Wednesday, January 16, 2013
After two days in St Andrews, I thought I would have had enough of famous Scottish golf destinations. In fact, the opposite was true. After exploring the city, I couldn’t wait to go to the next location on my post-Hogmanay tour of Scotland: Gleneagles.
Gleneagles is most famous for its golf courses, but I wasn’t there to play 18 holes. I was there to relax after a week of intrepid traveling throughout Scotland. The ten of us that remained in the country after our New Year’s Eve Hogmanay festivities, tour of the Highlands, and trip to St Andrews took the train out to Gleneagles to stay at a gorgeous property called Alexander House.
High on a hill and accessible only by a steep dirt track that ran between fields full of sheep, it was the perfect Scottish country retreat. The house had eight bedrooms and enough common spaces to give us all room to breathe. And that’s to say nothing of the beautiful decor, swimming pool, and indoor hot tub.
For two days, we relaxed, worked, played, ate, drank and took walks in the wooly wilderness. It was the perfect way to unwind at the end of a long trip.
But the trip wasn’t over quite yet. We had one last place to visit: the Gleneagles Hotel. Built by the Caledonian Railway Company in 1924, the hotel is now a famous five-star luxury resort that features three of the most well-known golf courses in the world.
But instead of golf, we were invited there for food and drinks. After a quick tour of the rooms and spa, we settled in for a cooking demo with Neil Mugg, the head pastry chef at Gleneagles.
As we sipped Drambuie Champagne cocktails, he showed us how to make a number of Hogmanay-inspired sweet treats, from Blairgowrie flummery to clootie dumplings.
After sampling the puddings and some succulent steak from the restaurant, we headed to the bar for Prosecco and cocktails. I had a Gleneagles Rob Roy, a Manhattan made with Johnnie Walker Gold. It was a fitting way to celebrate the end of my tour of Scotland and one of its most famous hotels.
But nothing gold can stay, or so said the American poet Robert Frost. And this Californian had to travel home to London.
Leaving Gleneagles was not my favorite part of the trip, but I had seen so many of the country’s highlights and enjoyed such good weather during my travels that I couldn’t be too sad to take the train south.
And with Scotland so close, I have no excuse to stay away from Gleneagles for too long. Maybe I will even learn to play golf in time for my next visit. Or maybe I will just focus on the food and the spa.