Gleneagles: The glorious playground - Scotland Magazine
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Gleneagles: The glorious playground

When it opened 100 years ago, Gleneagles was the epitome of 1920s decadence. Here we take a look back at the history of this legendary hotel… The grand opening of…

When it opened 100 years ago, Gleneagles was the epitome of 1920s decadence. Here we take a look back at the history of this legendary hotel…

The grand opening of the Gleneagles Hotel and Golf Resort in Perthshire on 7 June 1924 was a momentous occasion. Its centenary this year celebrates more than a hotel, and more than bricks and mortar; Gleneagles is a Scottish institution with a rich history. 

Glamorous interiors at Gleneagles

On the day itself, a warm Saturday in early summer, band leader Henry Hall and his impeccably dressed Gleneagles Hotel Dance Band, performed at the opening Gala Ball. The ensemble is remembered for lively foxtrots such as Mad (Cause You Treat Me This Way) and Any Old Time, and the hotel opening made history when it was broadcast across the nation on BBC Radio. 

A misty day at Gleneagles

A glittering gala dinner was attended by 200 guests, who mingled with visitors from nearby grand houses. The following day the press was given a tour of the hotel, with the media hailing Gleneagles ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ and the ‘Riviera of the Highlands’.

Gleneagles was the brainchild of Donald Matheson, general manager of the Caledonian Railway Company, who imagined an elegant country house hotel combined with quality golf courses. Matheson enlisted the skills of James Braid, a five-time winner of The Open, to design and create The King’s and The Queen’s courses in the hotel grounds. The courses opened in May 1919, five years before the hotel, establishing Gleneagles as a golfing destination from the get-go.

The glorious playground

This photo (below) which appears in James Collard’s forthcoming book Gleneagles: Stories from the Glorious Playground, published by  Rizzoli New York, shows spectators in the 1920s arriving at Gleneagles to watch a golf tournament.

gleneagles hotel
Spectators in the 1920s arriving to watch a golf tournament. Credit: Gleneagles Hotel

Famous faces who have flocked to Gleneagles through the years include Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Rita Hayworth, and Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite its glamorous reputation, the resort has experienced occasional leaner periods. During WWII it became a military hospital and then a miners’ rehabilitation centre. However, when it reopened in 1947, despite adhering to rationing orders, its kitchens still managed to turn out tempting dishes such as Côte de Boeuf Rôti. 

Glamorous interiors

Find out more about Gleneagles resort and its anniversary celebrations at

This is an extract. Read the full article in the May/June 2024 issue. Available to buy from Friday 12 April here. 

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