5 Star Scotland – Indulgent weekend breaks
Live like royalty in places fit for a King (or Queen!)
When we imagine plush hotels and rock star service, it’s easy to picture glitzy locations such as Paris, Milan or the French Riviera but there’s a superb choice of top notch, five star places to stay in Scotland. There’s more to offer discerning guests than just a wee bit hill and glen, you know!
Now, when budget allows, there’s nothing I love more than hiding out in such a place, indulging in beautiful surrounds and lapping up the finest hospitality these hotels have to offer. If you’re thinking of splashing out and treating yourself to a five-star weekend break or even just an overnight, here are my suggestions to get you on your way to living your best life for a day or two.
In no particular order…
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire.
This was the first five-star hotel I ever stayed in and it set the bar rather high. I tend to use this majestic hotel as my benchmark and with good reason. From the minute you walk through the door, you know you’re not going to receive anything less than first class service. Don’t think for a minute that it’s going to be super formal or stuffy though.
Despite its grandeur and opulence, Gleneagles is pretty laid back. I didn’t feel remotely out of place even though I knew I was rubbing shoulders with high rollers and affluent business guests. As well as the corporate visitors, there’s also just nice happy families, enjoying a well-deserved break. If you’ve got a special occasion coming up in the calendar such as a wedding anniversary or a big birthday ending a zero (I have one in two years’ time – please make a note) this is the place to celebrate it in style.
Speaking of which, I chose to pack my best bib and tucker for my stay here (and why not?) and although there’s no super strict rules, dressing up is encouraged. I was tickled pink by the hotel’s dress code rules on the website … “To look the part, we suggest a collared shirt, sports jacket or blazer, evening dresses or smart and elegant attire. As a general rule of thumb, if you’d wear it to swing a golf club, ride a horse, do a work out, head to the beach, or walk the dog, then it will not be suitable and you may be refused entry. Please save sportswear, hats and flip flops for your country pursuits adventures.”
Can’t say fairer than that. Besides, it’s lovely to get dressed up in our finery from time to time. What’s the point in keeping our best dresses or suits for special occasions. Life is a special occasion, but staying at Gleneagles is certainly a time when you deserve to look your very best…you’ll certainly feel your best after being looked after so well.
As a member of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’, Gleneagles offers sumptuous accommodation, an award-winning spa, three championship golf courses and elegant dining. Restaurant Andrew Fairlie boasts two Michelin stars – the only restaurant on Scotland to date that holds this accolade. Don’t panic if fine dining scares you- there are more casual food options available – ideal if you have kids in tow. Speaking of little darlings, there’s a fabulous new addition to the great stuff they can do at Gleneagles. The estate has welcomed Hettie, an 11-year-old Shetland pony whose favourite pastimes are eating and having her long blonde mane groomed. Hettie has been winning hearts since making her debut on the hotel’s complimentary Stable Tours and Meet the Ponies experiences – part of the family programme designed to inspire and entertain wee ones.
Gleneagles’ fun-packed family programme includes create a bear workshops, cupcake decorating, T-shirt design, ceramics classes, teddy bear picnics, football and tree-climbing.
Go on; burst the budget and treat yourself to a night or two here. It’s so worth it.
The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
Ahhh…I have fond memories of spending a fair chunk of my earnings in this fine establishment when I used to work in Edinburgh. If old school glamour and grandeur is what you’re after, look no further. This world-famous Edinburgh landmark is one of the finest hotels I’ve ever set foot in and should be at the top of your list if you’re thinking of a luxury stay in Scotland’s capital. If location is key to your trip then you won’t find much to grumble about here either. The Balmoral is slap bang in the heart of the city – 1 Princes Street to be precise (what an address!) and just a few steps up from Waverley Station. Standing proud since 1902, the historic building’s majestic clock tower still dominates the Edinburgh skyline.
As part of a multimillion pound upgrade, The Balmoral refurbished its presidential suite, the Scone & Crombie Suite, and its Royal Suite, the Glamis Suite, in the past year – both of which offer truly luxurious surroundings and can be booked as a one, two or three bedroom suite.
Dining at The Balmoral is another glitzy affair and taking afternoon tea in the Palm Court is simply one of life’s joys. There’s even an afternoon tea masterclass available to residents where you can learn all about the origins and secrets of this traditional ritual. If tea isn’t your bag but social media posts are, you’re sorted as well. The hotel run a half day Instagram Walking Tour where you can snap all the city’s most photogenic spots and show off to all your followers. After all that, I’d be needing to retreat to my favourite hangout of any hotel – the spa! Nothing says ‘out of office’ like a blissful massage or a relaxing facial. I am addicted to facials and I just love being pampered and anointed with every age-defying, skin brightening, wrinkle busting potions known to man. The Balmoral Spa has some sublime treatments on the menu and I’d be happy to tick off every single one.
The Witchery by the Castle, Royal Mile, Edinburgh
It will come as no surprise that as well as The Balmoral, there are a few other sumptuous places in Edinburgh you can dine like a king. Another extraordinary place where you can lose the outside world and indulge in the ultimate dining and overnight stay is The Witchery by the Castle. What words can I use to describe it? Atmospheric? Dramatic? Theatrical? Yes, all of the above. One newspaper described it as ‘the ultimate romantic bolthole’ and this pretty much sums it up.
For dinner, you can choose to eat in the oak-panelled candlelit Witchery dining room or the dreamy and seductive Secret Garden. If you’re going to make a night of it here…and I strongly suggest that you do, you will be bowled over by the sumptuous bedrooms you can impress your partner with. The phrase ‘wow factor’ could have been coined with this place in mind.
The hardest decision will be picking which room to spend the night in – they are all so tempting. Choose from The Old Rectory, The Heriot, The Vestry, Sempill, The Library, The Guardroom, The Armoury, The Turret or the Inner Sanctum. If you’re planning to propose to that someone special…here’s where you ought to get down on one knee!
Trump Turnberry, Ayrshire
Taking you from east to the west now, I’d like to show you another favourite bolthole of mine – Trump Turnberry. A place where I have spent a couple of super-chilled weekends, tucking into some of the nicest food and drink imaginable but stuffing my face wasn’t the only highlight. The location of Trump Turnberry is hard to beat. Lying on a heavenly spot along the rugged Ayrshire coast, this iconic destination has welcomed more than its fair share of famous faces through its door. The serene waterfront position definitely sets the tone for what lies ahead – deep, peaceful slumber induced by the fresh sea air. The views from this resort are reason enough to visit; you can see right over the fairways out to Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran. Views I never tire of and for some reason make me feel very very Scottish. I mean, I am Scottish but for some reason, being here, in the moment, just brings it all home to me how much natural beauty we have here in Scotland. Turnberry certainly shows it off to the world with pride.
I’ve been lucky enough to bag a room with a view each time I’ve stayed here and I must confess, one of my favourite pastimes is to soak in the free-standing bath with a glass of something cold in my hand, enjoying the views out to sea. Not quite the quick dip I’m used to at home. This tub was bigger than my entire bathroom.
The spa here is also worth a mention. Isn’t it funny how every facial I’ve had has been wonderful yet each therapist has their own way of doing things, making each treatment unique and memorable. Turnberry Spa is exceptional and stands out as one of my favourites. The therapists here know what they’re doing and my experience was just sublime – adding to the magic. Trump Turnberry is a special place and if you can push the boat out, try and spend a day or two here. Hopefully you’ll fall under its spell just like I did.
Kimpton Blythswood Hotel, Glasgow
Showcasing some impressive Georgian architecture, the stunning Kimpton Blythswood sits proudly in Glasgow’s leafy Blythswood Square. This place just oozes style and if you want to mingle with the fashionistas and beautiful people, this is the place to hang out. The hotel’s luxurious spa is a proper oasis of calm in this busy city and its hard to imagine there’s so much hustle and bustle outside. Every corner of this opulent hotel exudes an air of serenity and refinement. This is my kind of place. I love being in the heart of a town or city yet I love a hotel that almost shields you from the real world from the second you walk through the door. There are a few places in London that make me feel this way too. So, if you’re thinking of spending a few days on a city break to Glasgow, you’ll find your little piece of heaven at the Kimpton Blythswood.
The Belmond Royal Scotsman
Now for something a little different…
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to get your next thrill ON the rails as opposed to going off them, this is for you. Step on-board The Belmond Royal Scotsman – the ultimate train journey for discerning passengers who don’t want to get off at the next stop. You can have the ultimate sleepover on a train!
This is no ordinary choo-choo, this is the last word in luxury and refinement. Cabins are kitted out in the finest of fittings and soft wools and tartans. There’s even a SPA carriage. Somebody pinch me. Surely I must be dreaming. PLUS…Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland’s only luxury sleeper train, has added new bespoke excursions that take guests off the rails and into the wilds of Scotland.
Guests can now tailor their itinerary by choosing from a range of activities including stargazing under some of the darkest skies in Europe in the Cairngorms; hiking the gorges of Aviemore, canoeing on Loch Ness, clay pigeon shooting at Rothiemurchus Estate or teeing off for golf at some of Scotland’s most famous links courses.
Check out the available journeys through some of Scotland’s stunning scenery and get your travel plans right on track.
The Marcliffe, Pitfodels, Aberdeen
If you’re heading north and the decadence is calling, you’ll want to look out for this cracker of a hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa is a luxurious, relaxed and ultra-elegant five-star country hotel set in its own picturesque grounds. Enjoy a taste of real Scottish hospitality at this picturesque resort and let your stresses and worries melt away. Be sure to book a treatment in the hotel’s spa where the skilled therapists will leave you feeling calm and renewed before retiring to your beautifully appointed room.
They even have specially crafted mattresses to ensure you have the best chance of a perfect night’s sleep. You’d be forgiven for spending the entire time in your bed but that would be a shame as there’s plenty more to enjoy at The Marcliffe and the surrounding area of Royal Deeside.
Staying in dreamy places like these isn’t cheap but you get what you pay for and if you’ve worked hard all year round and feel like splurging, you’ll find no judgement here. I know they say that the best things in life are free – and some are, but, for real five-star luxury, sometimes you have to part with a little bit of cash and that’s ok in my book too.
I love travel. I’ve been fascinated by other countries and cultures since my first foreign trip in 1985 and I’ve had serious wanderlust ever since.I also love to write about where I’ve been and tripsology lets me indulge that passion. I’m thrilled to be a regular contributor and editor. When I’m not writing I also run my own PR and publicity company.