Gleneagles in Scotland is undoubtedly one of the world’s most iconic hotels, famous for its beautiful setting in the rolling hills of Perthshire, restaurants, spa and world-famous golf course. It’s no stranger to awards and accolades – and now Gleneagles has just landed another big one, coming in at No.32 on the inaugural World’s 50 Best list and also picking up the Art of Hospitality special award at the ceremony in London on 19th September 2023.
First opened in 1924, the hotel is reaching the 100-year mark but has been transformed over the past few years since new owner Ennismore took over in 2015. We went up there in July to check it out and were seriously impressed by the place, which has managed to keep its traditional charm while still bringing the hotel right up to date across every department, particularly with the restaurants and bars.
Getting to Gleneagles involves a quick flight up to Edinburgh and then about an hour’s taxi north into the countryside. It’s a beautiful drive. Gleneagles does have a train station too, and there’s one direct train a day to King’s Cross. We got a flight up and the train back which was a nice way round to do things we reckon – the train departs Gleneagles just after midday so you have the morning to have breakfast and relax before checking out for the train.
Golf has been a huge part of Gleneagles since day one and people travel from all over the world to play here. But don’t worry if you have absolutely zero interest in golf, as there’s so much more to the place from, walking and cycling to falconry, horse riding, and clay pigeon shooting. It’s a beautiful setting so any of the outdoor pursuits are well worth getting involved with.
Our favourite activity though? Heading to all the great restaurants and bars. The food and drink lineup has been totally transformed in recent years, with new life breathed into the existing venues and some brand new creations to boot. If you want incredible fine dining, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie is Scotland’s only two-Michelin-starred restaurant, serving brilliant French-inspired tasting menus. Another fancy option is the refurbished Strathearn, the grand dining room where breakfast is served (more on that later). It’s old school glamour here with a bit of theatre too – there’s beef Wellington and Dover sole served from a trolley, and crêpes Suzette flambéed at the table for instance.
Most fun however is The Birnam, which has recently been given a makeover, with a brand new menu of American-Italian dishes. We loved it so much that we ate there twice during our stay as there were so many things we wanted to try. Do not miss the focaccia stuffed with black garlic; the beetroot tartare; the whipped gorgonzola and crisp breads; the crab spaghetti; and the EPIC whole chicken Caesar salad for two.
And for drinks, there’s the classic Century Bar (which also serves food during the day) and the super sleek and sexy American Bar, which is perfect for a late-night after-dinner cocktail. There’s also an insanely good lineup of Scotch whiskies on offer in the bars, including rare numbers from the likes of Macallan and Gleneagles’ own-label limited edition bottles.
Luckily, there’s also a great spa at Gleneagles – you’ll need somewhere to work off all that eating. We can recommend getting down there for a swim in one of the two indoor pools before breakfast to work up an appetite. You’ll also find a steam room, sauna, gym and jacuzzi on offer, as well as treatment rooms if you want to indulge in a massage or beauty treatment.
For breakfast, Gleneagles has what must be the best breakfast buffet in the UK. You get used to seeing epic spreads at fancy hotels in Asia but it’s rarer to see that level of effort put in here. Gleneagles absolutely do it right, with huge piles of fresh fruit and juices, healthy cereals, pastries, bacon, eggs, shakshuka, potato scones, sausages, smoked salmon (three types no less) and just everything else you could possibly want. Despite serving so many people in the huge Strathearn, service never misses a beat either – dishes are always replenished and fresh coffee delivered to the table quickly. It’s truly one of the best parts of staying here.
When it comes to picking a room, there are eight different room and suite categories, with accommodation split between the historic main house and the more modern Braid House. All beautifully designed and luxurious so you can’t really go wrong but there is something nice about staying in the main house, with its long creaky corridors and the big old grand staircase.
Gleneagles really is a special spot, easily one of the nicest places to stay in the UK, if not the world. There’s so much to do, yet it’s totally relaxing at the same time. For a special treat to recharge the batteries away from London life, Gleneagles is the ultimate weekend break.