Is there any better way to sooth away the exertions of strenuous sightseeing – be that clambering up Munros or conquering cities – than indulging in a top-to-toe treatment in one of Scotland’s best spas? Whether its a pool with a view, thermal suites and Scottish seaweed (or cashmere) wraps, or new-fangled ice fountains, light therapy and nutritional counselling that appeals, it’s easy to find a hotel spa to de-stress, detox and delight. Here's our insider's guide to the best spa hotels in Scotland, including the top for infinity pools, expert treatments, saunas and outdoor hot tubs, in locations including the Scottish Borders, Highlands, Argyll, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The spa at Gleneagles, where Scottish Baronial meets French chateau, is possibly the best spa hotel in Scotland; a sublime haven of sybaritic delights with an added health dimension, offering complementary and alternative therapies delivered by professional practitioners and therapists. The range of ESPA offerings covers every conceivable face and body treatment. For sheer blissed-out, all-over wellbeing, indulge in one of the signature treatments. With saunas, steam rooms, hydrotherapy ‘vitality’ pool and superb relaxation areas, you won't want to leave.
• The best hotels in Scotland
Where James Bond would stay in Scotland: a 19th-century mansion in Scottish Baronial style on a private island accessible by a bridge, set amidst glorious west highland scenery. The acclaimed spa (which also features a 17-metre swimming pool) uses ESPA products, as well as the increasingly renowned Scottish Ishga range. There are lots of activities on offer, from putting and croquet on the lawns to archery and clay pigeon shooting. A six to nine-hole golf course (depending on waterlogged ground), walking trails through mixed woodland, and tennis in an indoor sports hall provide amusement in all weathers.
The views from the Sheraton are unbeatable, with Edinburgh castle rising up behind and Arthur’s Seat lurking in the background. The facilities are impressive too, especially the spa – said to be the biggest and best in Edinburgh – with rooftop hydro pool, thermal suite, swimming pool, vast range of treatments and, for those in a hurry, the Now by One Spa professional salon services. The themed afternoon teas are thoroughly indulgent and the bar is the best place to enjoy gin in the city. The quality and ambition of the restaurant will also surprise you.
Although an Edinburgh landmark for more than a century, there's nothing old-fashioned about this Forte flagship. Luxurious bedrooms, a Michelin-starred restaurant, lavish afternoon teas in the Palm Court add up to a sophisticated 21st-century version of a truly grand hotel. The spa offers Rocco Forte Rituals and ESPA treatments, and a 15-metre lap pool, sauna, steam room and gym. In terms of dining, the Michelin-starred Number One restaurant always delights with great Scottish ingredients (whisky smoked salmon, Inverurie hogget), delivered with both dainty delicacy and palate-pleasing complexity.
This soothing destination spa, an hour’s drive from Edinburgh, has a decidedly exclusive feel. Its style is very much a game of two halves: the warm colours and decorative opulence of the residential side distinctly contrast the sleekly contemporary spa. A smart, skilfully executed modern addition houses this luxury enclave, which offers a comprehensive range of treatments, therapies and activities. Though it might not be a destination for food-lovers, the spa is so impressive you probably won’t notice.
This hotel is built on the site of an old railway station, and commands one of the most iconic views in the golfing world. But it has a lot more going for it than golfing. In the spa, which focuses on innovative and sophisticated water and bathing therapies, there are excellent facials and massages using Comfort Zone, Voya and Phytomer products and Margaret Dabbs manicures and pedicures. Dining here is also a mesmerising experience as you watch the empty golf course gradually become populated by players, horses cantering along the beach and the sky clearing to blue.
• The best hotels in Edinburgh
Portavadie is perched on the shores of a sea loch at the end of a single-track road on the Cowal peninsula, in what is known as ‘secret Argyll’. Despite being only a couple of hours' drive from Glasgow, it is a tranquil hideaway amid hills and forests, with romantic views across Loch Fyne to the hills of Kintyre and the Isle of Arran. Its jewel is a £10 million spa and leisure complex with a 16-metre indoor pool, saunas, gymnasium, outdoor spa pools and Scotland's largest outdoor heated infinity pool (pictured). Panoramic windows guarantee saunas and relaxation suites with a view.
Contributions by Gavin Bell, Fiona Duncan & Robin McKelvie