Afternoon tea at Gleneagles

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There are few things that a cup of tea can’t solve. A problem shared is a problem halved, but only when you’ve also consumed several pots of tea along the way. A good gossip, a catch up and lots of cake never goes a miss either when therr is a pot of tea on the go, and that is exactly how I spent my Saturday afternoon last weekend.

Afternoon was traditionally enjoyed at about 4pm. It came about in the mid 19th century when the 7th Duchess of Bedford decided she required a light snack to stave of the hunger, or as she declared it, the ‘sinking feeling’ she had late afternoon. Originally taking her afternoon tea of finger sandwiches, cakes and a pot of tea in her private quarters, Anna decided this was a rather marvellous way to spend an hour or so during the afternoon, and invited friends to join her. They would traditionally go for a walk in the fields afterwards, and after not too long the fashion of afternoon tea caught on.

I must be honest and say we did more sipping and eating than walking, but it was fabulous none the less.

It had been years since I had been at Gleneagles Hotel, and following the buzz around the Ryder Cup and the reputation they have for afternoon I was excited to find out what was in store.

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Afternoon tea is served is in the bar, which on arrival at 4.30pm on a Saturday, was absolutely buzzing. We were seating by the window looking out into the front lawn. Cakes and I arrived first. We did a good spot of people watching as we waited for the other five ladies to arrive. The room was full of groups like ourselves, hotel guests and golfers just in from a round.

Now on to the main event. What a show! Between 7 of us we were each served a pot of tea (I was on thr earl grey) and we shared a stand between two. One of our group is expecting her second bambino, and the staff were very attentive and ensured the chef was informed of what she could and could not eat – she ended up with a delightful cake stand all to herself!

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As well as looking gorgeous, the treats on each tier were amazing. In the middle we enjoyed a variety of sandwiches including chicken with a banana chutney (strangely this really worked!), hebridean crab, and of course the classic salmon, cucumber and watercress. Each sandwich was light and delicately sliced with just enough filling.

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It was the top tier that has ensured I will be returning to Gleneagles; a whole tier of savoury pastries! I’m the type of person of loves when GBBO focus on savoury bakes. It’s all the indulgence of a cake, but you can eat them whenever because they are savoury! Consensus around our table was the cheese swirl really stole the limelight. We also enjoyed little mini quiche tarts and rare roast beef puff with pesto that just melted in the mouth.

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I should mention that on the special 7th stand there was also a round of freshly baked scones with raspberry jam and deliciously indulgent clotted cream.

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After several breaks, more chatting and sipping, we moved onto the cakes in the bottom tier. Gleneagles served a selection of cakes that I am sure the Duchess of Bedford would be proud of. French fancies, warm sultana treacle cake, strawberry tarts, a chocolate and what I think was salted caramel ganache …

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Needless to say we were there until well after dark, and the staff were happy to refill out teas and let us soak up the ambience for as long as we liked. A truly awesome way to spend an afternoon, and hands down one of the best afternoon teas I have experienced.

Gin and lawn bowls

Heading north to Perthshire...
Heading north to Perthshire…

Since I can remember my family has been going Crieff Hydro for weekend breaks, family reunions, the odd bank holiday Monday. So when my fiancé and his family announced we were heading there for a surprise birthday weekend, I was 100% on board. 

There is something extremely comforting about going to a hotel or resort that you know like the back of your hand. It may not be the most luxurious place in world, but it is the familiarity of Crieff Hydro that makes me so fond of this family retreat. Not to mention the hundreds of indoor and outdoor activities on offer, both for children and grown ups, the swimming pool and spa facilities, various eateries to choose from, the list goes on. 

Crieff Hydro exterior

Crieff Hydro sign

 Crieff is a mere hour and half from Edinburgh city centre. We left promptly after work on Friday and arrived in time for dinner. First thing I want to mention is the fillet steak I had in the Brasserie on the Friday evening, because it was absolutely delicious. Now, with the surprise birthday celebrations and, if I am honest, the hunger we had worked up driving there, I don’t have a single photo to show you, do you will just need to take my word for it.

Over the course of the weekend we made the most of good weather and lots of the activities on offer. The grounds of the hotel are vast and inviting so it was easy to spend most the Saturday running around outside in the sunshine.

Crieff Hydro grounds

hotel frontAs we were staying in the hotel on the dinner, bed and breakfast rate, Mr F&P’s nephews were given packed lunches in the Winter Garden. The boys refuelled after morning of soft play, football and trampolining, and the adults enjoyed some gin and lawn bowls. The grand Victorian front of the hotel gives the perfect setting for such a civilised game, and we weren’t the only ones to think so – the lawn was mobbed all weekend. Caorunn gins in hand, a quick lesson from Mr F&P on the rules, we chose our end, rolled the jack and got to work. 

front of hotel instagramGin and Lawn BowlsMaybe it was beginners luck, or perhaps the gin, but I very quickly came to appreciate everything about a game of lawn bowls. If only I had discovered this earlier in the summer!

Later in the day, half of our group hit the pool and the birthday girl hit the spa after a morning of horse riding. Mr F&P and I decided to go for a walk up The Knock. Not really knowing where we were going, we set off into the woods behind the hotel and found ourselves at the top much sooner than we though. 

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top of the knock

 Our walk up and down The Knock was no longer than 40 minutes. For the proper hill walkers out there, the Perthshire is a stunning area to explore. Plus, the lodges on site at the hotel mean you can take the dog with you for the weekend and they also allow you to be completely self sufficient. 

On Saturday evening we dined in the Meikle Restaurant and I must be honest and say I much preferred our more casual, relaxed dinner in the Brasserie on the Friday night. On Sunday Mr F&P and I had a slower start to the day. We enjoyed some breakfast followed by coffees outside in the sunshine with the Sunday papers. 

Soon it was time to head home. We all made one last stop at Gloagburn Farmshop (more on that later) before saying our goodbyes and going our separate ways.

Crieff Hydro is perfect for a family weekend away. It is just really easy. Everything is in the one place, the staff are really friendly and there is something for everyone to do. For those wishing to venture into the town it’s a quick 15 minutes walk away, or you can go further afield and explore Perthshire. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be everyone’s cup of team. For example, the hotel is not ideal for romantic weekend away – there are kids everywhere and you need to be OK with that. That said there are some gorgeous luxury lodges which would be a better bet for some peace and quiet. 

Until I have the opportunity to go back, I’m off to find my local bowls club…