Gleneagles Golf Resort and Spa ~ A Hotel Review
Four major fault lines run across Scotland; a geographical condition that created a country with contrasting landscapes. You’ll discover rugged coastline, Highland mountains, lowland valleys, numerous lochs and rivers and 787 islands. Along with dramatic scenery , legendary history, castles, clans, bagpipes and brouges make a worthy and memorable destination.
On a recent visit, I passed through peaceful rolling hills as I approached the famous golf resort of Gleneagles. The renown estate, home of three championship links courses, the 2005 G-8 Summit, and vacation getaway, enveloped me in warmth and wealth. Every detail from spit polished brass railings to my room’s electric tea kettle and selection of shortbread spelled top of the line quality and five-star bend over backwards service.
My group arrived at the main entrance: an impressive French chateau looking structure. Stepping inside I found aristocratic touches: marble staircases, hand-carved wood paneling, mica chandeliers and a bevy of uniformed staff. The Gleneagles brochure aptly describes the 1924 hotel as “the palace in the glens which continues to attract those in search of rest, relaxation and exhilaration.”
Gleneagles sprawls over 850 acres, offers 232 guest rooms including 26 luxury suites. Overnight visitors choose between traditional Scottish decor rooms in the main building or more modern ones in the wings. My renovated room had a cozy gas fireplace at the foot of a massive and extremely comfy bed. A very romantic touch except I was alone. The wall of windows and patio allowed full views of the glorious countryside.
Golf is a huge draw, at least according to the Ryder Cup committee who chose Gleneages as their venue for 2014. The grounds comprise the PGA Centenary Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, the King’s Course, the Queen’s Course and the nine-hole PGA National Academy Course, used for instruction.
However, the resort offers a long list of recreational activities for non-golfers. First, there’s the highly acclaimed spa, but I regretfully had no time for treatments. I was surprised by the number of families and grandchildren participating in gun dog classes, falconry, off road driving courses or fishing, riding and hiking. Day trips are easily arranged for wildlife sightseeing, as well as castle tours and visits to whisky distillers.
I chose to attend my first ever gun-dog class learning how dogs are trained for obedience, agility and hunting. The class starred two amusing black labs who had simply performed the drills so many times, they began to anticipate and tease with the commands. I took a turn working with a dog named Debbie. She ran to fetch on command and then sat still. This Debi couldn’t coax Debbie to return until her official handler called her; an act I thought was adorable, but he did not.
Following that class, I investigated the falconry mews. Falconry has long been regarded as the Sport of Kings, and birds of prey were traditionally flown by royals. Gleneageles added their Falconry School in 1992 which offers extraordinary introductory through advanced level programs on the grounds.
Having previously worked with hawks, I was very eager to try the sport again. The feeling of commanding a bird back to your hand is one of sheer delight. Seems the majestic free flying creatures return to please the falconer, but the truth is they fly for the food you present.
The temperature felt rather chilly, especially for a Floridian, and I was ready for a wee dram — as is the Scottish custom. But, my wee dram would not be any ordinary whisky. I was invited to The Blue Bar at the Dormy Clubhouse (and one must be invited to visit). I would sip velvety smooth Johnnie Walker Blue Label whisky on a heated leather sofa around a large circular firepit.
Although not much of a scotch drinker, my first taste of the superior blend was heavenly, no harsh alcohol burn down my throat. I was instructed to take three sips with water on the side. The first was to sample the flavor, the second to smell the peat and feel some heat, and the third to experience the harmony of the whisky’s fresh orange, smoke and spices. I admit I savored the precious elixir and would enjoy it at home if the cost didn’t run approximately $200 a bottle. I will have to settle for one of Johnnie’s less famous but more economical lines like the Green or Gold Label, around $55-$75 per bottle.
The outdoor Blue Bar also includes a cigar menu with brands like Bolivars, Cohibas, Cuabas, H. Upmanns, Montecristos and Partagás, and some pre-embargo Cubans. Those, I could easily skip.
My evening would not include dining at Gleneagles finest: Andrew Fairlie, ranked as Scotland’s only two Michelin star restaurant. Instead I attended an elegant banquet complete with a tartan decorated table. Following cocktails, we feasted on a goat’s cheese panna cotta decorated with apple blossom and pomegranates. Then, a loin of slow cooked lamb, followed by warm chocolate fondant with sour cherries. Quite impressive, I’d say. My visit to Scotland was off to a magnificent start and Gleneagles surely lived up to it’s glamorous reputation.
A Slideshow of photos from Gleneagles Resort:
A winter escape in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; are you kidding? Most Floridians happily forgo snow shoveling, driving under treacherous road conditions and freezing rain. But the fluffy white stuff often makes the right stuff for winter fun. So, I flew to Crystal Mountain Resort near Traverse City in February to frolic in the frigid air.
I laced up cross country skis and was soon gliding along peaceful trails. Snow encrusted branches hung over the frosty landscape and sunshine sparkled through the pines. I kept warm by the constant movement of my arms and legs and rationalized the effort earned me a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
In the afternoon, I thought I’d take a shot at a new sport–paintball biathlon. I’d never fired a paintball gun before, but discovered it was rather easy. What was difficult was shushing (cross country skiing) from station to station as fast as possible, then calming the heart rate enough to aim at the target. I hardly resembled the athletes in the Winter Olympics, but sure gained a new perspective and respect of their sport.
Crystal Mountain Resort offers numerous winter activities and I did my best to try them all. I hit the downhill slopes but the chairlift ride seemed too cold for this Southern lady. Ice skating found me with wobbly ankles and I admit, I would have preferred an indoor rink.
Then, I discovered the Crystal Spa– oh my. An outdoor whirlpool blasted my circulatory system before I indulged in a calming massage. How heavenly to relax with therapeutic touch as warm aromatic oils and stones are applied to the body. Truly decadent as was food in the restaurants.
By nightfall the slopes were illuminated, creating a mystical aura. Snow tubing looked like a hoot but I chose to watch, pretending I was a parent observing my kids. A late evening walk took me by cute rental cottages with icicles dangling from the roofs.
Dogsledding? You bettcha. I became Nanook of the North being pulled by magnificent canines who howled and begged to run. Once they took off, the huskies quieted, content at doing what they love. Fortunately, the owner rode along and instructed me to lean in or out of the sled to balance it over the course.
I didn’t have time for snowmobiling or snowboarding, although they remain popular options in Michigan. Instead, I made a road trip to local wineries. Yes, they’re open in the winter and the view from the top of the Old Mission Peninsula was worth the drive — striking clear blue water in Grand Bay abutting white covered fields. Fabulous wine, too.
I reckon I can honestly recommend leaving Florida and submerging yourself in the snow– for up to a week. Then return to the Sunshine State and you’ll appreciate the glorious weather even more.
If you go:
Crystal Mountain Resort
12500 Crystal Mountain Drive
Thompsonville, MI 49683
800 968 7686
Oh my gosh! I almost feel guilty talking about this experience. However, I recently encountered the ultimate indulgence, and the best part: zero fat grams and no calories. Just mix some tangy Key Lime juice with a mojito’s cool refreshing mint to create a killer concoction. No alcohol necessary; simply add essentials oils and slather over the body.
My skin drank in vast quantities of the soothing emollients during the signature spa body treatment – a Key Lime mojito scrub from Calm Waters Spa at Hawks Cay. You see, I purposely stopped by Duck Key on my way to Islamorada, when returning from Key West. The small 60-acre island is home to the famed Hawks Cay Resort. But, little did I know I was in for such a sensual and scentual treat.
After leaving Key West and driving sixty miles, hubby Jay and I arrived at Hawks Cay. We stopped to enjoy a tasty, casual lunch served on the pool terrace. (Loved my grilled veggie sandwich.) We watched cars cross a bridge over the Key’s shimmery turquoise water, caught guests snoozing on the chaise lounges and visualized ourselves enjoying the resort’s beachy natural lagoon.
I meandered down to the Dolphin Connection, an ocean-fed saltwater arena, to watch the afternoon feeding. Hawks Cay Resort is the only hotel or resort in the continental United States that features an on-site dolphin research facility. And better yet, guests have the unique opportunity to encounter bottlenoses’ in their natural environment. The Dolphin Connection program is home to a pod of smiling (yes, that’s how I see them) and highly-intelligent creatures. You can choose to jump in the water for a hands-on encounter, spend three hours as if an assistant trainer or simply stand on the dock and admire their aerial tricks.
I got to thinking about my family and imaging an absolutely top notch vacation. This seemed an ideal spot to bring the grandkids and their parents—and that was before I discovered the resort offered child and teen programs and a kid’s waterpark.
Camp Hawk, for boys and girls ages 5 through 12, offers a full (or half) day of activities, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., including nature trail hikes, pool games, snorkeling in the lagoon, scavenger hunts, crafts, stories and a kid-friendly snack and lunch. On Friday and Saturday nights, young guests can join the Kids Night Out for more fun and parental relaxation.
AquaJam is a three-day wet-and-wild adventure camp for teens ages 12 through 17. Enrollees explore the Keys with like-minded peers, by kayaking, snorkeling, sailing and fishing.
Lodging choices include the resort hotel or the villas which offer the comforts of home in a two-story townhouse. The furnished deck and balcony of each villa make ideal locations for a late breakfast or cocktail hour to view a sunset.
But, I’d heard about the award-winning spa, the heavenly Calm Waters Spa, and I entered to escape. My treatment began in a candlelit room where I lay face down on a warm towel. Now, imagine a slow, tepid water drip on your back, not a Chinese water torture test, but a soft warm drizzle like a rainforest shower. That alone was pleasurable enough, but my therapist, Janet, began to scrub me with minty mojito sugar, a nourishing mixture to exfoliate and rejuvenate my dry skin. The amazing part–she did this while I continued to enjoy the warm waterfall on my body.
Janet methodically rubbed my legs, arms and back, while the Vichy shower (a bar with multiple shower heads) rinsed me and damp towels kept me comfortably warm. Once I was scrubbed, lime scented oil was applied to hydrate my skin and allowed to soak in. I was cocooned in hot blankets and my hair was washed and shampooed with Key Lime infused conditioners. I chose to leave the conditioner on during my wrap for lasting results. My eyes were then covered with a mask and I lay like a mummy, wrapped and confined in a face up position. Aaaah- how deliciously decadent.
I rested like this for 15-20 minutes with soothing birdsong music before the final unwrap. My skin felt silky, almost like my baby grand-daughter’s. Well…maybe not that soft, but a lot smoother and fuller than usual. My husband even noticed, saying I looked refreshed and kissably tender.
I would gladly return to Hawks Cay anytime and insist on staying longer than a few hours. I’d truly love to treat my family. I know each and every member would find something exhilarating to occupy their days: scuba, kiteboarding, chartering a boat, fishing, kayaking, beach combing, snorkeling, playing in the kid’s pirate pool, the spa, dining in various restaurants or just relaxing in the ocean breeze. Hawks Cay is a first class resort, a place of barefoot elegance and one that promotes full-fledged memorable fun. Cheers- it certainly gave me something to talk about. Now, anyone for a real mojito?
Hawks Cay Resort