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Spa Time in Scotland


If you think the Scots are a dour, frugal lot (an undeserved, or at least out-of date, reputation, in my experience), you may not think of putting the words “spa” and “Scotland” together in the same sentence. But, oh, how wrong you’d be.

In this land of castles galore, you, too, can be pampered like royalty in the many luxurious spa retreats dotting the Scottish landscape. From cityscape to countryside, from loch to link, there is a spa (though why stop at just one) ideal for a relaxing getaway.

The Scotsman Hotel, Edinburgh

Located in Scotland’s capital city, The Scotsman Hotel was once home to the country’s national newspaper, not surprisingly called the Scotsman. This 5-star luxury boutique hotel is situated at Edinburgh’s historic North Bridge, just off the Royal Mile in the midst of the old city, with views of popular attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, The Firth of Forth, Leith, Princes Street, and Carlton Hill, all of which are within walking distance. Built in 1905, the building was transformed into The Scotsman Hotel in 2001, but still retains the magnificent Italian marble staircase, oak paneling, marble pillars, and ornate ceilings that must have made going to work that much easier for the editors and writers who once plied their trade in these halls. What had been the press room, housing the newspaper’s giant printing presses on the lower ground floor, is now the Scotsman Health Club and Spa, with a state-of-the-art, 60-station gym; Scotland’s first stainless steel swimming pool, steam and sauna; Tropicarium (a happy medium between a sauna and a steam room); treatment rooms; and a relaxation suite.

A Deluxe Room at The Scotsman Hotel.

More than 30 spa treatments are offered for both men and women, from facials (like Writers Block, Plump Up the Volume, and Only Men Aloud—gotta love those names!) to body treatments, manicures and pedicures, traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture and reflexology, and more.

Away from the spa

Edinburgh itself is a city waiting to be explored. Divided into the Old Town and the New Town (although don’t be fooled by that description — the New Town is actually quite old itself), the city unfolds beneath the massive volcanic rock atop which sits Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Follow the road along the Royal Mile and you’ll come to Holyrood Palace, home of British monarchs since the 16th century. Along the way are winding, cobbled streets, once lined with tenements, today housing boutiques and pubs. In the Georgian-era New Town, you’ll find elegant squares, broad avenues, and peaceful gardens. For an authentic Scottish shopping experience, visit Jenner’s, the world’s oldest independent department store.

Not to be missed

The “hot chocolate” dessert in The Scotsman’s North Bridge Brasserie. An out-of-this-world confection of melted chocolate, chocolate mousse, marshmallow ice cream, and cookie crumbles (followed by a return trip to the gym)!

The Scotsman Hotel

20 North Bridge, EH1 1TR, Edinburgh

+44 (0) 131 556 5565


Stobo Castle is a destination spa.

Stobo Castle

Stobo Castle, in the countryside of the Scottish Borders, prides itself on being Scotland’s only destination spa, as well as on its commitment to environmental protection and conservation; owner Stephen Winyard (you’re sure to meet him — everybody does!) follows through with such efforts as supporting suppliers of locally produced food, investing in Scotland’s only 25-meter ozone-treated swimming pool, and stocking products made by local craft businesses in the Stobo Spa Shop. Spa services for residential, day, and half-day guests range from mud wraps and paraffin wax treatments to sugar glows and reviving facials, aromatherapy, and Indian head massage, among many others. Fitness evaluations and classes are also available, or you can simply stroll the grounds and revel in the tranquility of the Zen-like Japanese water gardens. For the ultimate in luxury, stay in the Cashmere Suite, with its cashmere-covered walls and beds. No cashmere in the bath, but it’s a stunner just the same, with a massive cream-colored tub handcrafted from one piece of limestone and weighing more than a ton.

Away from the spa

Just seven miles from Stobo is the historic market town of Peebles, where you can arrange to fish, golf, or hike. Peebles played an important role in the woolen industry of the Scottish Borders until the 1960s, and today is known as a popular destination for both its arts scene and its many festivals, including the Beltane, which highlights local legends, traditions, and history; the Rugby Sevens Tournament; and the Peebles Jazz Festival.

Not to be missed

A cooking demonstration by longtime Stobo chef Teresa Lynch. Her entertaining banter with the guests is the perfect nightcap to a relaxing day — and you may just pick up some pointers you can use in your own kitchen.

Stobo Castle

Peeblesshire, EH45 8NY

+44 (0) 1721 725 300


Cameron House on Loch Lomond

The salmon bar at the Cameron House.

You’ll find yourself humming the tune to the “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond” as you travel through the Scottish Highlands on your approach to Cameron House. The Spa at Carrick, just a short distance from Cameron House (you’ll be transported there by the hotel’s concierge service, which might just be by private yacht), has been named Scotland’s best hotel spa for two years in a row. As befits its watery setting on Loch Lomond, the Carrick features a rooftop infinity pool, Vishi shower beds, thermal experiences such as an infra-red sauna, Hammam steam room, hydrotherapy pool, and aromatherapy steam room, along with a gymnasium, 17 dry and wet treatment rooms, aromatherapy steam room, and holistic studio.

Away from the spa

In between spa treatments, there is plenty to do on the grounds of Cameron House, including seaplane trips, loch cruises, mountain biking, clay pigeon shooting, archery, fishing, hawk walks, lawn games, and golf—nine holes on the high road, nine on the low (be forewarned though, the weather can change from sunshine to showers to hail and back to sunshine all in the space of a few minutes, so be prepared for the elements).

Not to be missed

The smoked Scottish salmon bar at the Cameron Grill. Apparently there’s much more to do with smoked salmon than serving it on a bagel!

Cameron House on Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, G83 8QZ, +44 (0) 871 222 4681


Old Course Hotel

Whiskey tasting at the Old Course Hotel.

You don’t have to be a golfer to be inspired by the setting of the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews. (But if you are, be prepared to shed a few tears at your first sight of these storied links.) Whether you’re just off the course, or waiting for your loved one to return from doing battle, the Old Course Hotel’s Kohler Waters Spa makes a relaxing spot to unwind. The first Kohler Spa experience outside the U.S., the spa believes in the motto Salus Per Aquam, a Latin translation for health through water. The spa features a 20-meter swimming pool with cascading waterfall, rooftop hot tub, thermal suite with hydrotherapy pool, plunge pool, Japanese steam room, sauna with light therapy and laminar flow showers, along with both ladies’ and men’s spa treatments from river bath with massage to skin restoration facials.

Away from the spa

Golf, of course! St Andrews is known around the world as “The Home of Golf,” and you’ll find no less than 10 courses in the immediate area and more than 30 within a half-hour’s drive, on which you can sharpen up your swing. The 10 courses in town suit all player levels. Championship courses in the immediate area include the famous Old Course and the New Course, managed by St Andrews Links Trust; the Old Course Hotel’s own Duke’s St Andrews; and Kingsbarns. Within driving distance is Carnoustie and Open qualifying courses such as Crail and Lundin Links.

Not to be missed

Whiskey tasting. Whiskey, from the ancient Gaelic words Uisge Beatha, means “The Water of Life,” and is distilled in several regions of Scotland. Choose from 206 whiskeys at the Road Hole Bar — including the hotel’s own label malt, Tullibardine — or ask about a private whiskey tasting in the Tasting Room.

The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa

St Andrews, Kingdom of Fife, KY16 9SP

+44 (0) 1334 474371


Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh

If you circle back to Edinburgh for your flight back to the U.S., the newly revamped Sheraton Grand makes for a comfortable stay before the long trip home. The hotel’s new One Spa offers a series of heat and water experiences in its thermal suite, including rock and bio saunas, the dry heat of the Laconium, and the heated couches of the Tepidarium (sure to lull you to sleep).  More traditional spa treatments include intensive facials and muscle-relaxing wraps, massages, and full body scrubs. And for something a bit more out of the ordinary, have your chakras (the body’s seven energy centers) balanced, said to promote equilibrium of both the body and the mind.

Away from the spa

The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family for more than 40 years, sailing more than one million miles around the world. Today, the yacht, which has been berthed at the Port of Leith since 1998, is — along with Edinburgh Castle — the city’s most popular visitor attraction. You can visit Britannia’s five main decks, which include the state apartments and royal bedrooms, and the on-board Rolls Royce Phantom V that used to travel on the Britannia.

Not to be missed

Afternoon tea at the Sheraton’s One Square. There’s nothing like enjoying a proper Scottish tea while looking out to a view of Edinburgh Castle!

Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, 1 Festival Square, EH3 9SR, Edinburgh

In the U.S., call 1.800.325.3535