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Issue 53 - 10 Best hotel spas

Scotland Magazine Issue 53
October 2010


This article is 7 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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10 Best hotel spas

Keith Fergus relaxes in style and finds some of the great places to unwind.

Stobo Castle
Scottish Borders
Nestling within the charming Scottish Borders landscape, near to the equally charming town of Peebles, Stobo Castle is in the perfect location if a few days away from the rat race is required. However, what is even better is that if the time for a few days cannot be organised then Stobo offers day visits to make the most of their renowned facilities. As soon as you enter the wonderful grounds any stresses seem to ebb from your mind, particularly when in the vicinity of the serene Japanese Water Garden. What’s is more inspiring is the spectacular interior to Stobo Castle which really adds to the impression of quality and with the fantastic 25 metre swimming pool, a hydro spa or the intriguing The Secret Garden then luxury and indulgence are at the top of the agenda. A range of outdoor activities, including tennis and cycling, can be sampled as can a wide selection of delicious food for either lunch or dinner.

Auchrannie House Hotel
Brodick, Isle of Arran
The ferry trip from Ardrossan to Brodick, on the wonderful Isle of Arran, is relaxing in its own right but if you combine this with an overnight stay at Auchrannie Spa Resort then you have a double relaxation whammy. The hotel itself has several strings to its bow including the original Country House Hotel, which was built in 1869 and is home to 28 bedrooms. The more recent additions of the Spa, (which has 36 bedrooms) and 30 self catering lodges as well as three distinctive restaurants, fantastic leisure facilities, and beautiful gardens make Auchrannie the perfect place for an incredibly relaxing break. However, it is the sumptuous scenery that the hotel sits amongst that steals the show. The incredible, jagged profile of Arran’s wonderful mountains (including the island’s highest, Goat Fell) rise majestically only a stone’s throw from Auchrannie whilst Arran itself offers the visitor a fantastic array of activities all of which are easily accessible from the mainland.

The Sheraton Grand
Set in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, The Sheraton Grand is ideally situated to enjoy everything Edinburgh has to offer with the castle, Princes Street, and Arthur’s Seat only minutes from the door. However, once you step inside The Sheraton’s amazing environs you may find it difficult to leave. The lobby, with its beautiful marbled floors, open fireplace and inviting staircase will leave you smitten while the contemporary, bright surroundings of The Terrace or Santini restaurants give a whole new meaning to fine dining. Any of the luxurious 260 guest rooms will leave you feeling perfectly relaxed. A stress free visit is further enhanced by making good use of the gym facilities or the One Spa where a variety of soothing treatments can be enjoyed in an incredibly calming environment before taking a dip in the swimming pool or stepping into the superb Thermal Suite, the design of which is amazing. But what else would you expect from such an exceptional hotel.

Mar Hall, Bishopton
The Earl of Mar is the oldest title in Britain and the lavish mansion house of Mar Hall, on the outskirts of Glasgow, is befitting of such a title. Mar Hall was originally built in 1828 and was refurbished as a hotel in 2004. Sitting near to the banks of the River Clyde with fantastic views of the rolling Kilpatrick Hills, Mar Hall is an imposing and striking sight as you drive along the long, tree-lined drive. Once inside the chandeliers, ornate architecture and attention to detail takes your breath away and each of the 39 bedrooms are similarly impressive. A selection of treatment rooms, swimming pool and gym provide 5-star relaxation time while the Cristal Restaurant serves a mouth-watering choice of Scottish food. Glasgow Airport lies only 10 minutes away and an excellent road and public transport network means Glasgow and Loch Lomond National Park are within easy reach.

Airth Castle
Situated in view of the sprawling Ochil Hills and in touching distance of the River Forth, Airth Castle sits in splendid isolation amongst a fertile, agricultural landscape. The hotel is just a few minutes from the small village of Airth which is also a Royal Burgh with several historic houses within its confines. Walking, golfing and fishing are all easily accessible within the local area and the engineering brilliance of the Falkirk Wheel lies only a few miles away. Airth Castle is a great destination to enjoy all these activities and to enjoy what the hotel has to offer. Dating from the 14th century the exterior of the hotel is stunning, and internally features such as the Glasshouse Restaurant, where you eat your meals under a beautiful pyramid of glass, really add to the style of the hotel. Leisure and spa facilities are top drawer with Airth Castle’s Cloud Nine Spa voted Best Spa Treatment at the 2010 Scottish Hotel Awards.

Gleneagles Hotel
Auchterarder, Perth & Kinross
The five star Gleneagles Hotel started life in 1924 when it was built by the Caledonian Railway Company and actually had its own railway station. It is set within 850 acres of stunning Perthshire countryside with £11 million being spent on its renovation in the early 1980’s. Gleneagles now has four restaurants, the signature one being the renowned Andrew Fairlie which is run by the chef himself and has two Michelin stars. Many may also be drawn to the hotel by the selection of incredible golf courses within its grounds. The courses were designed by the likes of five time Open winner James Braid and, the greatest of them all, Jack Nicklaus and his course, The PGA Centenary Course, is hosting the 2014 Ryder Cup. With an incredible 232 bedrooms booking a room would, hopefully, not be too problematic but a five star hotel must have five star facilities.Therefore clay pigeon shooting, off road driving and a host of relaxation therapies are just a selection of what is on offer.

Knock Castle
Crieff, Perthshire
Not far from Atholl Palace, in the lovely, peaceful town of Crieff, sits Knock Castle. Like many similar hotels Knock Castle has an interesting history. It was built in 1885 for William Miller (a Glasgow merchant) and subsequently has been owned by David MacBrayne who was part of the Caledonian MacBrayne’s.The hotel has been in its present guise since 2007 and because of its close proximity to the Central Belt, and its idyllic setting within the beautiful Strathearn Valley, it is an extremely popular destination. Knock Castle, both externally and internally, has lost none of its character with the dining areas and bedrooms furnishings impeccable with first class spa and leisure facilities. Again the hotels location makes it accessible to enjoy the surrounding countryside particularly hill-walking, fishing and, if you are really brave, sky-diving which can be enjoyed at nearby Strathallan Airfield. The fresh air will build up an appetite and so head back to the hotel to enjoy locally sourced food from the rooftop restaurant.

Boath House
Auldearn, Nairn
Boath House, a beautiful Country House Hotel situated on Scotland’s north-east coast near to the town of Nairn, was built in 1825 but over the years fell into disrepair. It was restored to the splendid building we see today in the early 1990’s and since then Boath House has gone on to attain a coveted Michelin Star and four AA rosettes for its food. The menu is constantly updated and with seafood, meat and vegetables all locally sourced and served in the welcoming dining room then a truly unforgettable meal is guaranteed. The bedrooms have all kept their own unique characteristics and this has meant the charm and appeal of Boath House has not been lost. This is also true for the twenty acres of beautiful gardens that the hotel stands in and the superb Moray Coastline is nearby as is the fantastic city of Inverness. But if you want something a bit different why not follow the Whisky Trail visiting the plethora of distilleries in the area.

Atholl Palace
Pitlochry, Perthshire
As you drive north along the A9 towards the town of Pitlochry your eyes will be drawn to the glorious baronial splendour of Atholl Palace which sits comfortably above the winding River Tay while the imposing profile of Ben Vrackie rises sharply behind the hotel. A visit to Atholl Palace is great no matter the season but visiting during autumn, when the landscape is resplendent in gold, reds and browns adding to the wonderful atmosphere of the stay. The hotel was originally opened in Victorian times and was called the Athole Hydropathic and today has its own museum within the grounds detailing its history. Atholl Palace has some of the country’s finest gardens, home to a vast array of wildlife, which provides a very relaxing stroll. The interior of the hotel has kept its original, traditional features and the restaurant produces food of the highest quality using incredible local produce.