Great Places to Stay
- Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire
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The very name itself, "Gleneagles" is surely renowned and revered worldwide. Even for people who have never visited Scotland, this is widely known as a famous hotel synonymous with luxury living, reflecting an image of old-fashioned style and elegance.
And it is that image of a Grand Country House surrounded by stunning landscape and especially the series of three world-class golf courses, which have enticed many famous names here. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jackie Stewart, Sean Connery, Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and members of the Royal Family have visited over the years to take part in pro-celebrity and other golfing championships, charity, sports and leisure events.
But that is only one side of the Gleneagles story. It is not a just private and exclusive hotel for the rich and famous. Gleneagles has had the foresight and ingenuity to keep up to date, to freshen its style to create a contemporary countryside resort for everyone - business or leisure, couples, families and with a special welcome to children. Children are treated as little VIPs and they even have their own special website to keep them up to date with hotel news.
Just fifty miles from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, with easy access by road and rail, this is the ideal destination for sports enthusiasts, a family holiday or for a relaxing, romantic retreat.
As a resort hotel, with a wide range of sports and leisure activities, it is very popular at Christmas and New Year when it becomes a magical winter wonderland with a full programme of festive entertainment for all ages as well as a delicious feast of good food and drink. Throughout the seasons, the wide range of special inclusive packages and short break deals, Gleneagles offers a great place to stay with superb value for money, all year round.
How it all began
It was in the summer of 1910 when Donald Matheson, the General Manager of the Caledonian Railway company was enjoying a well-earned holiday in the Strathearn valley in Perthshire. With its soft and gentle landscape, the forested Ochil hills all around and Ben Lomond in the distance, he realised this would be the most perfect location for a grand hotel. Matheson was an astute businessman and not content in just running a railway company, which controlled the West Coast line from London to Scotland. Up until the 1960s, when the private motor car became more common, the railway ruled supreme for all travel across the UK. He believed that once he had `the traveller in his pocket` on the train then he should aim to keep and look after the traveller at the end of the journey. With this vision in mind he developed several city-centre railway hotels, including the prestigious Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh, built in 1902, where there used to be the Caledonian Station.
Following this success Matheson could see the great potential of a different kind of resort hotel, offering first class service and hospitality as well as golfing and sports facilities. With the design plans for the hotel and golf course in place, construction began - only to be completely halted with the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. Nine years later Donald Matheson was determined to complete his dream project and in June 1924 his Highland Palace celebrated its gala opening. The architectural design was fashioned on the style of a French chateau and the celebrated 18th century landscape gardener, Capability Brown was the inspiration for the landscaped gardens.
The first visitors of course were able to travel by train to Gleneagles Station just down the road, from where chauffeured cars would transport guests and their luggage to the hotel. This is of course a custom which very much continues today and is a popular and comfortable way to arrive from Glasgow, Edinburgh and London. The opening of Gleneagles was a major event with the newspaper reviews and articles: " A Riviera in the Highlands", "The eighth wonder of the World" " The Playground of the Gods" and "The Switzerland of Scotland" were just some of the accolades. The first night dinner dance, with Henry Hall and his band was broadcast live on the BBC, a broadcast that would have been a technical feat of genius for its time. Hall composed a special piece of music for the opening night entitled, "Glen of Eagles" and to this day the hotel has a Golden Eagle as its symbol.
The motto of the hotel is Heich abune the Heich, (High above the High) referring to the very high standard of comfort and service which Gleneagles aimed to offer all their guests.
Over 75 years on it is fascinating to observe how Donald Matheson's vision for a grand hotel came to fruition against all the odds. Since then its multi-award winning fame and prestige has grown and developed and today regarded as one of the leading hotels of the world.
Time has not stood still and while the beauty and peace of the Strathearn Valley has altered little over the years, major financial investment has ensured that the hotel has kept up to date with the most modern leisure, sports and business conference facilities together with regular refurbishment in design and comfort.
There are 216 bedrooms including 13 suites. £ 10 million is currently being spent on upgrading nearly 100 of the rooms to provide spacious accommodation. On a recent visit my partner and I were in one such newly decorated room on the third floor with large windows overlooking the gardens, a hedged maze and the tennis courts. It was all extremely luxurious with soft fabrics in leaf-greens and heather-tints for the bedspread on the king size bed, curtains and cushions, the shades reflecting the rural scene outside.
Guests now expect the best satellite TV and CD entertainment and all this is provided. There was also a very comfortable sofa and a coffee table stacked with glossy magazines, for a leisurely hour or so in the privacy of your own room. Our room had the most superb marble bathroom with a delightful period style claw foot bath placed elegantly in the centre of the room, as well as a brand new power shower. Ceiling speakers in the bathroom ensure that you may enjoy music while you bathe.
As a resort hotel the emphasis is very much on relaxation and getting away from it all, but that does not necessarily imply laziness. Almost £ 3 million has been spent on creating a state of the art Fitness centre called The Club. This has a 20 metre lap pool, an attractive leisure pool with loungers and palm-trees all around, a jacuzzi and an outdoor hot tub. There is a gymnasium, an aerobics dance studio, steam baths and saunas.
Guests are positively encouraged to indulge in some kind of activity. Every evening the hotel in-house newsletter is left on your bed during the turn-down service, informing you of the exercise classes, off-road driving sessions, golfing lessons, swimming and aquafit classes on offer throughout the day. For a touch of pampering you can book a health or beauty session in the Spa with a range of soothing, therapeutic and rejuvenating massage and cleansing treatments as well as the usual manicures and hair styling. I feel sure quite a number of golf widows will visit the Spa for an hour or two while their partner is out tackling the treacherous bunkers on the 15th green.
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