Gleneagles, Scotland: 5 Star luxury for all the family
Family-friendly stays at Gleneagles? We checked out the new child-friendly 'Little Glen' childcare and Birnam Brasserie to discover how this 5-star hotel is leading the way
Gleneagles Hotel does luxury family-friendly so naturally and seemingly effortlessly, you wonder why on earth every luxury hotel isn’t doing it.
The 5-star hotel near Auchterarder, Perth and Kinross in Scotland opened in 1924 and was built by the former Caledonian Railway Company (who also built the nearby Gleneagles railway station). In fact, the hotel itself once had its own dedicated railway branch line.
Known for it's first-class rooms, lush golf courses and quality spa, the impeccable service cannot be faulted at Gleneagles Hotel, so we visited to find how this historic railway hotel intends to raise the bar even higher and make luxury getaways even more accessible for families with the launch of its new childcare offering 'Little Glen and The Den' plus, a new family brasserie,The Birnam.
What's new for Children at Gleneagles
Gleneagles has launched a brand new ofsted-registered childcare offering, Little Glen (supervised care for age 2-9) and The Den, an unsupervised children’s zone (age 6-15). Located close to the new Garden Café, it’s custom-built for children. Families are offered two hours of complimentary childcare per child per day, which does not have to be used consecutively.
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GOOD TO KNOW:
Childcare is £10 per hour, max four hours per day (after your complimentary two hours) 0-2 years must be accompanied in Little Glen by parents.
Converted from meeting rooms and a new extension, Little Glen consists of two rooms, a central washroom (child-sized toilets, toilet training seats and low wash basins) and an outdoor courtyard with balance beams and hoopla. The staff are fun and friendly, our children instantly took to them. Our youngest (6) ran straight onto the indoor slide and asked to stay, which speaks volumes. Our eldest (8) made a beeline for the arts and crafts room to do Hamma beads. Open daily from 9am-5pm.
Little Glen toy room: Light-filled with a big skylight and outdoor courtyard. Painted murals adorn the walls showing estate activities such as tree climbing, falconry and horse riding in a setting of Scottish heather-clad hills.
Reflecting the Gleneagles estate, there’s a toy tea-house and aga play kitchen, Gleneagles Express railway carriage and stables with hobby horses lined up. It’s tactile; our youngest loved playing on the furry sheep and deer stools, beanbags and big floor cushions. Toys include Duplo, Playmobil zoo, baby dolls and pram, ride on racing cars, wigwams, indoor treehouse and slide.
A non-supervised children’s zone to enjoy as a family, it’s a great spot for parents to reconnect and have fun with their children. Forget brash primary colours or piles of plastic, instead subtle pastels create an upmarket vibe that appeals to children and parents.
The Den is open daily from 9am-10pm. Access is by card (over 10s can have their own card), under 8s must be supervised by parents. Coats and shoes are stored in pale pink metal lockers, which have an in-built charger for phones and i-pads.
The open plan Den is divided into zones. The ‘café’ area has interlocking tables ideal for crafts and board games, which children can help themselves to. The centre zone is a curtained-off carpeted cinema area with giant beanbags, where children can crash out and watch Disney films for some post-activity down time.
A big hit with children (and nod to old school technology) is the photo booth. There are air hockey and pool tables, giant connect 4, a blackboard, wall scrabble and two Xboxes and PS4s with Minecraft and Fifa. Our children loved the Lego game (two small screens have age-appropriate games for younger children) and climbing into the hexagon wall pods.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Little Glen arts and crafts room: is next to the toy room with cheery red and blue French café chairs and bi-folding doors onto a grassy outdoor area. Our eldest (8) was in her element painting pictures.
Additional craft activities: At weekends there are two craft activities on offer per day, plus special school holiday programmes. Extend the two hour’s free childcare with a craft activity such as canvas design, candle decorating, Build-a-bear, decoupage, cupcake flowers, junk modelling, painting, card making, starting from £7 a session.
Babysitting: Available from Little Royals, £15 an hour (evening babysitters include some Little Glen staff).
Activities for Children
Dubbed ‘the glorious playground’ there is a swag of activities to keep all ages of children amused from tennis, falconry, Segways, gun dog training, to a family picnic with garron ponies. The new ‘playground snug’ has a dedicated playground planner to help plan the activity logistics of your stay.
Horse riding lesson:
Gleneagles has an excellent horse riding centre, with 32 horses and ponies, some ex-show jumpers, dressage and RDA. Riding boots and helmets are handed out in the tack room. The horses were well trained and quiet, friendly instructors Rosa and Marie made the lesson fun – What’s the time Mr Wolf? on horseback was a huge hit.
Cost: £42 for 35 minutes for lead-rein lesson. Gleneagles rosettes handed out at the end.
Family golf lesson:
The PGA National Golf Academy of Scotland stands at the entrance to the hotel. Under the expert instruction of PGA professional Andrew Towett, we were taught a correct golf grip and lined up at the driving range, whacking our way through a bucket of balls each (our kids enthusiastically fired through two buckets). The golf shop is impressive, offering custom-fit golf clubs via analysis by Trackman dopler radar for your own tailor made head shaft combination. The session ended by filming each of our golf swings, with in-depth analysis of the launch angle, spin rate, attack angle and smash factor with tips from Andrew. The children enjoyed seeing themselves playing golf ‘on television’.
Cost: Adult £65, child £30.
Our children loved the off-road driving in a miniature electric Landrover. The session began with a test drive around a flat path, with instructor Iona giving directions alongside. They traversed log piles, bumpy rocks, steep slopes, conquered the balance bridge and splashed through muddy puddles with huge smiles on their faces. Our children shared a car, swapping seats to drive the course.
Cost: £105 for 45 minutes.
Gleneagles has a range of family accommodation from family bedrooms sleeping two to three children to interconnecting bedrooms and suites. Our palatial digs had a luxe padded bed, a flat screen television, Krups expresso machine and complimentary bath robes for all the family. Off the bathroom (twin sinks and a rainforest shower) was another room with a suede effect padded bunk bed with corner sofa and flat-screen television – the children effectively had their own living room. Wall prints of 1928 Gleneagles ‘society’ reflected old school glamour and The Vesper – a complimentary drink of Gleneagles Gin, vodka and Lillet Blanc, inspired by Casino Royale – was a nice touch.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Family rooms start from £565 per night based on 2 adults and 2 children, on a B&B basis.
The new Birnam Brasserie
Gleneagles new family-friendly restaurant is housed in a sunny conservatory. It’s all relaxed Parisian chic, French café chairs and round marble topped tables amidst leafy ferns and vines. Throughout lunch and an early dinner there were plenty of families, the vibe was laid back with children in high chairs being fussed over by waiters.
Lunch kicked off with French martinis from the circular bar. Our little critics announced “the best tomato soup” they’d ever tasted, pesto pasta was gobbled up and my fussy youngest ordered the same burger and chips for lunch the next day – high praise indeed. Hebridean crab was a tangy delight, the scallops firm with earthy truffle overtones. Rustic red casserole dishes appeared with melt-in-the-mouth (Aberdeen Angus) beef bourguignon, and the North Sea halibut came with a delicate lemon and chive sauce.
For dinner, we can vouch for the Moules a la Normande, heart-warming Coq au Vin and Birnam Burger. The desserts are dreamy; our children’s eyes glazed over at silver pedestal bowls filled with raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream. The zesty lemon tart was ever so slightly trumped by the pavlova with vegan meringue, coconut yoghurt and blueberry compote (vegan, gluten free, dairy free) which our obliging waiter, Stuart, conjured up from the ‘free from’ spa menu.
Aside from the top-notch child care, activities and food, perhaps what stood out the most was how Gleneagles excels at a level of old school customer service that’s rarely seen these days. There’s an abundance of genuinely friendly (yet unobtrusive) staff on hand, who anticipate your every need and make a family stay effortless.
More Family-Friendly Options
The Dormy Clubhouse
Recently re-opened, fresh from a makeover, The Dormy’s relaxed clubhouse vibe and children’s menu, has families and golfers dining side by side. Our sunny table overlooked the 18th hole of both the King’s and Queen’s golf courses. Copper pendant lights, booth and bench seating and sage herringbone fabric sofas add to the 1920s feel.
For lunch, our children ate carrot and cucumber sticks with hummus then polished off fish and chips and ice cream. Other children’s options include eggs on toast, burgers, pasta and pizza from the newly installed pizza oven.
The seafood risotto was superb, with a generous amount of Shetland mussels, queenie scallops and prawns; while the burger came with locally sourced Mull cheddar cheese and Isle of Arran tomato relish. The staff were attentive, food served quickly, with allergen free options available. Apricot and gooseberry crumble was served with sweet creamy custard. The rich Valrhona chocolate mousse came with buttery, old-fashioned Gleneagles and Co Shortbread, part of the new Gleneagles fine food range which involves collaborations with artisan Scottish producers. Our waiter, Mark, appeared at just the right moment, suggesting a coffee-to-go for watching the off-road driving session – subtly whispering an enquiry about hot chocolates for the kids in my ear, avoiding potential meltdowns.
The Strathearn breakfast
Breakfast at Gleneagles is legendary. Held in The Strathearn, it’s the full royal treatment, with an abundance of attentive staff to cater to your every whim. Extra toast appeared, silver teapots refilled as if by magic and gluten free pancakes made to order. Choose from a traditional Scottish breakfast on the a la carte menu – the Arbroath haddock and poached free range eggs was cooked to perfection – or a fabulous locally sourced feast at the buffet, including Aberdeen butteries, Tweedside honey, Perthshire apple juice and fresh crepes.
Thanks to the exemplary service, and upbeat, endlessly patient staff (our youngest’s napkin was picked up five times) we didn’t have to lift a finger. Our children loved popping back and forward to the buffet like yoyos, each time their chairs tucked in by staff. Lounging in comfy wingback chairs, we lingered over coffee and the Sunday papers, for the first time in years.
For a little mum-time
Bob & Cloche
This former gate lodge has been transformed into a stylish new hair and beauty salon, Bob & Cloche. Vintage drinks trolleys, dusty pink decor and ivory leather chairs add to the glamour of the nail bar, pedicure room, hair salon and treatment rooms.
The Spa & Health Club
Gleneagles has a family pool, adults-only pool, sauna, steam room and an outdoor Swedish hydropool. Next door, the Balinese styled ESPA Spa is opulent and glitzy with hydropool, cosy day beds and treatments.