Gleneagles: The hotel that will suit your kids to a tee
We find that Gleneagles's stuffy reputation is unfounded
Staying at one of the world's best hotels with two, lively, accident-prone boys in tow is not everyone's idea of a relaxing break. Especially when the hotel in question is Scotland's renowned Gleneagles, a five-star deluxe property once associated with stuffy opulence and elitist golfers.
Fearing the worst (the boys tossing a football, say, and smashing the photograph of the G8 Leaders that hangs in the lobby as a memento of the 2005 conference), I clung tightly to the hands of Zack and Leo, my six- and-seven-year-olds, as we entered the hotel.
Apart from giggling at the doorman's kilt, the boy's managed to remain on their best behaviour for all of two minutes before their ears pricked up at the words "table football", "karaoke", "cooking" and "children's driving". As the receptionist reeled off a list of activities on offer for kids, I couldn't believe this was the same hotel I had been consistently told was more appropriate for the rich, famous and old.
In fact, everywhere we went there were families and young kids running around, primarily because of Gleneagles' policy of creating a varied programme of activities for children and teenagers to bring in families and a new generation of visitors.
While the boys screeched with delight at having found a PlayStation3 in their bedroom, my husband was making similar noises as he eyed the vast golf courses from the huge bay windows of our room. There are four 18-hole courses, plus other golf areas and a practice area, which are undoubtedly the big attraction, but being a non-golfer, I was more in awe of our stunning suite with its jewel coloured throws, stunning artwork and every possible amenity, including finest down duvets, six-choice pillow menu and under-floor heating - this is Scotland, remember . Even the kids' room had little slippers, mini-towelling robes, and a plasma-screen TV as well as that PS3.
As we headed for the hotel's new playroom - the only thing to lure them from the electronic game - past the boutiques selling cashmere, fine old single malts and Escada swimsuits, we were reminded of Gleneagles's more traditional clientele. But neither guests nor staff seemed remotely perturbed to see two excited boys racing past.
As well as a snooker table, computer games, juke-box and karaoke machine, the kids' area boasts a shiny new playroom where children up to the age of 10 can be left for two hours at no charge. While the boys happily got stuck in making gingerbread men with the childminders, we opted for a bit of recreation of our own - me for some pampering in the exquisite new ESPA spa, which has just undergone an £8 million refurbishment, and my husband to the golfing range.
Emerging an hour later, having sampled one of the soothing massages from a long list, I was so chilled that even the boys' persistent nagging to join their father on the golf course failed to spoil my mood.
Leaving the boys to a bit of putting, I decided to check which of the hotel's numerous restaurants was suitable for an early evening meal. Whilst there is plenty to choose from, the Deseo seemed ideal for families - especially as the chef lets children create their own pizzas at the table.
The boys were desperate to get to their off-road driving class, so we did not indulge as much as we might have given the vast breakfast options, which included Scottish staples, like kippers, smoked haddock and porridge, as well as fruit, eggs, breads and cereals, and just about everything else one expects on a breakfast buffet these days.
At the hotel's driving school, the boys climbed into miniature Land Rover replicas to test their driving skills. As they explored the grounds under the watchful eyes of two instructors, we took a chance to see Glenmor, the hotel's new holiday village. Here, just as at the hotel, luxury is understated, but unsurprisingly, is not cheap. Run in a similar way to a timeshare, the development is proving extremely popular, providing the comfort and privacy of your own home with the hotel facilities just a minute away.
After the thrill of their driving experience, the children were happy to try something charmingly old-fashioned - the hotel's maze. The four of us negotiated its paths, taking 20 minutes to reach the centre.
Glenegales also has a falconry school, fly fishing, horse riding (it has one of the finest equestrian centres in Europe), gundog school, and clay pigeon shooting as well as tennis, gym, cycle-hire and two fabulous heated swimming pools, one of which was our destination for our last morning.
As we reluctantly checked out, the kids were cheered by a packet of biscuits for the journey - another reminder of how well Gleneagles caters for little ones.
As we were driven back to Edinburgh Airport in one of the hotel's big, luxury cars, I realised how quickly I had adjusted to the five-star life.
Sadly, it didn't take long to be brought back to reality. As we waved goodbye to the liveried chauffeur, my husband pointed to the departure board. Our easyJet flight back to Luton was delayed by four hours.
Now if only I could have chartered a private jet to finish off the holiday, it would have been perfect.