as it is sophisticated. The British School of Falconry has been based here since the early '90s (it is recommended to pre-book falconry to ensure availability), and the resort's Gundog School was the first of its kind in the world. Guests can spend a day stalking red deer through wooded glens or fishing rainbow trout in the company of a local ghillie. The fabulous equestrian program is yet another highlight, with its state-of-the-art indoor ring and nuanced curriculum featuring dressage, polo and show jumping in addition to exhilarating scenic trail rides. A team of miniature ponies with names like Arthur and Blueberry Muffin means even the smallest riders will be matched with a worthy steed. Indeed virtually any activity offered for adults has been adapted for children, who can learn to shoot, fish or even drive. Guests as young as six years old can get behind the wheel of specially commissioned mini Land Rovers to brave the resort's junior off-road driving course. The culture throughout Gleneagles' various "schools" is easygoing and warm and exceedingly hospitable to beginners, but the quality of the facilities and the caliber of instruction have also made it a destination worthy of serious sportsmen.
Gleneagles is also a place where spoiled city-dwellers can dip a toe into bucolic pleasures without having to forfeit urban luxuries. The spa is liberally staffed with acupuncturists, nutritionists and personal trainers and boasts 30 treatment rooms. There is a Shu Uemura salon and a nail bar offering a more extensive array of manicure and pedicure services than can often be found on the most cosmopolitan city blocks. Unsurprisingly, the resort's collection of eateries rivals its activities catalogue; what is surprising is that a resort like Gleneagles would be a gastronomic destination in its own right. But indeed, passionate epicures make their way to Perthshire for the sole purpose of dining at Andrew Fairlie, having booked their tables months in advance. When Gleneagles hosted the G8 Summit in 2005, Fairlie, a local culinary prodigy, cooked for a formidable roster of world leaders including Her Majesty the Queen. His restaurant, tucked inconspicuously into an interior alcove of the resort’s main building, is still Scotland's only two Michelin-starred outfit. In addition to Andrew Fairlie, the resort has many informal dining options, including the golf clubhouse for bites between tee times, The Strathearn for all-day dining, and Deseo for Mediterranean tapas.
For all its hundreds of pristine acres, Gleneagles does manage to be a bustling place at certain times of the year. Resort pool and fitness memberships are popular with locals, and conferences are scheduled year-round. Large groups are often accommodated in an extension wing called Braid House, comprising a long, linear corridor of identical suites. The most charming (and most serene) rooms at Gleneagles are located on the fourth floor of the patrician main building, where handsome two-bedroom family suites offer sweeping views of the Perthshire countryside.
Who Should Stay
Families, groups of friends and couples seeking a grand resort with a wealth of outdoor activities.
Written by Cabell Belk