Editor of sister site Hotel Designs, Hamish Kilburn checks in to find out whether Scotland’s Gleneagles Hotel really can cater to the demands of modern PAs.
Gleneagles has long been known as a destination for world-renowned golfing, awe-inspiring spa retreat getaways and unmatched weddings. Its roaring twenties heritage runs through the very fabrics of the hotel, through its 232 luxury guestrooms and suites and the 850 acres of land that surrounds it.
Located under the Ochil Hills, in the heart of Perthshire, the hotel prides itself on being an outstanding venue for meetings and events of any size. In short – if you want it, Gleneagles has it.
Setting itself aside from any other hotel in the area – and in fact the country – Gleneagles wants its guest to explore Scotland’s natural beauty. Despite sheltering a truly stunning hotel that takes breaths away, it wants to take you on an adventure that you’ll never forget.
In two days, I wanted to put the hotel through its paces to ensure that it absolutely meets up to the ambitious offering of being able to provide a truly bespoke experience for all its guests.
My first observation is that getting to Scotland from London is surprisingly simple. It took all of one hour to fly from Heathrow to Edinburgh and a further 40-minute drive to the hotel – I’ve had meetings longer than that.
Entering the illustrious lobby was a grand experience. Tall, original ceilings compliment the dark, classic tones of green in the carpets; a somewhat appropriate colour scheme which, to me, reflects its location perfectly.
Not long after we arrived were we directed to our first activity, shooting. Getting there, we were given a choice, which felt incredibly personable as well as thoughtful. We could either be driven to the site in an original Rolls Royce, or alternatively arrive on horse and carriage. I went for the latter, making the most of the clean Scottish air away from the smog over London. This turned out not be the only surprise when it came to modes of transport.
The hotel seems to realise that time, for many of us, is a luxury. It has therefore created a shooting package that groups three popular shooting elements together (clay pigeon shooting, archery and riffle shooting) so that guests can experience a snapshot of all. The Tri-Target Challenge was not only great for stress relief, but also a clever team bonding activity that really did cater for everyone.
“Despite sheltering a truly stunning hotel that takes breaths away, it wants to take you on an adventure that you’ll never forget.”
After a casual lunch in the hotel’s light and airy The Birnam Brasserie, we headed back outside – this time in state-of-the-art Range Rovers – to go 4X4 driving over the Ochil Hills. With scenic views of rural Perthshire, we were worlds away from day-to-day life. Taking it in turns, we drove up the side of a mountain and toasted our success at the peak by popping the cork of a bottle of Champagne. The sound echoed, and soon a helicopter circled our vehicles, descended and landed. Much to our surprise, the hotel had arranged for it to pick us up and take us back to the hotel – only adding to the one-off experiences available from the hotel.
Once back on solid ground and all checked in to the hotel, I was kindly shown around the various types of rooms suitable for large groups. Each room’s high ceilings are, like the rest of the property, designed to be grand but never stuffy. With fast WiFi and suitable mod-cons, the hotel balances technology with subtle references of Scotland and the hotel’s heritage that can be found in the many original pieces of artwork and sculptures.
I stayed in The Legacy Suite, which one of the 26 suites available in the hotel – all situated in the main building. Named after Scottish whiskey the suites, much like the whiskeys they are named after, harness slightly different looks, tastes and warmth. My suite featured a lavish living room, large bedroom and a striking bathroom. Almost, in fact, too good to leave.
The glue that holds the whole meeting experience together, in my opinion, is the newly unveiled Ochil House. Inspired by the original private members clubs, Ennismore Design Studio has carved out each of the six rooms available to hire to create light, open and refined meeting spaces. Named after their original rooms in the hotel – including The Card Room, The Reading Room, The Writing Room and The Broadcasting Room – these spaces give an appropriate nod to the hotel’s storied history.
“The overarching ambition of the design was to inspire, arouse ideas and stimulate conversation – encouraging guests to look around, explore and discuss, rather than sit at a table in a blank function room,” said Charlie North, design director at Ennismore. “It’s a reinvention of the meeting space concept – somewhere that’s not just practical but also beautiful, as well as homely, welcoming and fun – and a place where people naturally want to gather and enjoy conversation.”
“Since checking out of Gleneagles, London – or anywhere in fact – has never felt the same.”
Our seven-course dinner was served in The Broadcasting Room, complete with its own private bar and just off The Pantry, which created a warm, residential welcome.
After a round of golf, which was a first for me, it was time to leave the luxury escape to the countryside. In conclusion, Gleneagles stood up to my expectations, and then some. The plethora of activities available for corporate booking (including 4×4 driving, shooting, archery, fly flishing, golf and spa) make this venue suitable for any kind of team-building and/or celebration as there really is something for everyone. Since checking out of Gleneagles, London – or anywhere in fact – has never felt the same.