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Issue 2 - Where Gleneagles dare

Scotland Magazine Issue 2
June 2002


This article is 16 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Where Gleneagles dare

Marcin Miller explores his new love of birds

Inspired by Elizabeth’s Walton fascinating article in Issue 1 of Scotland Magazine, I had the good fortune to try my hand at falconry recently. Where better to attempt this than at the British School of Falconry, based at Gleneagles? The school keeps 22 birds: mostly Harris hawks, some peregrine falcons and an eagle. The hawks are beautiful creatures: they look you in the eye with a nobility that is beyond compare and, although they don’t enjoy having their feathers stroked, they will tolerate it. These birds are remarkable hunting machines. Energy will not be expended unnecessarily. It is only necessary if the birds are hungry. Thus, the factor that influences whether a bird will fly on any given day is its weight. A male Harris hawk weighs around a pound and a half. If he is over his optimum weight by a quarter of an ounce, the chances are the school won’t fly him. Put simply, if he isn’t hungry he won’t perform. Birds of prey are so high on the evolutionary ladder that , in order to reduce weight and thus improve flying performance, their bones are hollow: were you to remove the bones from a Harris hawk and place them in one pile, then remove the feathers and place them in another pile the pile of feathers would be heavier than the pile of bones. They are truly amazing creatures.

Of course, if you don’t want to fly the hawks at Gleneagles you can always learn how to fish or shoot at the schools run by Sir Jackie Stewart. Failing that, why not go horse-riding or take the children off-roading at the junior 4x4 facility? Alternatively, spend some time at the exquisite spa (see pages 60-63). If you are a traditionalist, you might want to go to Gleneagles for the three Championship golf courses. They’re holding the Ryder Cup there in 2014.

The point I am slowly making my way towards is this; if there is so much to do at just one (admittedly exceptional) hotel, imagine what the rest of the country can offer. That’s where Scotland Magazine comes in, introducing you to some of the country’s genuinely remarkable places to stay, places to visit and things to do. In this issue you’ll find a guide to 21 of our favourite castles, all of which are definitely worth a visit. We recommend the very finest in mainland country hotels, many of which now feature luxurious spas. Kate Patrick talks to the queen of the cashmere scene Belinda Robertson. Those with a keen interest in history are well catered for: James Irvine Robertson follows up his piece on the Romans in Scotland with a look at the Jacobites, Gerald Warner investigates the perennial topic of the clans and we look at the heritage of Culzean Castle, an absolutely stunning historical house designed by Robert Adam. Fiona Armstrong introduces our regional focus suggesting you make your way to Scotland’s best-kept secret, Dumfries & Galloway. If Scottish cuisine is your thing Sue Lawrence provides a selection of Scottish breakfast recipes and our tasting panel get their teeth into some smoked venison. Nicki Symington rounds up the finest in Scottish cruising holidays. There is also room for Rob Wainwright, a former Scotland rugby union captain and British Lion, to explain the cultural significance of rugby to the Celtic nations. At the time of writing every rugby-following Scot around the world will be celebrating: no, not a Scottish victory of note but something far more significant. The ignominious defeat of the English. By whom and where? Well, that’s not really the point.

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