It’s that time of year, family holidays, keeping children entertained and a memorable escape are at the top of the agenda. If you are looking for a luxury family holiday in the UK that ticks all the boxes, then travel to the beautiful Scottish Highlands to stay at the renowned Gleneagles Hotel.
Gleneagles is so much more than just a five-star hotel. In picture-perfect rural Perthshire, this luxury Scottish resort offers an unforgettable holiday packed with activities for all the family, and only a short drive from Edinburgh airport. From tennis and golf to horse riding and falconry, even ferret handling, this 850-acre estate is packed full of opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. Citizen Enfants discovered that it really does deserve its nickname ‘The Glorious Playground’.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOU
There is a buzz about Gleneagles that is tangible from the moment you arrive. The sweeping, welcoming driveway gives you a sense of aristocracy as you approach and catch your first glimpse of the iconic building that has been a proud part of Scotland’s hospitality heritage since 1924. At the front entrance of the hotel, you are met by kilted doormen who will graciously welcome you, whisking your luggage away. This warm, friendly introduction sets the tone for all encounters with the staff who are forthcoming, knowledgeable and have the clear aim of helping guests to have the very best stay possible. From the housekeepers and groundsmen to the sommelier and the concierge, it is extremely easy to see why the hotel was recently given the Art of Hospitality Award at the The World’s 50 Best Hotels. An accolade it adds to the many others it has received over the years.
Despite being regarded internationally as one of the UK’s best hotels, there is nothing stuffy about Gleneagles. The chatter of people having a marvellous time fills every space. You’ll find some guests donning wellington boots by the lobby’s roaring fire in preparation for a walk across the grounds, others stopping for a coffee at the Garden Café while their children eye up the scrumptious selection of cakes, while the rest meander through the shopping arcade which is the stuff of dreams for luxury connoisseurs of everything from fashion to diamonds to whisky. By day, the whole place hums with the happy bustle of guests who are a mixture of locals possibly there for the day, a UK crowd enjoying long weekends in the fresh air, and international visitors drawn by the hotel’s renowned golf course and top-notch reputation. By night, an all together more sophisticated, glamorous atmosphere sets in as all head off to the chic bars and excellent restaurants. You don’t have to dress up for dinner here, the official dress code is fairly relaxed, but there is a subtle expectation of effort and style which guests clearly exude and indeed enjoy.
The Food + Drink
There are six restaurants in the hotel. For the most exquisite afternoon tea book into the Glendevon with it’s stunning vistas of the hotel’s gardens and a Beatrix Potter themed afternoon tea for children who are made to feel incredibly welcome as they tuck into the prettiest spread of sandwiches and fancies alongside a little colouring book and pencils. Fine dining – and it truly is the finest – can be found in the famous Strathern restaurant. This is also where you’ll enjoy breakfast, a bountiful buffet packed with every imaginable breakfast dish alongside an a la carte menu. In the evening, this grand room transforms into the hotel’s largest restaurant. But despite being formal, it is anything but uptight, and children are most welcome. There is a kids’ menu and a pick and mix sweetie trolley that they will be eyeing up all evening. The Strathern is a traditional but stylish spot with a fabulous, yet familiar menu to match – choose from classics such as dover sole and fillet steak. Enlist the help of the most knowledgeable sommeliers while listening to the pianist tinkle the ivories alongside a singer serenading you with gentle jazz. It’s like a very polished and expertly choreographed experience. For supper sans enfants, try Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, the only two Michelin star one in Scotland where you can expect to be wowed by a world-class gastronomic experience.
Then head to the glamorous, low lit American Bar for a night cap – a single malt of course. Other eateries include The Birnam, an Italian-American Grill that is perfect for a family dinner; The Garden Café for a light lunch or a morning coffee, or The Century Bar for the best club sandwich you’ll ever order. All of these wonderful restaurants, with the exception of Andrew Fairlie, have great children’s menus and will go out of their way to cater for even the fussiest of eaters. Of course there is also an extensive room service menu too.
When Ennismore bought the hotel from drinks conglomerate Diageo in 2015, they immediately embarked on a massive refurbishment programme. Expect beautifully decorated rooms and suites that are tasteful and classic, but with a fresh modern feel. Carefully curated to meet guests’ needs you find the luxurious soft furnishings, lighting and artwork are all designed to be warm and relaxing. There’s nothing stark or cold here. The minibar is packed with delicious treats, or just nibble on the abundant bedside supply of quintessential Scottish shortbread. Bathrooms are very much a marble and roll top affair and are packed with fluffy slippers and the hotels own brand of toiletries. A luxurious haven to relax or prepare for an evening at one of the restaurants. Large spacious suites accommodating cots and extra beds, as well as interconnecting rooms are perfect for families or multi-generational holidays. Some rooms are even dog friendly so you can take your furry friend and find a dog bed, bowl and food waiting for them.
The Child’s Play
Children of all ages are very welcome, as is apparent with their offering, and their nickname ‘The Glorious Playground’ sums up the fun that is available. Kids will adore the dedicated play areas. First up is Little Glen, a colourful, vibrant and fully supervised crèche for two to eight-year-olds. There’s an indoor treehouse and slide, toy campfire and wigwams, and even play stables with hobby horses. Trained staff run craft classes too and you get one complimentary childcare session every day, followed by a charge of £15 per child thereafter (available throughout the day and evening). Older kids can hang out in The Den. Designed for those aged eight to 15, this is an unsupervised activity space filled with all manner of fun and interactive play resources such a cinema room, pool table and air hockey, a giant Connect Four, giant Jenga and a huge wall-mounted Scrabble board. There is an indoor family pool where kids are welcome to swim and play with a lifeguard keeping a watchful eye at allocated times.
Step outside the hotel’s walls and you have a plethora of family-friendly activities to choose from. A must-visit is the outstanding Falconry centre where families can have a lesson in one of the oldest sports in the world, meeting and learning all about the birds who live onsite, from owls to eagles. Trained staff will guide you through the wonderful experience of handling and flying Harris hawks and even very young children can take part. Next up, try a family dog handling experience where you’ll be taught how to put the hotel’s highly trained and loveable labradors through their paces, while your instructor explains the principles of controlling dogs in the field. There’s tree climbing (with a thrilling 100m zip wire back down again!); bike hire to explore the grounds; fly fishing, horse riding lessons, clay pigeon shooting and archery: the list of outdoor pursuits is seemingly endless. The activity that is often the biggest hit with little guests is the junior off road driving where children aged from three to eight years old can receive instruction from behind the wheel of a mini Land Rover replica while testing their driving skills on a purpose-built course. These super little cars have been specially built for Gleneagles and are a quarter of the size of their parent original.
While the children are entertained, the Gleneagles spa is your next point of call. This soothing space with its pretty celadon green and shell pink interiors, offers a wonderful opportunity for grown-ups to recharge. There are 20 treatment rooms, a steam room, a hot sauna cabin and a warm, dark vitality pool filled with water jets. Book a bespoke massage (everything from Ayurvedic treatments to hot stone massages are on the menu) or a luxe Barbara Sturm facial, with anti-aging, brightening and clarifying options. There are treatments suitable for mums-to-be too so its a great spot for a pre-natal pampering weekend. For the finishing touches pop to the Beauty Lodge where you’ll find a nail bar, pedicure room and hair salon. The ideal spot for a glow up.
The To Do List
Gleneagles is synonymous with golf. With three of the top golf courses in Scotland, The Kings, The Queens and the PGA Centenary Championship course, it’s a paradise for those who love nothing more than a round in the most beautiful of settings. As recent hosts of The Ryder and Solheim Cups, these beautiful courses are as much fun for novices to play as they are for the pros. Extensive practice facilities include a driving range, short game area and two putting areas. Stop off at The Dormy or the Auchterarder 70 for a bite to eat post round of golf. Tennis, padel and croquet are also available to play. Or head off into the rugged hills that surround the hotel to try off road driving, horse riding or a picnic in a beautiful secluded spot. The ‘Playground Planners’ AKA the concierge, can create a bespoke entertainment and activities programme for you and your family. After all, it’s all child’s play on your getaway at Gleneagles.