When the Gleneagles® Hotel opened in 1924 it was described as ‘a Riviera in the Highlands’ and ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. Today, this luxury hotel remains dedicated to excellence, just as it was in its earliest days when “the avowed intention of the management was to create happiness”.
The hotel was built by the former Caledonian Railway Company, with its own railway station just minutes away, and is now owned by Diageo plc, custodians of iconic brands such as Johnnie Walker, Guinness, and Tanqueray gin.
A brief timeline…
1910: Donald Matheson, General Manager of the Caledonian Railway Company, was on holiday in Strathearn. His railway line ran through the valley and, as it was the era of ‘Grand Hotels’, he was so impressed by the surrounding countryside that he conjured up the vision of a large country house hotel, built in the style of a palace which would provide leisure in the form of golf to the travelling public.
1913: Gleneagles Ltd was formed to construct and operate the proposed hotel and golf courses.
1914: After the outbreak of the First World War in August, the project was halted and was not resumed until 1922.
1919: The King’s Course opens. In keeping with his plans for the excellence of the concept, Donald Matheson looked for the best in the creation of two golf courses. He had engaged James Braid, one of the golfing greats, to design and create the King’s and Queen’s Courses in the grounds of the hotel. Braid had won five Open Championships between 1901 and 1910 and then turned to golf course design. The King’s and Queen’s created out of a wilderness using manual labour, pick and shovel, horse and cart, were ready much earlier than the hotel, with The King’s and Queen’s courses opening in 1919. The Queen’s opened on the same day as The King’s but was only nine holes until it was completed as a full 18 in 1925.
1923: The Caledonian Railway Company became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). Prior to opening in 1924, Gleneagles Ltd was taken over fully by LMS, an action ratified by Act of Parliament.
The 1930s: golf and hotels were the height of fashion. Then as now, the Gleneagles Hotel was the glorious playground for people dedicated to leisure and pleasure in the most luxurious surroundings.
September 1939: When the second world war broke out, the hotel closed and became a military hospital and, latterly, a miners’ rehabilitation centre, reopening as a hotel in May 1947 – a different hotel however, as society had changed and a new style of guest was welcomed. Conferences became part of the scene and a major change took place when the railways were nationalized and a subsidiary of British Rail, British Transport Hotels, took over in 1948.
The 1950s: Gleneagles was a fixed part of high society’s calendar – after the London “season” it was yachting at Cowes, polo at Deauville and golf and grouse shooting at Gleneagles.
1977: The Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference in 1977 and the BBC Pro-Celebrity Golf series helped to keep the hotel in the public eye.
1982: The first year that the hotel opened during the winter months (previously it was only operational in the summer). Between 1982-86 more than £11 million was spent on a total renovation and restoration and the elegance and traditions of Gleneagles can now be enjoyed all year round.
December 1982: a major new leisure centre, the Country Club (now called The Club), was created out of the hotel’s garage.
1985: The Jackie Stewart Shooting School opened, followed by the Mark Phillips Equestrian Centre in 1988 (now The Gleneagles Shooting School and The Gleneagles Equestrian School), The British School of Falconry in 1992.
1986: Gleneagles was awarded the Automobile Association’s supreme accolade of Five Red Stars, which it has retained every year.
1993: the PGA Centenary Course, created by Jack Nicklaus, opened to complement the renowned King’s and Queen’s courses and form one of the world’s finest golfing venues. In 2012, Jack returned to make some course modifications in preparation for the 2014 Ryder Cup, which the PGA Centenary Course will host in September 2014.
May 2001: Celebrated Scots-born chef, Andrew Fairlie, opened his own restaurant in the hotel. Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagleshas an intimate, contemporary and understated feel. Offering unashamedly French cuisine with a in Scottish twist in seductive, opulent surroundings and with its own spectacular wine cellar, the restaurant has been awarded two Michelin Stars.
December 2002: Braid House, an exciting new development at Gleneagles, was officially opened by Paul Walsh, Chief Executive of Gleneagles parent company, Diageo. It has 59 luxury, spacious bedrooms and four state-of-the-art syndicate/conference rooms, all approached through a glazed concourse from the main hotel. Although part of the hotel, it can be self-contained and companies can reserve exclusive use.
April 2004: The Shooting, Fishing and Equestrian Schools joined forces in The Activities School (formerly the equestrian centre).
2008: Gleneagles created the Spa by ESPA – an award-winning 18 treatment room spa, with Scotland’s first ESPA Life wellness centre following in 2011.
2011: A major renovation of The Dormy Clubhouse saw the creation of The Clubhouse Bar & Grill and the Blue Bar, for the enjoyment of the finest whisky and cigars.
2014: A £5 million project to transform the hotel’s Club leisure facilities was unveiled, providing an even more luxurious space to escape, relax and unwind.
2015: The Gleneagles Arena, a 2,500 square metre events space and indoor tennis centre, was officially opened. In July, Gleneagles came under new ownership: sold by drinks company Diageo to Ennismore Capital.