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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

24 hours in Perthshire. Part 1: Gleneagles Hotel

It was over breakfast in Edinburgh that I was given the first ‘surprise’ envelope of the day. ‘We’re having coffee at Gleneagles,’ said the note inside and so, as the last of the morning rush hour made its way south across the Forth Road Bridge, we headed north towards the M90, Perthshire and the Ochil Hills.

By no stretch of the imagination is Gleneagles an average coffee stop. The 232 bedroom hotel is one of the best known hotels in Britain, a five star byword for luxury which attracts golfers, foodies, sporting types, outdoor enthusiasts and those who simply love the comfort and great service of this ‘Palace of the Glens’.

We knew we were getting close to the hotel when we spotted the sculpture of six giant golf clubs - created for the 2014 Ryder Cup here - at the Gleneagles Station roundabout. A few minutes later we parked near the large covered ice rink which is put up in the grounds every Christmas. Outside the main entrance, hall porters John and Andrew (pic) - the perfect meeters and greeters - were welcoming a steady stream of guests and visitors.

John fetched us a map of the hotel grounds from the concierge and pointed out the two or three places where we could get coffee. Then we were inside, stepping across the front hall carpet which, with its motifs of railway sleepers, pays tribute to the Caledonian Railway Company that built the hotel in the 1920s.

Turning left at reception we made for Braid’s Coffee Lounge, close to The Spa (golfer James Braid designed both the King’s and Queen’s courses at Gleneagles), taking in the shopping arcade on the way (pic) where you can buy fashion, jewellery, accessories, gifts, newspapers and magazines.

Retracing our steps we peered into the grand looking Strathearn Restaurant and poked our heads into the more intimate Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, the only two Michelin star restaurant in Scotland. Remember Andrew Fairlie’s name for the third ‘surprise’ of the day.

Finally, for our cup of coffee we settled on the Century Bar (pic), its glamorous new look (by David Collins Studio in London), unveiled in June. Within seconds of the coffee arriving came a piece of Scottish shortbread, made that morning, said the waitress - as she whipped the glass dome off the stand - by the hotel’s patisserie. Perfect.

Saying our goodbyes, we passed the new American Bar (opening tomorrow, December 22) and the large Christmas tree in the front hall, one of about 60, said John, that were dotted around the building at this time of the year. They certainly know how to do Christmas and Hogmany at Gleneagles. Imagine what the party’s going to be like for the hotel’s centenary in 2024.

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