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Formally fun: leisure at Gleneagles

Your position at Gleneagles is Director of Events and Leisure. Does leisure need directing?

I would say yes but I might be biased! As a Resort hotel, leisure really is a key part of offering. Whether you are coming to Gleneagles for a day, a week or longer, you can find a different activity for you to enjoy every day and all on your doorstep.

Stuart Smith, Director of Leisure

My role is to ensure our various leisure teams deliver the experiences that our guests so look forward to. It is worth noting that alongside our hotel guests, we also have a strong local membership for each of our leisure areas as well as our Glenmor guests. Glenmor is our seasonal ownership home offering where guests have purchased a 2,3 or 4 bedroom home on a week by week basis.

What were you doing before that qualified you for being Director of Leisure at Gleneagles?

I had just finished event managing the G8 for the hotel so our Executive team must have felt that if I could handle the world leaders, then looking after the leisure teams shouldn’t be too hard.

What time does your day start and what’s usually the first thing you do?

The working day starts around 8.30 and will start with a review of the previous days business followed by a meeting to discuss what is taking place through the day at the Resort.

How often do you play golf at Gleneagles? What’s your favourite hole? Which hazard always catches you out?

Not often enough! My son now plays so the PGA Academy course, our par 3 nine hole course, is fantastic for us to get a few holes in together. On the Championship courses, some of the bunkers can be nasty but I tend to avoid them by staying in the rough. For a real classic final hole, the 18th on the King’s is fantastic.

Do many people stay at Gleneagles who don’t play golf? If so why?

Although Gleneagles is synonymous with Golf, a quick look at our website will show you just how diverse the offerings are. Our guests will come for a wide variety of reasons: Family celebrations ranging from Christenings through to special anniversaries; to learn a new sport such as Polo: to use our expert instructors to further develop their skills at their favourite pastime: to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life by joining one of our wellness programmes: to enjoy some of the best local produce Scotland has to offer: or simply to enjoy the natural beauty of Perthshire.

There seem to be a lot of activities beyond the golf course. Which is the most popular and why? Which is your favourite and why?

The Spa, Shooting, Falconry and Horse Riding all stand out – some guests will focus on their favourite, others will try them all. For me, the clay target shooting is great fun – with minimal training, you are soon able to start hitting the clays which is a great feeling.

Offroad driving, how many people use their own cars?  

Our Landrover 110’s go out onto the off road courses so that there are no problems with insurance! Off Road Driving is very much about using the power of the vehicle to make your way through some beautiful Scottish countryside – seems strange but even going at 5mph over some of the obstacles is absolutely hair-raising.

The gundog school, the only one around, how did that come about? Have there been any dog training disasters? What level do your dogs reach?

Steve and Emma Ford, who run the Falconry School, felt that there was an opportunity here to educate our guests about the skill of the dogs and the connection that is created between trainer and animal. As all our dogs are highly trained gun dogs, there haven’t been too many disasters. Every now and again though, the dogs will get a bit cheeky with their handlers but the guests love this as it shows the personality of the dogs.

We have just started obedience training for dogs, suitable for both pets and gun dogs, and I’m sure that this may give us some more stories!

Have you been through any of the shooting or fishing school activities?

A fun part of working here at Gleneagles is getting a chance to enjoy to activities. We try to get as many of our staff to enjoy them as well for the simple reason that it becomes so much easier to explain to our guests once they have experienced it. All our activities are based close to Gleneagles and are suitable for beginner through to expert and we can cater for the individual through to groups.

The BSOF is certainly one of the most respected with the industry and they do provide training courses – the vast majority of guests use the school’s own birds

I notice you do off road for children, what sort of vehicles do they use? 

They used scaled down Landrover 110’s – with an automatic cut off they are extremely safe and the children have a great time on a purpose built course.

How many people are involved in Gleneagles’ Leisure dept?

Numbers within the teams will range from 100 to 125 depending on time of year and volume of business.

Were you born or brought up in the area?

Born in St Andrews, educated 25 minutes from the hotel but had never been before my interview. I’d always been aware of the reputation but was blown away by the offering, but even more so by the culture amongst the staff and the resulting atmosphere it created for the guests. Fifteen years later, I still think this is the best hotel in the world.

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