Onsite: Gleneagles Hotel Anything but Stuffy

PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND--The Gleneagles Hotel is not what you might expect it to be, and that's a good thing. During the hour's drive from the Glasgow airport to Gleneagles, my driver regales me with the history this grand hotel. A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the 83-year-old property is designed after a French chateau and currently owned and operated by Diageo, the makers of Guinness and Johnnie Walker alcoholic beverages, which, as is to be expected, are available in abundance in the hotel. Gleneagles hosted the G8 Summit in 2005, and in 2014 will host Ryder Cup matches on its famed golf courses.Despite its legacy, Gleneagles is anything but stuffy. In fact, the only thing I found stiff about this hotel was my starchy napkin during breakfast (more on that later).With the holidays right around the corner, the hotel is preparing for its guests who purchased its three-day winter package in the days leading up to Christmas. Gleneagles' interior and exterior are tastefully decorated, and staff is in the process of setting up an ice skating rink outside the hotel. I am lucky to be staying in the recently renovated Tom Browne suite, with its view of the large, lighted evergreen in front of Gleneagles, as well as the hustle and bustle of the rink preparation, right from my bedroom window.I arrive at Gleneagles just before breakfast finishes, yet another stroke of luck, as I've heard wonderful things about its buffet from friends who have stayed here. It did not disappoint, offering up tailor-made omelets, classic Scottish haggis and an array of pastries. Guests at the hotel are relaxed and casual; I'm surprised to even see a few people at breakfast in jogging pants-nice jogging pants, but jogging pants nonetheless. The vibe here is definitely smart casual, and there's not a bit of pretension from staff or fellow guests. It appears some guests have managed to make friends with other visitors during their stay.Almost immediately after breakfast, I am escorted to Gleneagles' hunting school, where Ian schools me in the craft of clay pigeon shooting. Given that the only hunting I've ever taken part in was Nintendo's "Duck Hunt," I'm not that good, but Ian is graciously patient with my quick trigger finger. Guns are heavy things, so I'm really looking forward to my Thai body scrub that follows. The decadent treatment is all I could have hoped for after a tough day of overeating and overshooting. Every day should be so difficult. (JM)

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