Gleneagles: The iconic Scottish golf hotel that is a perfect Highland haven for the non-golfer

From falconry to fly fishing, there's something for everyone at Gleneagles, says Country Life's Editor-in-Chief Mark Hedges, who checked in for his honeymoon.

Gleneagles was built as a Scottish resort by the Caledonian Railway to persuade the gentlefolk of the Edwardian era to use their line to the Highland Riviera north of Edinburgh. Building began in 1913 with the first guests arriving  in 1924. Today, a station remains close by, which makes a train trip from London (sit on the right-hand side to get the most of the Northumbrian coastline) one of the most pleasurable ways of getting there. With more than 200 rooms, it is vast, but thanks to investment by new owners it has reclaimed its place as the sparkling grand dame of Scottish country hotels. 

Rightly famed for its golf, there are three separate courses, but as golf has never enthralled either of us, it seemed an odd choice for Rachel and I to go there on our honeymoon, but so many friends kept recommending it that we were persuaded.

We stayed in the spacious suite that once hosted George Bush during a G7 conference with views towards the Glendevon and Ochil Hills and roved around the different restaurants, each offering a different style of menu. 

The fine dining in The Strathearn was superb. A new marriage of the ‘Old Alliance’ between Scotland and France saw such delights as Orkney scallops on pea purée and bacon jam or a delicious walnut soufflé to fire up the taste buds to be followed by something as traditional as beef Wellington, but here addressed with Roscoff onion, girolle, bordelaise and truffle.

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There is a real renaissance in Scottish cooking in this restaurant, although our evening meal in the Birnam Brasserie was less successful. The normal service had gone array and too many dishes were unavailable.

Breakfast each day was a smorgasbord of delights and had an excellent range of gluten free delights (make your way to the far end and sit in the orangery for the best view) and fill up because ultimately staying at Gleneagles is all about the great outdoors.

Rachel took Ron for a walk around the grounds. Ron, a harris hawk, flew from tree to tree, but came back to Rachel’s hand to a sharp whistle except when he thought he heard a mouse in the undergrowth. Earlier we watched Hawkstone, the peregrine, stoop and pass us within a couple of feet at more than 100mph. The care and love for these birds of prey epitomised the whole ethos of the hotel.

Mrs Hedges is a shy fly fishing novice, but under the expert tutelage of the Country Sports Manager Uri Janssen, caught a nice trout in the grounds beside one of the three championship golf courses. Uri and I made our way the following day for a morning on Balloch Loch, which was home to some beavers, to tempt some trout, later I went fishing with the head ghillie, Garry Rattray for salmon at Kinkell Bridge on the River Earn. I didn’t match my wife’s success.

While I relaxed, not catching anything (only a true fisherman will understand), Rachel made her way to the excellent spa and found her own heaven. There is something for everyone at Gleneagles.
Rooms at Gleneagles — from £575 based on two sharing and including breakfast