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Stay | Scotland

Guns, golf and a gorgeous playground at Gleneagles Words by Mike MacEacheran

“The crack of a loaded rifle and bark of a gun dog. A fishing line cast and arrow zinging through the air. A falcon swooping past. The clink of single malt whisky by the fireside. If you could bottle Gleneagles’ enriching sounds you’d make millions.”

Often it is the places that are the hardest to get to in Scotland that are the most rewarding. Gleneagles is the glorious exception to this rule. It is almost as if it has been placed at the country’s mythic heart—an hour from Edinburgh or Glasgow, less that from Dundee and nearby Stirling. In less than 60-minutes, you’ll get memories that’ll last a lifetime and experience sights and sounds that’ll always bring you back to this exceptional place.

People have a habit of seeing Scotland as it is in postcards, all nostalgic, romantic and heathery. But in reality, away from the gorse and glens, it’s contemporary, modern and packed top-to-toe with swagger. This singular property in Perthshire, with 232 intimate bedrooms and 26 luxurious suites, manages to be both.

 

A baronial countryside estate, opened nearly a century ago in 1924 by the former Caledonian Railway Company, Gleneagles has its own narrative, sidestepping the tartan twee of so many of its rivals to deliver a compendium of muddy boots experiences married with a zeitgeist-defining spa, a glam-as-Gatsby speakeasy and three exquisite restaurants, each more experimental than the last. The genial staff, dressed in tweed, brogues and—in some cases—mighty fine Highland beards, add a flash of Brooklyn hipster, too.

 

The landscape—all undulating hills, grouse-inhabited moorlands and three championship golf courses—lends itself to this sort of dress code. One morning, rifles are half-cocked for deer stalking and game bird shooting, the next the horses are saddled for a trot around the estate, taking in views of Auchterarder’s Highlands-in-miniature hills. Perhaps the weather calls for a field craft lesson handling Labradors at the UK’s only gun dog school, or a 4WD safari at speed over gullies to god-knows-where. No: today you fancy 18-holes on the PGA Centenary Course (this is where the Ryder Cup was born, after all), followed by a champagne cream tea and soothe-and-soak in the spa’s labyrinth of steam rooms and gently fizzing pools. Later, over whisky-barrel smoked lobster at two Michelin Star wonder Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, the only doubt in your mind is whether to extend your stay.

 

The genius of Gleneagles is in how every encounter comes with a generous pinch of Scottish hospitality and humor, creating the sense that you’re not just a guest, but part of the estate’s extended family. When you finally leave, which you will, regrettably, the overriding impression is a place of subtle beauty and refined service. Your heart will be full to bursting, but that’s why you’ll one day be back.

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