Gleneagles Hotel is world famous for luxury and golf, but is it a place you could stay when cycling in the area?
A shiny silver trolley was delicately maneuvered to our table. The waiter slowly opened the cover to reveal a succulent piece of lamb. “These are our Scottish lamb cutlets, served with pont-neuf potatoes, béarnaise sauce and minted herb butter.” My girlfriend and I had not ordered the lamb; in fact we had not ordered anything. The lamb was merely being shown to us, to tempt us, as we perused the menu.
There is a certain showmanship to the dining experience at Gleneagles. A section of the menu is headed “Prepared at The Table” where food is finished off before your very eyes. This includes fillet steak flambé, Dover sole, and 'Crépes Suzette' which we saw being flamed in front of enthralled dinners at an adjacent table.
This is perhaps not the kind of place to turn up wearing lycra shorts and a luminous yellow jacket. At dinner smart clothing is expected, but the hotel offers all kinds of outdoor activities and is used to catering for guests who enjoy walking, cycling, tennis, and of course golf. Although I was here for a romantic treat I wondered if it might be an option for cyclists to stay here considering the hotel’s close proximity to some great routes.
I emailed Gleneagles to check if they had somewhere to safely store a bicycle and received this reply: “As per your request, you will be able to store your bicycle with us at the concierge during your stay. If you approach the concierge upon your arrival, we will ensure that your bicycle is placed in our storage area.”
So, the hotel clearly has a place for bikes and this is great news for those that want a bit of luxury whilst enjoying the outdoors. One possible route to consider is the ride via Dunning where you can visit the spooky witch memorial and enjoy a speedy descent through glens. The hotel grounds also have cycling routes and there are bicycles for hire, so you don’t even need to bring your own.
However, you may not want to go completely cycling mad. You see, Gleneagles is a special hotel experience, a cocoon of luxury where you get to completely escape from your normal life. It is a place where many memories are made, so try to spend some time enjoying the hotel in between bike rides.
Our room looked over the tennis courts and a hedge maze. In the bathroom there was a pair of fluffy white bathrobes with the Gleneagles crest embroidered on the left lapel. The bed had a sleep inducing mattress and because the hotel rests within its own grounds there is not a sound at night.
We loved exploring the hotel interior with its grand rooms and Art Deco decoration. There is a shopping arcade with small stores either side of a long corridor. Luxury goods like cashmere knitwear, designer clothing and malt whisky are on show. I even found a teddy bear with the Gleneagles logo on the left paw and a Gleneagles badge on his knitted sweater. I discovered a gentleman’s bathroom with mosaic tiled floor and panels between the cubicle doors illustrated with grapes and oak leaves.
Food is the highpoint of a stay at Gleneagles. Dinner in The Strathearn is accompanied by candlelight and piano music to create the perfect romantic evening. We both agreed that this was one of the best meals we have ever had. In particular, the desert of chocolate fondant that came with a piece of white chocolate that was reminiscent of an Aero bar. The waiter explained that “the chef pours Dalwhinnie whisky on the white chocolate and this makes air pockets inside the chocolate. The whisky gives it that distinctive sweet honey taste and glossy, airy texture.”
Cream tea in the bar was delightfully decadent and relaxing with soft leather chairs, newspapers and loose leaf Earl Grey. Our cake stand had mini scones and a meringue shaped like a swan.
The breakfast is rightly described as “legendary” on the Gleneagles website. The menu even has an option of steak and chips! The choice and freshness of the food at the buffet was amazing, considering that this is prepared every single morning. There was a whole smoked salmon, fresh fruits, chesses, pastries and you can have a duck egg cooked to order. A Gleneagles blend of coffee, smooth and strong, is served to your table.
No wonder that Gleneagles is so geared up for activities- it is the only way that you can possibly justify eating so much! Apart from cycling, fishing and horse riding there is the option to have a spa treatment, go for a swim and relax in the sauna or steam room. Walking in the hotel grounds allows you to try and find your way to the centre of the maze, do a circuit of the loch and admire the landscaping of the famous golf course. The British School of Falconry is located in the grounds and we came across the birds of prey perched by the windows of their enclosures. Nearby is the Gundog School where guests can learn to handle and command one of the sleek, black Labradors that are trained to fetch game that is hunted by their master.
I could write on and on about Gleneagles being the ultimate luxury Scottish hotel experience, but back to the original point about its suitability for a cycling trip. I would say that going on a cycling trip that involves a stay here would make it one of the most memorable journeys you have, but as long as you put aside sufficient time to really savor the hotel. To feel comfortable in the hotel and the dining areas in particular you would really want to pack suitably smart clothing. I have never tried to pack a suit into bicycle panniers, but I am sure it is possible, although you may have to make use of the in-room iron and ironing board to get rid of the creases!
For Perthshire cycling and a touch of luxury it does not get better than a stay at Gleneagles.
Gleneagles Hotel website
Cycling route to visit the Dunning witch memorial
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.