Mama heads to Scotland for a wonderful stay at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel
Words Morag Turner
There is simply nowhere in the world more beautiful than Scotland. I can make that biased statement because I am a Scot myself. I moved to London 13 years ago and while I love living in the South East, I so enjoy escaping to my family home in the Highlands whenever possible.The only downside to this is that I always go back to same place each time I visit, there never seems enough time to go anywhere else when you have so many friends and relations to catch up with.
But this year we ventured away from my usual spot to let my husband and children see more of the stunning country where I grew up. And what better place to experience the very best of all things Scottish than the world-famous Gleneagles hotel? Calling it a hotel almost doesn’t do the place justice. Indeed Gleneagles refers to itself as a ‘glorious playground’ and this description truly is far more suitable – as we found out when spent two wonderful autumn days there during the October half term.
I spent the entire drive up from England telling my three sons what an amazing treat they were in for. My last trip to Gleneagles was over 10 years ago and lots of amazing activities and facilities had been added since.
We arrived on a beautiful sunny afternoon, the sweeping driveway guiding us up to the iconic hotel that has long been a favourite with celebrities and royalty alike. Our first port of call was afternoon tea in the stunning Glendevon Room. My boys are nine, seven and three so when a cake stand full of utterly gorgeous goodies arrived they were over the moon. I did try to get them to eat the delicious savouries first but frankly who wants an egg sandwich when you can have a macaroon or strawberry tart? So while all the adults around us leisurely enjoyed their champagne and scones, so began the race to the finish at the Turner table. But the staff, attentive as they are, kept us topped up with cakes and a superb selection of teas.
Everything at Gleneagles is that little bit more special that you expect it ever could be. Our suite was incredibly spacious and beautifully decorated. I left my all my boys relaxing there while I nipped off to the luxurious spa for a Body Cocoon treatment using ESPA products. Nearly two hours later I emerged, exfoliated, massaged and fantastically relaxed. I’ve been to many wonderful spas all over the world but few have been as good as this one. From the décor and the design to the treatments themselves and the fantastic therapists, it really is a place to properly unwind in style.
What makes Gleneagles so special is the plethora of activities available for guests to try. You could stay for a fortnight and not exhaust the list, but as we only had two days before heading off to gran and grandpa’s house, we packed in as much as we could. After the most wonderful Scottish breakfast (the buffet is the stuff of dreams) we headed out, welly- and Barbour-clad to meet Duncan ,one of the hotels many staff specialising in outdoor pursuits, to start out morning of activities in the fresh Highland air.
First up was mini Landrover driving. These are child-size, open-top Landrovers that children age four and up can drive around a specially designed off-road course with an instructor right beside guiding them through out. I had kept this a surprise and when the boys saw the super-cute little cars their eyes lit up. Even though they only go at five miles per hour, the thrill of being behind the wheel was wonderful for them.
Next up was a trip to the Ferret School. The first of its kind in a hotel, the school gives lessons on how to handle and train these clever little creatures. Our boys got to hold two of the fluffy little things who behaved impeccably (no running up trouser legs) and watch them race through tubes and around an artificial rabbit warren looking for a dummy bunny. It was hilariously good fun.
Finally we headed to the falconry school. We couldn’t wait for the chance to hold one of the magnificent birds of prey.
After donning special falconers gloves, we were introduces to a stunning Harris Hawk. He perched on our arms – even my three year-old managed to hold him – and then swooped off, returning for some food. Not tame, but unbelievably well trained in a very controlled environment. A truly wonderful memory we will all treasure.
While I’m not a golfer, I do fully appreciate that for those who are visit to the championship course is a must. After lunch of haggis (call me a cliché but I do love the stuff) at the Dormy Clubhouse restaurant, my husband excitedly skipped off to play nine holes while the boys and I took a look around the vast grounds.
This suitably tired them out so when the babysitter arrived that evening they were tucked up in bed as we headed to the chic American Bar for cocktails.
We ate at two of the hotel’s restaurants, the Birnham Brassiere with the kids and the Strathearn without them. Both meals were delicious, the former much more informal, the later something really special. Four fantastic courses in the most beautiful dinning room – everything dinner at a five star hotel should be.
Gleneagles is very much a family-orientated place and the areas designated to kids really do show that. My sons loved hanging out in the Little Glen, a fantastic supervised crèche for two to nine year-olds. They enjoyed painting and playing with Lego while we spent an hour clay pigeon shooting – something my husband and I love doing, especially in such an idyllic Highland setting.
For older kids there is the Den, where they will find all manner of games and the likes of Xboxes and PS4s to keep them amused. It also has its own cinema room.
Babysitters can also be arranged. So if you fancy a bit of time sans enfants then you can do it safe in the knowledge that your kids are also having fun and are being well looked after.
On Sunday morning it was time to leave and head on to my parents’ house a few hours further north. As we drove off we all agreed that it was one of the best places we had ever stayed. Gleneagles showcases all the very best that Scotland has to offer, from country pursuits and golf to fine dining and incredible hospitality. For us it was just a short stay, but it would make the ideal place for a much longer family holiday. And don’t be put of by the variable Scottish weather – there is so much to do there come rain or shine.
I never need another reason to feel proud of where I’m from, but a stay in this world-class Highland retreat really reminded me of how nice it is to see more of the country I hold so dear.