The Gleneagles Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in Scotland, if not all of the United Kingdom. It’s a five-star property, sprawling and lush, with a well-rounded collection of outdoor family travel activities to keep any family, from mildly adventurous to thrill-seeking, happy and excited for their entire stay in Perthshire. Gleneagles sets the standard for a luxury vacation in Scotland to be sure — great golf is a pull for many travelers, but Europe’s high society has been coming to the hotel since the 1950’s for its other excellent attributes as well. My family and I were thrilled to be able to stay at the Gleneagles Hotel for a few nights during our Scotland summer vacation, and, recognizing that for most travelers it’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience, would love to share the family travel activities at Gleneagles Hotel with current Scotland travel planners.
All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Driving
Consider this: A luxurious, pampering breakfast at a 2-Michelin starred restaurant in Gleneagles, amid the traditional calm of a luxury hotel and genteel guests sharing smiles in a quiet atmosphere. Twenty minutes later, our kids are screaming with delight, and zooming across the designated part of the hotel property in their ATVs. Off roading in ATVs is great fun, often hilarious, and the bumpy roads around the purpose-built ATV course are perfect for the minor jolts and dips associated with all terrain vehicle driving fun. Kids older than 10 are given brief lessons (as are parents) so that families staying in the Gleneagle Hotel can drive the ATVs themselves. These ATVs are “Argos;” all-weather, all-terrain, and semi-amphibious eight-wheel drive vehicles. They rumble through rocky and swampy areas with relative ease and are driven up and down steep elevation changes as well. My daughters loved the off-road driving experience, and their guide seemed to have such sharing their excitement. This was my kids’ second-favorite of the family travel activities at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Younger children, ages 6 and up, can try the Junior Off Road activity in mini Land Rovers. This also goes along a purpose-built course, albeit one that is pretty flat with bigger, more obvious obstacles.
Falconry at Gleneagles Hotel
Yes, falconry. And not just an open manicured lawn and some clay pigeons shot into the air for the peregrine to fly after and catch. This is a real, wild falconry experience, done in the manner in which falconry has been used to catch small animals throughout the ages in Scotland. The British School of Falconry was the first dedicated falconry school in the world, and it later became established in Gleneagles Hotel; this means that professional falconers help guests and our children get comfortable with the falcons, with a short training time (“don’t try to kiss your falcon!”) and a reminder that these birds are no parakeets. Only kids with the maturity to respect these sometimes fierce falcons should partake in the falconry experience at Gleneagles.
There are several different options here; I recommend the half day Hawking Days experience, around 3 hours long, which involves driving to the edge of the property where the terrain gets forested in parts and swampy in others. Hunting with a falcon on our arms means paying close attention to the birds — when they are alert, look where they look. Is that a rabbit? A crow (usually, yes, a crow)? A pheasant? Then we throw our arms, and the bird takes off! We run, chasing after our falcons, and as we squish through small rivers and mud, or clamber over fallen trees in the forest, the cool air reddens our cheeks and we have a flush of realization: This is what it was like for the Scottish aristocracy and their guests, in the 1700s and 1800s as well. The guide takes the catch (in our case, four or five crows) and feeds the falcons their rewards. They settle back onto the arms of the hunting party, and we continue on our way. Hands down, the falconry experience was my entire family’s favorite of the family travel activities at Gleneagles Hotel. We still talk about it. There is also a Falconry Break 2-day falconry experience, and a 45-minute introductory lesson.
Archery and Air-Rifle Shooting
Archery felt like the activity choice that had more ties to Scotland’s long history and culture, so we oped for that. Air-rifle enthusiasts can practice their precision shooting with that option as well. With archery, I learned that I did not have the nascent skills I’d somehow thought I’d have. My husband and I competed, and it wasn’t even close. Sorry, Merida from Brave, I let you down! Nonetheless, archery is a fun group activity, and children can learn to aim and release their arrows as well as adults — archery relies on coordination rather than strength. Archery at Gleneagles Hotel is available for kids ages 8 and up (after all, little children with poor impulse control could unwittingly put themselves in danger) and involves target practice at a designated archery range. I may have lost, but I did get two bulls eyes! The archery activities are always accompanied by an instructor, and the lessons are approximately 45 minutes long.
Other Family Travel Activities at Gleneagles Hotel
We couldn’t possibly experience all the family travel activities at Gleneagles Hotel in our few days there (because downtime is pretty important to us, too). Now, there’s a fun playroom in the Gleneagles Hotel that my daughters enjoyed, it must be a good option for rainy days too. There is a shooting school which involves clay pigeon target shooting, gundog school, fishing, and an equestrian school for horseback riding. Kids who golf would also be happy to join their parents at the famous on property world class golf courses ; the King’s Course and the Queen’s Course have been part of the Gleneagles since the hotel opened, and the former Monarch’s Course has been renamed the PGA Centenary Course due to the Ryder Cup being held at there in 2014. This last course opened in 1993 and was designed by Jack Nicklaus. Younger children have fun puttering around on the 9-hole Wee Course (cute!) and guests of the hotel can sign up to improve their game at the Golf Academy.
With its Michelin-starred restaurant, glorious views of Perthshire, and pampering luxurious rooms, Gleneagles deserves every one of its 5 stars. The terrific, genuinely fun and memorable outdoor family travel activities at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland create memories of laughter and a deeper appreciation for that countries long, fascinating history.
Thank you, Kensington Tours, for arranging our family travel activities at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. A special thank you to Jessica Hill, Kensington Tours’ talented Scotland specialist.