The chance to stay at one of the world's best hotels would have been my idea of heaven before I had kids. But so much has been said about the wonderful family activities available at Scotland's renowned Gleneagles that I was willing to share the experience of the five-star hotel with my two boisterous boys – as long as they promised to behave impeccably...
Whether it was due to the 5am start, the Scottish air or the breathtaking views, hardly a word was muttered between us during the one-hour taxi ride from Edinburgh airport to Gleneagles. Only when we were at reception did the boys return to their usual habits of playing tag and skidding along the floor, under the watchful eyes of the G8 summit leaders, whose portrait hangs in the hallway as a momento of their visit. But as I struggled to discipline the kids, I realised it was only me they were embarrassing, as everywhere I looked there seemed to be other kids racing around. And this is why the hotel, synonymous with luxury, has shed its snooty reputation.
'At the hotel's driving school, we watched in delight as the boys took their places in miniature Land Rover replicas to test their driving skills. As they explored the hotel's grounds by car under the eyes of two instructors, we could see the thrill in their eyes.'
Once inside our suite of rooms, it was thumbs up all-round. The boys screeched in delight at having found a PS3 in their bedroom and my husband was unable to contain his excitement at the championship golf courses visible from our huge windows. But I was more in awe of the incredible rooms we had been allocated for our three-day stay, complete with enormous bed, underfloor heating and all mod cons. Even children's mini slippers, towelling robes and toiletries had not been overlooked.
With so much to explore, the four of us rushed downstairs in anticipation of what the hotel offered. Keen to hit the golf range, the boys had a swift change of heart once they encountered the children's zone with its snooker table, computer games, jukebox and karaoke machine. There's even a playroom where children up to the age of 10 can be left for two hours at no charge.
But it didn't take too much encouragement to get my husband and the kids heading in the direction of the golf academy an hour later, where they were due golf lessons. With precious time to myself, I opted for a bit of pampering in the spectacular ESPA spa.
When it comes to eating at Gleneagles, the hotel has so much to offer, it's difficult to know where to begin. Having the kids in tow lessened our options, but every restaurant seemed more than happy to make anything the kids fancied, much to their delight. The highlight was the Deseo, where they can create their own pizzas at the table.
With a six-choice pillow menu, even a hardened insomniac would find it difficult to resist sleep at the hotel. I'd heard rumours before our visit that guests are woken by the Scottish pipes playing in the grounds, but sadly our wake-up call was the bleep of the PS3 that the kids had discovered despite every my attempt to hide it.
Although this was a holiday for the kids, we refused to let them ruin our breakfast, which at Gleneagles is an experience in itself. In fact, there is so much to eat we could have probably stayed there all day had we been by ourselves. Fortunately for our stomachs, the kids had an off-road driving class booked so we walked off our hearty Scottish meal as we made our way across the grounds.
At the hotel's driving school, we watched in delight as the boys took their places in miniature Land Rover replicas to test their driving skills. As they explored the hotel's grounds by car under the eyes of two instructors, we could see the thrill in their eyes. Fortunately, the lure of the hotel's maze was enough to stop them looking too upset once their lesson was over. There are also plenty of other outdoor activities you can take part in, including falconry, fly fishing, horse-riding and clay pigeon shooting, but we headed to the warmth of the indoor swimming pool.
Check availability and book at Gleneagles about more great mums' breaks with kids.