Luxury Scotland

Blue Tower Suite at Gleneagles

 

 

Whether in the highlands or lowlands, Scotland has experiences and top-notch hotels for every taste.

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Up in the highlands of Inverness, Culloden House is a historic Georgian mansion that was once home to Scottish nobility, and now regularly gets guests like Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Elton John, Sean Connery and Hugh Grant.

The Royal Lochnager
The Royal Lochnager suite offers a traditional vibe.

The hotel is a popular choice for weddings, in fact, its concierge team once arranged for a groom to be flown in by helicopter for the ceremony, making for a decidedly memorable entrance. Deputy General Manager Murray Maclean ([email protected]; 011-44-1463-790461) can organize ceremonies and receptions for anywhere from two to 70 people. There are no pre-arranged wedding packages; instead, Maclean creates every event from scratch and can arrange cars, flowers, hairdressers—even dancers and traditional Scottish bagpipes!

Chef Michael Simpson sources his food for the hotel’s restaurant from local farms. (We hear the tournedos of Scottish beef fillet, braised red cabbage, gratin of wild mushrooms and parsnip chips are especially good.) Nice Touch: Many of the fruits and herbs are grown onsite.

 

Advisor Insight:

Maureen Jones, president of All Horizons Travel, likes to emphasize truly local experiences in Scotland.

“You’ve got to have a guide, preferably a chauffeur in a kilt. It gives it more oomph. And if the guest is a golfer, you have to book way ahead of time at key courses like St. Andrews.

“Go see an island: I would suggest Islay, which is easy to get to. It has nine whisky distilleries and is a wonderful experience. Another nice experience is the Isle of Skye, [where] Kinloch House is the home of the head of the clan Macdonald. Lady Macdonald is a great chef and cookbook author, and gives classes.

“Worth seeing as a route: Glen Coe, the Highlands, Glenfinnan, take the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig, Skye, perhaps the ferry to the islands of Lewis and Harris to see the Callanish Stones.

“Castles of historic interest include Thirlestance, Traquair, Scone Palace, Glamis Castle, Blair Castle, Ballindalloch and Dunrobin. Clan chiefs are living in these castles. For those short of time, I would recommend seeing Blair Castle and Glamis.

“Go enjoy a Scottish evening with highland dancing…Prestonfield House in Edinburgh does a good dinner and show.”

 

 

Cool Touch: Guests can land private helicopters on the back lawn.

Top suites at the hotel are Nos. 12, 14, 15, 22 and 23. (Hint: Nos. 12 and 13 have the best views.) Room Nos. 15 and 22 are the largest—No. 22 has a lounge and two bathrooms, but No. 10 has a two-person whirlpool tub with Jacuzzi jets. While the hotel does not have a spa, in-room treatments are available, and guests can unwind in the basement sauna.

Luxury travel advisors should reach out to Reservations Manager Cecilia Grigor ([email protected]; 011-44-1463-790461) with questions.

In the central county of Perthshire, The Gleneagles Hotel is a top pick for those who want to escape the hubbub of the city and do some serious golfing or spa-ing.

The Spa at Gleneagles by ESPA has 20 treatment rooms (many with private bathrooms) and a range of ESPA therapeutic treatments. Gleneagles launched ESPA Life in January, offering intensive, transformative programs geared toward improved health and wellness. Somewhere in between a traditional luxury spa and a medi-spa, a team of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) experts and therapists are working together to create unique therapies and treatments. These will cover holistic medicine, sports injury, physical therapy and personal training. The ESPA Life team includes naturopaths, osteopaths, physiotherapists, traditional Chinese medicine acupuncturists and herbalists, personal trainers and spa therapists.

Gleneagles’ signature treatment, The Source, uses local ingredients and includes a full-body exfoliation followed by a wrap in poultice made of locally sourced lavender, rosemary, oats and elderflower. A body massage and scalp massage complete the treatment. Contact Spa Director Sonia Coelho ([email protected]; 011-44-1764-694182) for special requests.

And then there’s golf, which many believe was invented in Scotland, and which is an art form at Gleneagles, home to three championship courses. The PGA Centenary Course was created by Jack Nicklaus, and will be the host venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup. The King’s Course opened in 1919 and is famous for its challenging par-four 17th hole. The first nine holes of the Queen’s Course are especially challenging and cover more than 3,000 yards.

The nine-hole, par-three PGA National Academy Course is a good pick for beginners, and the nine-hole Pitch & Putt is great for kids. An 11-acre championship practice ground and several putting greens make low-key golfing easy. Good name to know: Andrew Jowett is the new head golf pro at Gleneagles and manages the team of five golf professionals the PGA National Golf Academy.

Food is also a major feature at Gleneagles: Andrew Fairlie, the only chef in Scotland with two Michelin stars, operates his eponymous restaurant at the hotel. (We hear the smoked lobster is a must-try for seafood fans. It is smoked for 12 hours over whisky barrels.) The degustation menu also looks exceptional, with salmon, foie gras, scallops, venison and—of course—that lobster all included.

 

When In Edinburgh...

The train from London to Edinburgh can be a fun option. The trip currently takes four-and-a-half hours. (A high-speed line between the cities is in the works, but will not be available for several years.) Virgin Trains’ first-class service includes access to a private lounge and multi-course meals. Visit Rail Europe for ticket information.

August is the most popular time to visit Edinburgh, as the city hosts the Military Tattoo and the International Festival and Festival Fringe, must-sees for fans of music, theater and dance. Visit www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk.

While in town, a visit to the Edinburgh Zoo is a must. Two pandas, Yang Guang and TianTian (which means Sweetie) will be guests at the zoo for the next 10 years, and are Britain’s first couple of breeding pandas in 17 years. Important: Tickets must be booked in advance at the zoo’s website and printed before arriving at the zoo. (Smartphone tickets won’t work!) Also, tickets must be purchased by midnight on the day before the visit, and the must be used on the day selected.

 

Alternatively, guests can try The Sommelier’s Table in the wine cellar or the Chef’s Table in Deseo. The Sommelier’s Table is a good pick for wine and spirit tastings, intimate dinners, cocktail parties and canapé receptions. (Tip: Ask for a tour of the cellar and to see the collection of Dom Ruinart from the world’s oldest commercial champagne house.) The cellars are also home to approximately 350 single-malt whiskies and include drams from every region in Scotland, including a rare 70-year-old Mortlach (the world’s oldest whisky).

The most requested rooms at the hotel are the Royal Lochnagar and Blue Tower suites. The former has a sitting room, guest bathroom, walk-in dressing room and master bathroom with under-floor heating. (Tip: This suite has views across the estate to the Ochil Hills.) The latter is split over two levels and has two bedrooms along with a spiral staircase up to the living area—one of the most secluded and exclusive spots in the whole hotel.

If these suites are not available, ask for one of the nine two-bedroom suites or the one-bedroom suite along the top floor, which share an informal meeting room. (Great for families, we say.) These suites also have dedicated butler service. Head Concierges Isabelle Calafat and James Duncan (011-44-1764-694175) can arrange all sorts of unique experiences, but we think the safari is a great option: Guests can travel on private estate roads to a private farm, accessible only by private invitation from the landowner. As they drive around, guests can see the native black-faced sheep and some of the varied songbirds; they may also see grouse, black grouse, peregrine falcons, merlins, blue hares and red deer. If they are lucky, they may even spot a rare golden eagle.

Luxury travel advisors should reach out to Graham Hesketh ([email protected]; 011-44-1764-694329) with any questions.

In Edinburgh, the 100 year-old Caledonian Hilton is in the middle of a multimillion-dollar refurbishment. When the renovations are complete in late summer, the hotel be branded as The Caledonian, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

But for now, the hotel is still open and receiving guests, and the rooms have not yet been changed. We say the top pick at the hotel is the Caledonian Suite with three bedrooms (one with a king bed, one with a queen bed and one with twin beds—perfect for families!) and a separate living room. The suite also has great views of Edinburgh Castle. If this suite isn’t available, six of the seven one-bedroom suites also have views of the castle.

Chief Concierge Karl Wendland ([email protected]; 011-44-131-222-8865) can organize anything visitors need in Edinburgh, from exclusive access to the best shops to a private salmon-fishing excursion. (The fishing gear and a guide can also be arranged.) Excursions to numerous golf courses are also a popular option: Approximately 200 courses are within an hour’s drive.

Contact General Manager Willy Blattner ([email protected]; 011-44-131-222-8880) for special requests or questions.

The Espa Life Team
The Espa Life Team at Gleneagles focuses on health and wellness.

One of Edinburgh’s newest hotels is The Atholl, which has only four suites, the smallest of which stretches out over more than 1,000 square feet. The suites have individual kitchens, full living and dining rooms, and chilled cabinets pre-filled with wine and cheese (which pair nicely with the Riedel glasses and Bernardaud dishes). The Dundonald (three-bedroom suite) even has its own private whisky tasting room, while The Abercromby (three-bedroom suite) has a courtyard with an outdoor fireplace and hot tub.

Foodies will love this hotel: All meals are prepared in-suite by a private chef. The menu was created by chef Albert Roux of Le Gavroche.

Reach out to Operations Manager Graeme Green ([email protected]) with special requests or questions.

 

The Wine Cellar at Gleneagles
The Wine Cellar at Gleneagles has a dedicated Sommelier’s Table for wine-themed dinners.

 

Edinburgh’s newest hotels.
The Atholl is one of Edinburgh’s newest hotels.

 

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