Monday, September 5, 2011

The amazing Gleneagles

Driving to Edinburgh airport in the pouring rain marks the end of an excellent 3 day break at Gleneagles in Scotland.

My daughter had been pushing for a trip to Scotland ever since she had a taste of Haggis several months ago. I saw the opportunity to play some great golf courses and indulge in some local whiskies, so was quick to agree and plan a family holiday.

So we booked the Gleneagles hotel, best known of course for its 100 year old golf courses, but we had a pleasant surprise to find there was much more as well. There was a huge range of activities for everyone in addition.

The resort is an hour’s drive from Edinburgh. We chose summer in the hope of good weather, but in Scotland there are no guarantees. Although we arrived on a beautiful afternoon, it was a touch chilly, but the sun was shining and the skies were dry.

After checking in to our rooms in the new wing of the hotel, we went straight to the Argocats for the kids to have a drive.

The rooms were beautifully laid out and well decorated. Comfortable and homely. A large soft bed and separate sitting are with a remote control operated open fire, and a spacious balcony that looks out on to Gleneagles’ expansive grounds.

Just some of the exceptional grounds at Gleneagles
Everything is on site (the site is very large), and walking from the hotel reception to the Argocat track, we passed the outdoor maze, croquet lawn and several tennis courts.

The Argo's were fantastic. Little 8 wheel trucks that can cross virtually any terrain. Reena and I sat military style in the back and the kids took turns to drive. Over steep hills and rough terrain, through trenches of water and over muddy banks, these things were aggressive and noisy, but great fun for the kids who picked up the knack of driving them very quickly and didn't take long to increase their speed.

An hour later, with sore bones and muscles, we stumbled out of the back of these vehicles and further explored the resort grounds, including the 4 restaurants, the indoor and outdoor swimming pools and the well spec’d kids club.

Dinner was at the golf club restaurant, and it was our first chance to sample the Haggis. My daughter took no time in ordering that, but the rest of the menu offered a good variety of casual international fare. The food came fast, and we accompanied that with a spectacular bottle of Chocolate Box Shiraz. The Haggis arrived and the challenge was set. It certainly looked better than I had expected and so I braved a taste ... and it was superb. It came with creamed potato and a thick sauce, and automatically it was a standard selection for each meal for the rest of the trip.

The next day I had a round of golf on the spectacular Kings course and Reena and the kids went for a bike ride (also through the golf courses). We met for lunch and had an archery lesson in the afternoon. Tia struggled because of the weight of the bow, but Shaan picked it up quickly and did well.

The day after we started in the morning with some fly fishing and caught our lunch (3 delicious rainbow trout), which the hotel chef obligingly cooked for us. The fishing grounds were astounding. Amazing beauty and in the middle of the hunting grounds with pheasant running around wild around us. We rounded of the day with an afternoon of clay pigeon shooting and a round of croquet!

The kids were adventurous and brave and were ready to try all the activities. Again, despite the weight of the weapons, both kids made a valiant effort and had some success in hitting targets.

We spent the early evening in the hotel pool which has a really nice steamingly hot outdoor section - a unique way to enjoy the fresh cool air outside.

My whisky palate was also catered for in-house in the hotel with a whisky shop that hosts some tastings. I learned the difference of the highlands and lowlands whiskies and those that are made with peat. I tasted a number of the single malts that go into Johnny Walker blends and again heard conflicting views on whether ice is allowed in whisky or not! 

That night, we dined in the hotels formal restaurant. Very elegant, excellent service and a mouth watering menu. Haggis "cigars", Venison Wellington and sublime Crepe Suzettes!

The last day was a chance for me to play golf on the Queens course in the early morning (on which there was some light rain on the front nine, before the weather cleared up again), and then I joined Reena and Tia on a bike ride, again around the golf courses, and Shaan went for a fencing lesson.

A farewell haggis meal was followed by a quick stop on the way to the airport for a tour at a nearby whisky distillery ... rounding off a thoroughly enjoyable and activity filled 3 days.

Whisky distilling

The venue, the hotel, the activities, the food and the service were all absolutely first class. There wasn't a moment we weren't occupied, and perhaps this could have been our only complaint ... not enough downtime to just savour our surroundings, but we will plan that in our schedule when we come back next year.

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