11 February 2020
It’s lunchtime at Gleneagles. Pin-sharp waiters zip through the plant-packed, bright and airy courtyard of the Birnam Brasserie, furnished with marble table tops and rattan café chairs. By the entrance, visitors pick up bouquets from a picture-perfect flower cart or emerge freshly polished from the hotel spa. Outside, smart cars crunch across the gravelled drive, taking care to avoid Pashley bicycles and the gaggle of children playing croquet on the lawn. The hotel is buzzing with Barbour-clad locals, stylish weekenders and notable faces, lapping up all of the luxuries that a weekend at this five-star playground has to offer.
This was not always the case at Gleneagles. While always considered Scotland’s most luxurious hotel, it became somewhat antiquated over the years, drawing an older, golfing-type of crowd. It was sold in 2015 to the team behind The Hoxton hotels group, Ennismore, and has since undergone a period of rapid renovation to be transformed into Scotland’s trendiest hotspot in the hills, with unrivalled views of Perthshire’s rugged, undulating landscape.
Gleneagles now boasts eight restaurants and bars of varying formality and an arcade of boutiques for the well-heeled, selling fine jewellery, cosmetics and kiddie cashmere. There is also the supremely plush Bob & Cloche hair and beauty salon, with dusty pink furnishings and pink velvet sofas.
Gleneagles has been scooping up accolades for its efforts: it boasts the only spa in Scotland to be designated a Luxury Spa Resort by the Leading Hotels of the World group and, more recently, Daniel Greenock was awarded Restaurant Manager of the Year for leading the transformation of the new Strathearn restaurant, which launched last year to widespread acclaim.
The art deco-inspired grand dining space has been redesigned to capture the glamour and grandeur of the Roaring Twenties, with fringed velvet seating, ornate glass lampshades and artfully gilded trimmings. On a low-lit evening, a fleet of bespoke silver serving trolleys work the room, theatrically flipping wafer-thin crêpes and sizzling steaks over towering flames, while a pianist plays beneath the bay window. The restaurant pairs the very best of Scottish produce with the flair of French fine dining for an impeccable menu that includes whisky barrel smoked salmon, wild venison with red wine jus and tender halibut with champagne sauce.
The Strathearn delivers on both drama and decadence but, more importantly, it is lively – a feat not often accomplished by a countryside hotel restaurant. The menu is matched by a convivial atmosphere, ringing with laughter and bonhomie. After dinner, we retire to the ambient and discreet American Bar, where a prohibition-style cocktail proves the perfect nightcap.
Bedrooms are elegant and spacious, while the famed Gleneagles breakfast is a spectacular spread spanning charcuterie, haggis, clootie dumpling (steamed Scottish fruitcake), smoked cheeses and a millennial-friendly smashed avocado station.
Guests at Gleneagles are encouraged to explore the great outdoors, be it cantering on horseback, by bicycle or behind the wheel of a Land Rover. An honourable mention for the fleet of electric Toylander cars for kids, perfect for mini adventurers and in keeping with the hotel’s motto: ‘Whatever an adult can do, a child can do, too’. There is also falconry, archery, a shooting school and, of course, the world-famous golf course.
All of this, plus the mountainous views of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs on your doorstep, makes Gleneagles so much more than just a hotel. What really sets this cool five-star retreat apart from The Hoxton, Soho House and all of its equally lavish, velvet sofa-clad counterparts across the UK, is the inimitable Scottish charm – that signature warmth and wit, instilled by the tweed-topped staff from the moment you’re ushered through the revolving doors.
For all its rural setting, Gleneagles is also surprisingly accessible. It is one hour from both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and even boasts its own train station. The only problem? You’ll never want to leave.
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder PH3 1NF, gleneagles.com