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It’s Usually Easy to Roll Your Eyes at a Wellness Hotel. But Not Here

To be well.

What is the opposite experience of standing in your messy kitchen at 5 a.m.–achy, sleep-deprived, and full of worries–while your three-year-old screams at you for breakfast?

There have been many times over the last three chaotic years of motherhood that I’ve fantasized about a decadent place where I could go and be looked after. Where I could be in elegant (clean!) rooms, sleep, and be pampered. Where a team of experts could repair me–body and soul. I wanted to be taken care of and I wanted this to happen in a very luxurious manner that bore no relation to my day-to-day life. Where I could balance the hedonism of a child-free city break with some holistic care.

So I shuffled off to Gleneagles Townhouse, as others in an earlier period might have checked into a sanatorium.

This beautiful new jewel of a hotel is the little sister to the Grande Dame of Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland’s famous luxury estate in the Perth countryside. Their new outpost in the center of Edinburgh offers a similar sense of opulence and history, but with a more relaxed city vibe. The intimate scale of this converted bank building creates a sense that you really are being welcomed into your own charming townhouse. The splendor of their restaurant and bar offerings combined with their state-of-the-art wellness space meant that it was an obvious choice for this tired mama.

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The elegant building in the heart of Edinburgh’s beautiful New Town opens up into a capacious jewel box of an interior. As I stand under the majestic ceilings and stained glass of the lobby, my eyes are drawn to the warm light falling through the skylight in the opulent domed ceiling of The Spence, their restaurant. The painstakingly restored original features of this historic building, the lushness of warm light reflecting off gilded details, the soft clinking of wineglasses; my whole being immediately softens to be in such a place. There will be no standing on forgotten banana slices here. There will be no throwing of books. There will be no doom scrolling. There will only be calm and dignity. The deep knowledge of this is a restorative experience in itself.

Courtesy Gleneagles Townhouse

The soothing of my nervous system continues in the elegant cocoon of my room. The design is classic and refined without feeling at all stuffy; I am mostly delighted to discover that the designers have managed to decorate in a manner that nods to Scottish heritage without resorting to deer antlers and tartan. The wild pleasure of lying on this soft cloud of a bed to read my book without a small person screaming MAMA STOP READING is almost worth the price of admission in and of itself. I could stay here for the whole trip.

But I have more extravagant self-care to pursue. I am on a mission to repair the damage that the last few years have unleashed on my body, mind, and soul, and I descend to their Wellness Rooms in the converted bank vault to do just that.

First: an infrared sauna. More effective than a traditional sauna to defrost myself from a never-ending winter, relax my tight muscles, and boost my immunity. I love hotels with saunas because a therapeutic sweat session is so helpful for jet lag; and what is parenting-induced sleep deprivation if not extended years of jet lag?

Courtesy Gleneagles Townhouse

Even better when said sauna is followed by an intense sports massage that finally softens the hard cement of my shoulders. The years of hunching–hunching to breastfeed, hunching to stare at my phone, hunching to brace my body and mind against the fear of a global pandemic–had settled into my body in a painful tension of which I’d resigned myself. This remedial massage made my upper body feel open and relaxed in a way I had forgotten was possible.

I don’t stop there. Seeing as I am an elite endurance athlete (read: mother of a small child) I must go further to care for my poor body and integrate the massage! I am led to their cryotherapy chamber which, I must admit, looks deeply unappealing. I am warm, relaxed, and cozy from my sauna and massage! I have no wish to step into this giant freezer wearing a flattering outfit of swimsuit, socks, slippers, woolen hat, and gloves. I immediately regret my extreme pursuit of wellness and long for my bed instead. But I pull myself together and think of the promise of reduced inflammation and renewed energy. I gather my inner Wim Hof and bravely step in to the frigid chamber and, while the three minutes are not pleasant, they pass quickly and I feel very proud of myself. As anyone addicted to cold water swimming will tell you (often and unprompted), it is all worth it for the way you feel afterward. And yes, it’s true, the high you feel when you step out truly is worth it. The clean sense of energy I feel for the rest of the day is entirely at odds with my post-pandemic state of constant weariness.

I am here for holistic (comprehensive) wellness and so I take my newfound energy out for an evening of food and wine. I want to take care of all parts of myself and I consider eating, drinking, and a bit of glamour to be integral to feeling good. Even better when you can just pop upstairs for a pre-dinner cocktail in a charming rooftop bar. Lamplighters is delightfully decorated with romantic views out across the center of Edinburgh. Exclusive to hotel guests and Gleneagles members, the space feels welcoming, modern, and opulent.

Courtesy Gleneagles Townhouse

I move downstairs to their restaurant at the lavish heart of the building. Even on a Monday night, The Spence feels buzzy and full. What could be a large and vacuous space manages to feel majestic yet still intimate. The contemporary design–sage greens, shell pinks, vibrant paintings–sit comfortably with the heritage and gilded details of this regal room. The food created in the open kitchen draws on the bounty of Scottish ingredients to imagine dishes that feel dynamic and nourishing. Sitting here in this beautiful room with wonderful food and wine–this is also wellness. This is also healing.

I was hesitant over whether or not, after a night of eating and drinking, a 7:30 a.m. meditation and yoga class may be the best use of my time away from my kid. Wouldn’t I rather savor the lie in? But truthfully, what I desire most these days is the ability to slip from sleep, pad downstairs, and slip calmly into my mind and body before the day begins. To start the day in quiet care of myself is a luxury that feels so precious that I am like a kid on Christmas morning as I settle onto my mat. Meditation is a habit that is often the first to go when I need it most and so I am thankful for this reminder of how much better I feel mentally when I make the time. Granted, this is a little easier to do when led by a teacher in the calm sanctuary of a beautifully converted bank vault, than perhaps it would be on a regular Tuesday morning. But a valuable reset nonetheless!

Gleneagles Townhouse has over 40 classes on offer throughout the week, ranging from yoga to Pilates to spin, and the slow and restorative yin yoga class that I attend is a healing balm for my body and mind. When the teacher drapes a blanket over me at the end of class, as my pummeled shoulders melt into the mat and my nourished body takes rest, I truly feel the culminating effects of my stay here. I feel cared for.

I know that it is easy to roll our eyes at the Wellness industry, the way it is crammed down our throats from every angle. But the truth is, looking after our wellbeing feels good. It just does. And when we feel good, everything feels easier. I only sampled a few options from the comprehensive list of offerings here; guests have access to organic Tata Harper facials, reiki, acupuncture, time in the gym with a personal trainer, and many other therapies that you will be hard-pressed to find in another Edinburgh hotel. So whether you are maintaining a practice while traveling that keeps you sane at home or discovering something new that supports you, there is something here for every body.