Great Places to Stay
- Getting to Gleneagles Hotel
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If I have whetted your appetite and you would like to visit Gleneagles (or Gleneaglets for the children) then it's an easy journey by car or train (via either Scotrail or GNER). My partner Ken and I hired a four wheel drive Landrover Discovery from the local Alldrive 4x4 car rental company at Auchterarder, just two miles from Gleneagles Hotel. This proved to be the ideal choice and highly recommended if you are visiting or touring Scotland. They offer an efficient personal service and will deliver vehicles to the airport or a convenient pick-up point. They delivered the car to my home in Edinburgh prior to our journey north to Gleneagles and drove us back at the end of our visit. This is our "test drive".
Voyage of Discovery - Ken Scott
"Always have the right tool for the job" my father used to say. Now, while my Lotus Elise is perfect for open top blasts around country lanes it is no Grand Tourer. The lack of luggage space, not to mention seat padding, sees me occasionally hiring a more practical car for longer journeys. Up until now, this has proved a disappointing experience. Hire cars are often poverty-spec, Euro-boxes that provide an unrewarding drive and leave you looking like the poor relations. What you really need is a car with style that can go anywhere. Something like an up-market off roader in fact.
The good news is that there are hire companies specialising in these high-status vehicles. Alldrive 4x4 Hire was able to deliver a brand new Land Rover Discovery to Edinburgh for our trip to Gleneagles. First impressions are that the latest Discovery is a handsome beast, retaining the heritage of its predecessors. The interior is a comfortable place to be with a high level of equipment and has earned full marks in customer surveys. An excellent stereo is paired with a CD auto-changer with steering wheel-mounted controls. Driver and passenger will not come to blows over the heater controls as each can select their own climate for their side of the car. There are some ergonomic quibbles with controls hidden or less than intuitive to use and the box over the wide transmission tunnel also seems to come into contact with the driver's elbow during gear changes.
The diesel engine awakens with less rattle than you might expect and any gruffness under accelerations feels in character and settles down when cruising. The power band is narrower than more peaky petrol engines, often requiring a down-change when overtaking. For such a large vehicle, there is very little wind or tyre noise. Steering initially feels vague either side of straight a head but it loads up with speed. The handling is massively improved over earlier versions and there is very little body roll. Passing an articulated lorry in heavy rain at motorway speed the Discovery felt completely composed and I swear the truck actually came off worse.
Taking to the B-roads towards Gleneagles the engine seems willing and the high driving position gives great visibility. The Discovery can be thrown into corners with confidence and braking is fairly assured, although it does seem to pitch forward slightly on the dampers.
All too soon, we turned into the gravelled drive of Gleneagles Hotel and a glance at the car park showed a liberal sprinkling of other luxury 4x4s. These most practical of vehicles have become lifestyle statements and prestigious marques such as Mercedes and BMW have been quick to grab a segment of the market. Only the tempting lobby of the hotel persuaded me to relinquish the keys to a member of staff for valet parking.
The next day rain turned the loch-side roads into rivers, and the Discovery started to make even more sense. In another car, a bow-wave of water coming over the bonnet would have brought on a flood of panic but in the Discover all I felt was a surge of laughter.
The furthest away from the tarmac we ventured was a forest parking area but, if this is all too grown up, you can be Lara Croft for a day at Gleneagles. Using the driving school's own Land Rovers you can take to courses designed by some of Britain's leading off road specialists. These include ridges, gullies, steep gradients, ditches and water splashes and provides an exhilarating experience for novices and a challenge for practised trail drivers.
After a couple of days with the Discovery you will probably want to keep it but you can console yourself with the knowledge as you hand it back that long-term owners are likely to be less than ecstatic with build quality and some mechanical woes.
So, the right tool for the job? Well just think of it as the automotive equivalent of the Swiss Army knife.
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