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At last .... a hotel that deserves its awards!
Gleneagles Hotel (Perth)
Member Name: sarajackson
Gleneagles Hotel (Perth)
Date: 06/05/03, updated on 06/05/03 (250 review reads)
Advantages: Impeccable service throughout, Stylish rooms in new wing, Extremely good food
Disadvantages: No food served in bar, Nothing else, Nothing else!
We found the resort, situated near the village of Auchterarder, very easily. The hotel is approached up a long drive which cuts its way past the golf courses, and sweeps round with a view on your right of the hotel nestled amongst trees and formal gardens. We ignored the instructions on our confirmation and self parked our car in the car park. We should have driven up to the front entrance and had our bags taken care of and our car parked, and in hindsight this would have been easier.
From the car park you approach the main entrance from the gravel roadway which sweeps around to the front door. The hotel is built of a light stone accentuated by the rows of sash windows with a steep grey slate roof, broken up by white sash dormer windows and lots of chimneys. The building is not a regular shape, and so has real character. To the left of the old building is attached the new wing, representing a definite change of style. This wing is built in a more modern style, but in subtle ways still fitting in with the old. Where the buildings join, the new wing is cladded with the de rigeur (and controversial) timber, but here is seemed perfectly in place. The timber made the new building blend in with the countryside and the aesthetic transition between old and new much easier.
The new wing has balconies leading off most of the rooms with small shrubs in pots at intervals between the balconies. The ground floor rooms at the front have small terraces instead with small palms giving a little privacy. The building is constructed of a light sandy concrete, and is very angular, which sounds awful but is actually perfectly suited to the surroundings. The top of the new wing is topped off with tall oblong chimney stacks which not only serve to separate the top sets of balconies, but also define the whole building and offers a similarity to the original building with its rows of traditional chimneys. In front of Braid House is a manicured lawn with a few benches to sit.
We went inside through the sturdy revolving doors to a long space leading towards a small check in desk at the far end. The space, which has a very traditional feel, has a few sofas and places to relax and is fairly dark, with lots of wood panelling and has the atmosphere of a stately home. We approached the desk to check in; the extremely helpful and friendly receptionist commenting on the fact it was our anniversary. This was surprising and charming considering this fact had been a throw-away remark on one of our e-mails. We were told that we had been given an Estate Room in the new Braid House part of the hotel, and this room upgrade of two categories was very much appreciated.
We went to fetch our suitcase, which was taken care of for us by the bellman, and waited for our room to be ready. Only a few minutes later we were personally shown to our room, through the rabbit warren alleys of the old building lined with upmarket shops with dark wooden façades, and with the smell of an old country house into the modern light and airy new extension. The two styles are very different, but are well designed to make the contrast very endearing. I was glad the hotel had decided against trying to build an extension in the style of the tradit
ional hotel, and had opted for the ultra modern touch. The corridors of Braid House are wide, carpeted in a cream checked carpet with the large solid black guest room doors at an angle to the corridor, which avoids the usual featureless effect of rows of identical doors.
Our room, at the end of the corridor on the second floor, overlooked the hotel grounds and further towards the Perthshire Hills, which was a lovely sight. The room itself was very large with a wide entrance leading into the main bedroom space with floor to ceiling windows on one and a half sides of the room. The carpet was in a contemporary checked pattern, the king sized bed covered in white bedcovers and a green tartan style throw. The brown leather headboard with mirrors either side above the bedside units, added to the modern stylish feel, complemented by natural tone wallpaper and light beige and orange curtains. There was a large desk and TV unit, a sofa near the window with table, and matching bedside tables. The room had two large closets with black louvre doors either side of the bathroom's double louvre door entrance. All of the furniture - dressing table, TV unit etc were in a black wood with contrasting silver handles.
The bathroom in the same style, was very modern and generously sized, with a double sink, free standing bath with shower attachment. The separate shower (with two heads) and toilet were each contained behind their own green frosted glass doors. The grey slate floor and neutral wall tiles gave the bathroom an extra feeling of quality. The bathroom also benefited from having a circular window giving natural light.
Back inside the bedroom, a large open fire effect fire was a feature of the room, controlled by its own remote control, which also controlled the dimmer effect of all the various forms of lighting and also closed and opened the curtains. I think Gleneagles have really got these rooms perfectly right. They are very much
in the style of many modern 5 star hotels, reminding me of the Lowry in Manchester, if perhaps slightly more conservative. The style is very clean and uncluttered, with an emphasis on quality fabrics and furniture. This contributes to the relaxing and serene feeling of the rooms. All the little in room items that you might need are included, plus a lot more. A proper hairdryer, a minibar, iron, board and trouserpress, safe, DVD player and also a Bose bedside radio/CD player. The TV serves many purposes apart from just viewing the satellite channels. It offers free access to the Gleneagles website, internet access for a supplementary charge, games which you can play via the TV remote control (and which are too addictive!) and all the usual bill viewing facilities. Most of the rooms in Braid house have a balcony or terrace, and our balcony leading off the bedroom, looked out to the side of the building, and so was a very private place to sit.
The hotel had left us a bottle of Moet et Chandon in the room with a card welcoming us to the hotel on our Anniversary. This again was a lovely touch, and we were very surprised and pleased that the hotel so far was living up to its reputation and our expectations. I can imagine numerous hotels that wouldn't care less if it was your anniversary or would try and sell you a bottle of plonk to have in your room. We had also been left a bottle of wine, due to us booking online, and we were quite impressed that this hadn't been forgotten or replaced by the bottle of champagne.
The hotel is obviously associated with golf, but it isn't a foregone conclusion that to stay here you must play the game. My husband and I have no interest in the sport, but there is plenty to do around the estate. For instance there are three short (between 2 and 5km) signposted walks around the estate that take you around, past and sometimes through (watch out for flying golfballs) the golf courses. There is a we
ll equipped gym in the spa, as well as a large leisure pool and a lap pool. There are the usual Jacuzzis and saunas, and also an outside hot tub, ideal for the winter! The hotel is also a short drive from Perth and Stirling, and convenient for both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Although you feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere, the good transport links make it actually quite a convenient place to escape to.
The organised leisure activities are also plentiful. There is off-road driving, cycling, falconry and fishing amongst others to participate in. The hotel also has tennis courts and a croquet lawn.
The hotel has more than ample dining options. The award winning contemporary restaurant, by Andrew Fairlie is one of the two fine dining options, along with the Strathearn, which is housed in much more traditional surroundings. For a more casual alternative, there is the Club Restaurant adjacent to the spa, and also the Dormy Restaurant in the Clubhouse. The main bar just inside the main entrance is the main choice for pre-dinner drinks, although the Club also has a small informal bar area. There are also a couple of lounges where I am sure you can be served drinks if you wanted.
On both of our evenings we went for a cocktail in the bar. The bar, like much of the hotel, was quite classically elegant, with subdued light and lots of huge comfy seats and sofas. The bar was positioned in the centre of the room, and the large picture windows looked out on two sides over the estate. We didn't wait long at all for service, as can often be the case in large cocktail lounges. The cocktail menu consisted of a few variations on the martini theme, predictably quite a lot of whisky based cocktails, but most of the classics were not indicated, probably due to the fact that people will just order them anyway. We sampled a couple of martini variations, as well as a Cosmopolitan. The menu was not the best I have seen, mainly due to the
variations trying to be a little too different. The drinks we ordered however were very enjoyable, but maybe not as good as we had sampled the day earlier in the Balmoral in Edinburgh. This evening we were surprised at how quiet the bar was - it could have benefited from being a little more lively. No doubt the hotel is suffering too from the lack of American travellers.
The first evening we dined at Andrew Fairlie Restaurant. This is actually a small restaurant, with a modern but intimate setting. The service we experienced was impeccable. The menu is priced depending on the number of courses - for three courses the cost was £55. The menu includes at least one vegetarian option for both starter and main course and also has a couple of fish/seafood dishes. For starter I ordered one of the restaurant's signature dishes, home smoked lobster, with a lime and herb butter sauce. This was one of the best restaurant dishes I had ever tasted, and would have made an equally good main course with a whole lobster. The smokiness perfectly complimented the tenderness of the lobster. My husband chose the Skye Scallops with Pigs Cheek and Celeriac Puree. He also commented that the various elements of the dish worked perfectly together For main course, I decided upon the Cep and Potato Pave with Artichoke Barigoule, which was a very finely and intricately layered stack. Although the appearance was a little dull, the flavours were very well suited. What could have been a very bland dish, was executed so well that it was very tasty. My husbands Venison with Confit Potato and Sauce Grand Veneur similarly did not disappoint. For dessert we both chose the Sorbets with Cinnamon Madeleines. In total we spent £150 in the restaurant, including a bottle of wine and mineral water. This I think was a very fair price for the quality of food and service in a 5 star hotel.
Breakfast is served in one of the more traditional dining rooms of the hotel, with a
pomp and ceremony that you very rarely find. The service is very professional, quite unusual for this meal, when you often get the impression the staff are half asleep too! There is a good choice of cold breakfast items, and also a vast array of hot food, which is served for you from the hot plates. This was much better than helping yourself as is often the case.
The following evening we had booked a table in the Club Restaurant. According to the hotel directory the bar also served cocktails, but this turned out not to be the case, so we returned to the main bar again. The Club is a very casual alternative, with no pretentions. However the service is far beyond what would be expected from a restaurant of this kind usually. The food is typical bistro fare, and we ordered a Tomato and Red Pepper Soup and Smoked Salmon with Sour Cream for starters. For main course, we chose the Oven-Fired Chicken Saltimboca with Linguine and the Salmon. All the dishes were of a very good quality, in particular the smoked salmon and the Chicken (which had potential to be disappointing, but which was actually one of the most satisfying chicken dishes I have tried). Although the setting was more casual, and the menu sounded fairly simple, you didn't feel it was out of place in a hotel of this sort. The cost of £77 was fairly expensive for this style of restaurant, but was justified due to the service and quality.
The hotel was a great combination of a traditional resort with a modern twist. It was exciting to have such a contrast from the old part of Gleneagles, which does definitely have the feel of a country house, to the sparkling newness of the fashionable new wing, more in the fashion of a stylish contemporary 5 star hotel.
We checked out of the hotel, perfectly happy with our stay. We were given some shortbread for our journey home, and again it is the little touches that make hotels such as this very special indeed. In terms of v
alue for money, a similar hotel such as Banff Springs in Canada costs more, and due to its size cannot hope to offer the kind of personal service we experienced at Gleneagles. Similarly properties here in the UK, such as Cameron House, also in Scotland are similarly priced but without the reputation and I am guessing the attention to detail. I therefore thought the whole experience represented good value for money. We have become very jaded when staying at hotel that wins lots of awards. Having stayed at the Best Hotel in the World (according to the Daily Telegraph), the Jumeirah Beach Hotel a couple of months before, we were a little dubious about how Gleneagles, another consistent winner (Best UK Hotel) would fare. We were pleased though to at least on this occasion, be able to agree wholeheartedly with the accolade!
I would definitely return to Gleneagles. If I considered staying at various other Golf or Country House Resorts, I think I would probably decide not to gamble on them (and staying at hotels here in the UK is regularly just that ? a gamble!) and return to Gleneagles instead.
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