When Gleneagles first opened its doors in 1924, this magnificent countryside estate in the heart of Scotland was described as a “Riviera in the Highlands”.
The Gleneagles Vision
Donald Matheson, General Manager of the Caledonian Railway Company, was inspired to create Gleneagles while on holiday in Strathearn. He was so impressed by the local countryside that he conjured up the vision of a palatial country house hotel with a golf course.
Matheson had engaged 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. Forged out of the rugged terrain using manual labour, horse and cart, The King’s and Queen’s were opened on 1 May 1919, five years before the hotel.
When the hotel opened on Saturday 7th June 1924, the media hailed it “the eighth wonder of the world”. The great band leader, Henry Hall, and his band performed at the opening Gala Ball – which made history when it was broadcast across the land on BBC Radio.
Golf and hotels were the height of fashion. Then, as now, the Gleneagles Hotel was a glorious playground for people dedicated to leisure and pleasure in the most luxurious surroundings.
When the Second World War broke out, the hotel closed and became a military hospital and later a miners’ rehabilitation centre.
Gleneagles reopened as a hotel. Its restaurants had to comply with the Ministry of Food rationing order.
Gleneagles was a regular fixture on the high society calendar: the London “season” was followed by yachting at Cowes, polo at Deauville and golf and grouse shooting at Gleneagles.
Commonwealth leaders gathered at Gleneagles to agree a boycott of sporting contact with South Africa, signing the Gleneagles Agreement in an effort to step up pressure on the country’s apartheid regime.
The hotel opened year-round for the first time. In December, the Country Club (now The Health Club), was created out of the hotel’s garage.
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).
Gleneagles was awarded the Automobile Association’s supreme accolade of Five Red Stars, which it has retained every year.
Jack Nicklaus designed and opened The Monarch’s Course, later renamed The PGA Centenary Course.
The late Andrew Fairlie opened his eponymous restaurant at Gleneagles. It gained its first Michelin star in 2002, followed by a second in 2006. Andrew Fairlie remains Scotland’s only two Michelin-starred restaurant.
Global heads of government gathered at Gleneagles for the G8 Summit. The hotel’s Glendevon Room was transformed into a high security meeting room. Her Majesty the Queen hosted a state dinner prepared by Andrew Fairlie.
Gleneagles created The Spa by ESPA, an award-winning 18-treatment-room spa (now The Spa at Gleneagles).
A major renovation of The Clubhouse saw the creation of a new Bar & Grill (now The Dormy) and The Blue Bar – an outdoor space for enjoying the finest whisky and cigars.
Gleneagles became only the second venue in Scotland to host a Ryder Cup match when Team USA came to Perthshire in September 2014. The first time was in 1973 at Muirfield in East Lothian. It was European Captain Paul McGinley who came out smiling as his team defeated the US team led by Tom Watson by 16.5 points to 12.5 points to win the cup. Jamie Donaldson sealed the victory with a perfect pitching wedge to two feet on the 15h hole which was conceded by Keegan Bradley.
Plans to create a Gleneagles outpost at 38 St Andrew Square in Edinburgh were announced. The former Bank of Scotland building is being transformed into a small hotel, along with private membership, to bring Gleneagles’ magic to Scotland’s capital. Gleneagles also launched an artisan range in collaboration with Scottish and British Makers, Gleneagles & Co, encompassing fine foods, homeware and a beautiful leather collection.
A brand new private events wing, Ochil House, was launched. Gleneagles also made sporting history again when it hosted the Glasgow 2018 European Golf Team Championships, with Europe’s elite male and female golfers competing side-by-side for equal prize money for the first time in history.
Record crowds of more than 90,000 spectators attended The 2019 Solheim Cup – the highest attended women’s golf event in British history. Gleneagles is now the only golfing destination in Europe to have hosted both The Ryder Cup and The Solheim Cup. The hotel’s iconic fine dining restaurant, The Strathearn, was relaunched following a beautiful makeover, while The Gleneagles Retail Arcade was also redesigned to showcase a new range of luxury boutiques and brands.