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Review: the Gleneagles hotel and resort in Scotland – it’s good

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This is our review of the Gleneagles hotel and resort in Scotland.

We spent three nights at the Gleneagles resort in Scotland last week, at the end of a 10 day holiday.

We thought we should end the holiday at a smart resort in case the kids had got too bored tramping around the mountains – but they actually enjoyed the whole trip.

This is not a full review because we only did a fraction of what is available at Gleneagles, and we didn’t play a full round of golf.  All of the photos here are ‘official’ ones, although to prove we were there, here we are after a gun dog training session.

Molly Burgess Max Burgess

Ten years ago, I spent two days at Gleneagles courtesy of my old financial services company.  I was in the new wing, which was impressive, but I had a tour of the rest of the hotel and it was clearly in need of some help.  Those days are gone.

Four years ago it was sold by Diageo, the drinks company, to the investment group that owns Hoxton Hotels.  A small fortune has been spent since then renovating the hotel.

Let me be clear about this.  I have never seen a more thorough hotel refurbishment in my life.  Every corner, except where listed building status intervened, has been renewed.  It looks astonishing and I cannot begin to imagine how much money has been spent.   

I’ve seen top-to-toe refurbishments before, of course, but not in a hotel which has multiple restaurants and multiple swimming pools.  Even more impressively, the hotel apparently remained open throughout.

All that is left to finish is the refurbishment of the main restaurant which is currently closed.

The only criticism I have – perhaps more of an observation – is that it is a ‘London’ refurbishment.  David Collins Studio led the work, although it did not do all of it, and David Collins Studio is responsible for the bulk of luxury hotel and restaurant design in London.   There are zero Scottish touches anywhere, so if you come here expecting big swathes of tartan you will be disappointed.  If you spend time in luxury London hotels and restaurants you will get a feeling of deja vu.

Gleneagles is, of course, a golf hotel at heart but I would say that the majority of guests, especially during the school holidays, are not golfers.  There is a free pitch and putt course in front of the hotel which I played each day with my seven year old son but that was it.  If you do play properly, you get a free round on one of the championship courses if you book via our booking partner Bon Vivant or, for American Express Platinum cardholders, Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts.

(2021 edit: the free round of golf is no longer a Virtuoso or Amex Platinum benefit)

Whilst ‘only’ 230 rooms, this is a huge hotel.  It takes you 24 hours to get used to it.  It is short of very little:

there are two kids clubs, one for small children (two hours free per day, £10 after) and one free one for older kids and teenagers

there are two pools, a family pool and an adult lap pool, plus an outdoor heated spa pool

there is a very high end spa

even with the main restaurant closed, you are not spoiled for places to eat in the hotel – there is also a full restaurant and a bar which serves food in the golf clubhouse (also refurbished top to bottom) about three minutes walk from the hotel entrance

there is the biggest luxury shopping arcade of any UK hotel, I think

there is, in The American Bar, probably the classiest bar – with a very strict dress code – I have ever seen in a UK hotel (see below, if it reminds you of The Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel it is because that was also by David Collins Studio)

I was a little worried that the food and service would be terrible.  It wasn’t Four Seasons in charge here, it is an investment group best known for running low-frills Hoxton Hotel properties.  I needn’t have worried.  Both the service and, more importantly, the food were far better than I had been expecting.

There is so much to do here it is silly.  There is an equestrian centre with 25 horses, there is falconry, there is gun dog training, there is archery, there is shooting, there are indoor and outdoor tennis courts, pitch and putt, the three main golf courses, mini 4×4 driving for young kids etc etc.

My only criticism is that none of this comes cheaply, apart from the free pitch and putt.  Even borrowing a bike to explore the 850 acre estate costs £20, so £80 for a family of four.  If you throw yourself into the activities, you can easily spend more than your room rate each day.

In terms of getting there, Gleneagles has its own railway station with direct services from London.  (The hotel was originally built by the Caledonian Railway in the 1920s.)  Most people would drive from Edinburgh or Glasgow airports – it is under an hour from Edinburgh.

I know that this is not the most thorough hotel review we’ve ever done.  However, all you need to know is this:  if you are the sort of person who leaves London to head off to Four Seasons Hampshire, Coworth Park, Chewton Glen or The Grove at the weekend, you can now add Gleneagles to your list.

Special benefits for booking Gleneagles via Bon Vivant or Amex Platinum

If you book via our hotel partner Bon Vivant you will get the following extra benefits on top of the ‘Best Flexible’ room only rate:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Full buffet breakfast
  • Traditional afternoon tea for two once during stay
  • Early check-in / late check-out, subject to availability
  • For stays of two nights or more:  a complimentary round of golf on the King’s or Queen’s Course (2021 edit: the golf is no longer available)

You can contact Bon Vivant via the form on this page of HfP.

Alternatively, if you have an American Express Platinum charge card, you can book via Fine Hotels & Resorts.  You will get similar benefits, although check the room rates as FHR pricing rarely matches the official website.  Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but it rarely matches exactly!

The FHR benefits are:

  • Room upgrade upon arrival, when available.
  • Noon check-in, when available.
  • Daily breakfast for two people.
  • In-Room wi-fi, exclusions apply.
  • Guaranteed 4:00 pm late check-out.
  • A complimentary round of golf for two people per room, including greens fee and cart rental (for courses that permit carts), once during your stay.  (2021 edit: the golf is no longer available)

Note that the hotel will not swap the golf amenity for anything else if you don’t play – we tried.

The key difference with FHR is that you don’t get the afternoon tea but you do get a guaranteed 4pm check-out, whereas Virtuoso is a woolier ‘late check-out subject to availability’.

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Comments (68)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • ThinkSquare says:

    “if you are the sort of person who leaves London to head off to…”
    Whilst I’m sure leaving London is a very appealing prospect, is that really relevant to a reviw of a Scottish hotel? You do have readers outside London, you know

    • Rob says:

      Given the prices, London salaries may be required 🙂

      • Freddy says:

        Yep we’re all skint ‘op north’ compared to the riches down in London eh

        • Rob says:

          Never met a Yorkshireman who still live there who would pay £80 to borrow four bikes for an hour ….!

        • Stu N says:

          There’s a huge difference between what you can do with a London salary when you live in London and a non-London salary when you don’t. Disposable income, innit.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    When I was starting out as a journalist in Scotland in the 1980s, I was told we had to be very careful to call “Gleneagles” “Gleneagles Hotel”.

    Reason was that the Laird of Gleneagles in Gleneagles House was a “very spirited” defender of his family’s heritage.

    Quite a character, as his obituary shows:

  • henry warnock says:

    Gleneagles is without doubt the best hotel in Scotland. Just to let you know that Ennismore, the new owner, is doing the design of the refurbishment themselves, they have their own team of designers and have plans to make it the best in the UK !

  • TripRep says:

    Rob – where else did your Scottish travels take you?

    Can Bon Vivant get good deals at the new fabulously ridiculous Fife Arms in Braemar?

    A truly Scottish hotel with massive amounts of quirkiness and complete lack of snobbery, can you tell I love it?

    • Rob says:

      Two nights at the WA in EDI and four nights in Glenfinnan.

      • Stu N says:

        I had no idea the Fife Arms had been refurbished. Last time I was there it was a tartan-bedecked coach trip sort of place that stopped serving food at 7pm. Might even have been owned by Shearings.

      • TripRep says:

        Rob – can I hope for a mini review of the WA pls?

        • Rob says:

          Unfortunately not, because we were hardly there, only ate breakfast in the hotel and got upgraded to a suite so can’t even give a fair view of the rooms. It is good – and looks great following the refurb – but somehow it didn’t feel truly luxurious in the way that Gleneagles did. Little gripes – no toilet paper in the loos by the pool, the machine that dries your swimming gear was out of order, the room used for breakfast is too small leading to chaos etc.

      • Cat says:

        How was Glenfinnan in the end? One of my favourite spots in the world!

        • Rob says:

          Good. Had a 2-bedroom family suite at Glenfinnan House. VERY good food and good value (£890 for 4 nights with a 2 bedroom suite, breakfast AND dinner for 4 people).

        • Cat says:

          Wow, that’s amazing. I may look into actually staying in the hotel next time, rather than just eating there sometimes! I usually stay in the little train carriage that sits on the sidings by the tracks – there’s a sweet trainspotting duffer who’s run the place for the last 2 decades.

          The first time I went there, I’d been living in London for a year at that stage and I was worried I was starting to behave like a Londoner, so I decided I needed a bit of fresh air, space and perspective, and I headed up to Scotland. When I got to Glenfinnan, I went for a stroll around Loch Shiel, and was just mentally lamenting the fact that a hamlet with population 83 was too small to sustain a kayak rental business, when I saw a kayak poking out from the side of someone’s caravan. The owner popped out to say hi (as everyone seemed to up there), I got chatting with him about kayaking, and the guy just offered to lend me the kayak for 2 hours, after checking I knew what I was doing, and that I was able to carry it back out of the water on my own (he was about to head into town).

          I went back to London feeling like myself again after that trip! I love it up there.

          Did the kids like the Harry Potter train?

  • Ruth4325 says:

    Last time we stayed at Gleneagles as a family (about a year ago) we felt it was a very lacklustre and disappointing experience. Slow and inept service at check in and in the restaurants (except Andrew Fairlie which was impeccable as usual.) Room with a view of a building site. Woeful room service food. Dirty tables not cleared away in the bistro. We felt it had gone extremely downhill. The American Bar has stunning decor but to my mind it’s not a patch on the Connaught Bar in London which is an exquisite hotel bar.

    We vowed to return to Andrew Fairlie restaurant but not to Gleneagles unless things improve. Sounds like your experience was much better, Rob?!

    • Rob says:

      They messed up the bill at check-out but that happens over half the time in my experience when you have credits or freebies included. No major issues overall.

      The Waldorf in EDI, for comparison, upgraded me to a suite as a Diamond and, at check out, tried to charge me for it.

      • Kevin says:

        I find a lot of hotels really struggle with F&B credits. And having two rooms with them utterly flummoxes them.

      • Colin MacKinnon says:

        Wondered what the WA in Edinburgh was, and the you mention Waldorf: ahah, he stayed at the Caley!

  • Lady London says:

    Looks a fantastic place for a romantic weekend break.

  • Andrew-A says:

    My wife’s got more than a notion to go for a couple of nights for her birthday but at £970 for 2 nights its certainly a birthday treat! We’ve stayed twice before though before the last change of ownership and we enjoyed it. Also, slightly OT, we stayed at the Kimpton Charlotte Square Edinburgh last weekend ( formerly The Roxburghe then Principal) on a CC free night. They had a “social hour” between 5 & 6pm for guests to get to know each other with free red and white wine in the bar, refills as well. One of the staff came and spoke to us, asked us where we were from etc and kept topping up our wine, she was nice and chatty. This was a bit of a surprise though, is this normal for Kimpton hotels?

    • Rob says:

      The wine hour is chain-wide, yes.

    • Jim says:

      £970 for two nights in a soulless golf resort in the middle of nowhere?

      If you regularly wear tweed, consider yourself aristocracy, enjoy grouse shooting of a weekend, then maybe

      • Rob says:

        £970 is peanuts there. I would budget £1,000 per day if you intend to do anything on the estate and eat well.

        • Evan says:

          Per person or per your family group?

          • Rob says:

            Per family group – activities are charged per person, not per time slot (which I don’t necessarily agree with) so multiplying everything x 4 soon adds up.

            For example – the Gun Dog Training was a 45 minute session. Because we all did it, we paid the ‘per person’ price x 4. If we’d just let the kids do it, they would have got twice as long each and the bill would have been halved – although potentially the hotel could have added other people to the group.

        • Bootlace says:

          If I was paying £1000 a day I would certainly be using the Golf course even hacking round with a low twenties handicap!

        • Skelped says:

          It sounds like the place has very large windows

        • Shoestring says:

          I think they’re laughing at your disregard for the value of money 🙂

          As would I.

        • Shoestring says:

          Nobody has a low twenties handicap, surely?

          12 or maybe 15, possibly.

    • BP says:

      You can save money, even at Gleneagles! Sign up to their timeshare resort mailing list and they send you offers – £500 for a weekend at the hotel including dinner one night, breakfast and a spa treatment. You are meant to do a 1 hour timeshare tour but just don’t turn up for it.

  • RussellH says:

    Having worked just up the road from Gleneagles for much of the 1980s and 1990s, and driven past / through the golf courses on any number of occasions, this was a really interesting read.
    A lot of the local children worked there for a few hours at that time.
    I would guess that anyone who worked at the school in 1984 or 1985 would remember the 16 year old who had been waiting in the bar the previous evening, who had been utterly gobsmacked at the thought that anyone would consider paying £40 for a brandy!
    There was lots of faux-scots decor back then, faded tartan carpets and other stuff, which does not go down well with most Scots.

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