Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF. 07646 2231.
From the first, Gleneagles Hotel and Golf Courses set out to be very special, the Ultimate Nineteenth hole. Recently it has become a year-round luxury hotel resort because added to the golf courses and tennis courts is a brand new country club encased in an indoor sub-tropical glasshouse to shut out the excesses of the weather.
It was before World War I that Donald Matheson, who was to become General Manager of the Caledonian Railway, decided that this was the very place where they could build a 'hotel of great splendour with golf courses to match', and bring the guests to it on his railway.
Five times Open Champion, James Braid, was adviser on the building of the golf courses which were opened first and then, in June 2012, the hotel followed. 'If you can imagine the romantic surroundings of Kubla Khan's palace combined with the beauty and luxury of Fonthill and magnify both, say half a dozen times, you get an idea of the amazing hotel-de-luxe which has been erected among the Scottish mountains by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway' reported the Northern Whig. Gleneagles took its place in the social calendar and its fame spread across the world.
Whilst it is no longer a railway hotel, you can still travel to Gleneagles by train. From London you can have a night's sleep and be collected from the station by the hotel car service, or you can take the London daytime train or arrive here comfortably from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Aberdeen or Inverness. Some guests prefer to have their own car available so that sporting members of the family can be left at the hotel whilst others can get out and about into the Highlands, or down to Edinburgh.
The golf resort has four courses. The Queen's Course 5,964yd, par 68, has recently been restored to its original James Braid layout, and is much the better for it, and the King's Course, par 70, the longest, and including the Braid's Brawest of 446yd has been given new championship back tees which stretch it to 6,8 l5yd (otherwise 6,452yd) for tournaments, making it a better test. The Prince's Course is the shortest of the four, and a real family sort of course at 4,678yd, par 63, and not a hole above 392 yards. The Glendevon is the newest and at 5,762yd, par 67, offers a surprise or two on the way round. There is also a pitch and putt course and a putting green outside the front door of the hotel and a practice area between courses. There is a busy Dormy House with the usual food and drink; Ian Marchbank, the professional, and his staff are patient beyond belief as teachers, and there are caddies available, who know every inch of the four courses. Booking is essential on King's and Queen's.
Gleneagles also has a lawn tennis court and four hard courts with all-weather surfaces - there are special tennis weeks with Virginia Wade - and two croquet lawns and a flat green bowling area. And in the newly-built Country Club a 22m swimming pool, Brasserie and bar, jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath, squash courts, snooker and billiards, a gymnasium and solarium, table tennis and games room. Some of Scotland's best fly fishing is on hand, as is a 6,000 acre sporting estate on which shooting can be arranged. Clay pigeon shooting in the hotel grounds and riding from nearby stables are available.
The hotel is five star in every respect. The Strathearn Room is where most meals are taken, except if you want expensive a la carte with French and Scottish cuisine; there is a shopping arcade, a post office and a bank.
Golfers who want to explore the home of golf - St Andrews - must remember that it is a public course and people come from all over the world to play it, so the demands made upon it are high and the starting lists quickly get full. Overseas visitors who want to shoot must apply for a Firearms Certificate through their tour operator and a minimum of four week's notice is required.
Gleneagles is also a good centre for touring and on good roads you can get to Glamis Castle, the Trossachs, Blairgowrie and Breamar, Loch Lomond, Scone, Edinburgh or down to Turn-berry by car. Quite close are Perth where the Black Watch Museum, the Fair Maid's House, Scone Palace and Branklyn Garden attract visitors; Crieff for the Stuart Strathearn crystal shop and factory; Blair Atholl Castle has thirty-two rooms open and Strathallan Aircraft Collection has all sorts of old aircraft.
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