Embrace the Winter with a Weekend of Country Pursuits in Scotland
From relaxing and dining to shooting and off-roading, there's something for everyone at Gleneagles
On the frosty, dark days of winter, it’s natural to long for a sun-splashed escape on some shimmering tropical isle. However, the season brings its own kind of magic for those willing to embrace it, and there’s no better place to make the attempt than in the Scottish countryside.
Clay-pigeon shoots in the moorland. Horse rides over snow-dusted hills. Black nights and golden drams in front of lashing, wood-burning fires. This is winter at Gleneagles, the nearly 100-year-old luxury hotel known for its country pursuits and European sensibilities. Christened “The Glorious Playground,” the 850-acre, heather-carpeted Perthshire estate has been purpose-built to celebrate the great outdoors with some 20-odd activities and classic sports on offer, including archery; falconry; gun dog training; tree climbing; and, of course, golf, with three championship courses.
Winter kicks off the Wild Atlantic salmon fishing season at the nearby River Tay. Opening on 15 January, the occasion is marked by Gleneagles with a ceremonial procession before fishing commences. Whether Spey casting on the River Tay or off-roading in Land Rover Defenders, it’s easy to spend the whole day in nature, bundled up in waxed Barbour jackets and muddy wellies, which the hotel will supply should you leave yours at home.
Rustic lunches can be arranged at the cosy fishermen’s hut; your catch can even be cleaned, prepared, and served by the team, though the hotel’s signature whisky barrel-smoked salmon served with tangy sour cream and crumbly, homemade oatcakes shouldn’t be skipped. For those keen to spend as much time al fresco as possible, packed picnics can also be organized—anything to make the most of the daylight.
With a staff of over 1,000, nothing seems to be too much trouble for the expert team at Gleneagles. Some staff members have been with the hotel for decades, and some, even for generations. (This spring, a selection of the team will be heading to Gleneagles Townhouse, the much-buzzed-about new offshoot popping up in the heart of Edinburgh.)
A new addition this winter at Gleneagles is the Macallan whisky tasting, dining, and stargazing experience, slated to launch in February. Set in private glass pods surrounded by nothing but rolling hills and wild woodlands, the new offering is designed to make you feel like you are miles away from civilization (though the pods are actually located on a partner estate, just a short ride away from the hotel). It’s an ideal way to take in the crisp starry skies—some of the darkest in Europe—and the dramatic wintery landscape without having to worry about the elements. Not to mention, a fine single-malt Scotch whisky can go a long way in making the great outdoors just a little bit greater.