Five Star Kids Magazine Five Star Kids Magazine Subscription
  Destinations >> Scotland Tartan Tales

TARTAN TALES 

Scotland is action central for five star families with everything on offer for little lairds of the manor from falconry to fishing and four-wheel driving in a mini Land Rover.


WORDS Hilary Doling

T he bird hovers for a moment above the girlís arm, his ginger feathers spread wide, his white-tipped tail fanned, then lands gracefully on her hand. Suitably equipped with Barbour jacket, boots and a leather falconerís glove she looks completely at home in the Scottish countryside. Sheís confident and relaxed and I think she must be a gamekeeperís daughter at the very least, but in fact this is her first falconry lesson.

At Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire your children will learn to be little lairds of the manor faster than you can say Ďhot toddyí.

Children from quite a young age can be taught falconry and according to the trainers are often more relaxed with the birds than adults. Certainly I find it daunting the first time the magnificent (and heavy) Harris Hawk is on my hand. I have a healthy respect for the birdís hooked beak but he is far more interested in fixing his caramel coloured eyes on the meat held by the trainer. This is Britainís oldest falconry school and they now teach over 4000 people a year, many of whom are family groups. In 45 minutes we learn to handle and fly the birds Ė it is an awe-inspiring experience. At the end I decide these birds are the true Monarchs of the Glen as they glide regally through the air.

The range of laird-like activities available at the grey-stone Gleneagles is pretty impres sive too. The hotel is a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World, so youíd expect it to be good. Nevertheless Iíve never stayed at a country house hotel that adapted itself quite so well to the smaller members of the party.

 

"These birds are the true Monarchs of the Glen as they glide regally through the air."

One morning we stroll down to the kennels to watch the hotelís gorgeous black Labradors have their breakfast, liquorice -stick tails wagging furiously. Gleneagles Gundog School is the first of its kind in the world and children can learn how to train the dogs as hunting companions (deerstalker hats and Harris tweed jackets are not obligatory Ė although you can buy country-style clothes in the hotelís Outdoor Activities shop). The dogs donít retrieve actual game, just stuffed toys, but this clearly isnít the thing for teddy-loving toddlers. Older children will love the chance to build up a real bond with the dogs.

As for our breakfast, if you havenít yet introduced your kids to the healthy delights of porridge, this is the place. I defy anyone not to like the smooth, creamy concoction that Gleneagles dishes up each morning. Even haggis seems appealing at the hands of the hotel chefs.

After brekkie it is back out into all that pure Scottish fresh air (take a warm jacket). Gleneagles is host to the 2014 Ryder Cup so there is no better place for your children to learn golf than on the emerald-velvet fairways of one of its three championship golf courses. Plus one child of 15 years or younger can play golf for free when playing with one full paying adult.

The hotelís impressive equestrian school is one of the best-equipped in the world offering lessons for all standards and ages. Children will love the chance to be led around the estate on fat, shaggy Shetland ponies that stare out from under their long fringes like wide-eyed Bratz dolls. Horse-mad kids can try the Own a Pony experience (£70 a child, six and up). They can clean stables, groom, ride and cuddle to their heartsí content. Kids over 1.5 metres can learn how to play polo too.

 

From a distance the 4WD vehicle looks like any other off-roader roaring through the mud but as it gets closer to me both the car and the driver seem to shrink. Kids aged from six to 12 years who prefer engines to horses can get behind the wheel of amazing Land Rover replicas (built especially for Gleneagles at a quarter of the parental original) and test their driving skills over a purpose built course. This is the first place in the UK to offer junior off-road instruction. Teens and parents who donít want to be left out can try the adultís all-terrain course, so the whole family can mess about in the mud.

For kids with a good aim there is a ten lane archery range and older children can try their hand at air rifles or clay pigeon shooting. While your child is notching up all the outdoor skills a Scottish landowner needs they can also try fishing in one of the hotelís trout lochs. Local ghillies will supply rods, flies and a wry sense of humour. All your child has to have is the patience to wait for a bite. Croquet, tennis, pitch and putt, and a swimming pool are also available.

Inside there is just as much fun to be had. In the large playroom Gleneagles has the kind of dressing-up box I could only dream of as a kid. Children can play at being everything from knights in shining armour to Bonnie Prince Charlie and there are plenty of floaty, Lady-of-the-Manor dresses too.

The really little guests arenít forgotten either. Gleneagles offers special activity sessions for mums and bubs under two to bond in the pool or in the playroom.

If the batteries run low in your little Energizer Bunnies there are board games and toys aplenty. They can also chill out at the foosball or pool table, decorate cookies or loll on beanbags playing online games or watching movies.

If families donít want to stay in the main hotel, two- to four- bedroom luxury lodges are available to rent in the Gleneagles-owned Glenmor Village, but personally I think for little clan-chiefs-in-training (and their parents) you canít beat staying in the historic hotel.

On our way home we stop over in the elegant city of Edinburgh for a night at The Balmoral. If your name is even in the slightest bit Scottish your family should enlist the services of the hotelís special Tartan Butler, the charming Andy Fraser. Apart from cutting a fine figure in his kilt and sporran, Andy can help you trace your lineage to its Braveheart beginnings. He can even help you create a family tartan; now thereís an original souvenir.


Stay: Gleneagles Hotel www.gleneagles.com 
 The Balmoral www.thebalmoral.com



 :: Home  ::  Experiences  ::  Destinations  ::  Where to Stay  ::  Subscribe  ::  Holidays with Kids  ::