Golf, whiskey, haggis, poet Robert Burns, designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the windswept moors — these are the images I had of Scotland before visiting for the first time. What I discovered in a whirlwind tour of Edinburgh, the Glasgow countryside, and St. Andrews, fulfilled those expectations and also held some surprises — chief among them, the spas.
At the legendary Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh, originally built in 1902, spa treatments begin with a fruit smoothie. All spa products are natural, including a new organic skincare line from Thailand called Ytsara.
Also in Edinburgh is the One Spa at the Sheraton Grand: a gorgeous, 36,000-square-foot destination spa connected to the hotel via an elevated glass walkway. Throughout, the atmosphere is airy and bright. There's a big, infinity-edged swimming pool; a rooftop pool that extends to the outdoors; and a floor of heat-treatment rooms that includes five different types of steam and sauna, warmed lounge seating, and scented showers.
Outside the city, we looked at spas in the Scottish countryside, including a fabulous new spa at The De Vere Cameron House, located on the banks of Loch Lomond, about 20 minutes from Glasgow International Airport. Expansive facilities include a variety of indoor and outdoor hot tubs and whirlpools (typically called hydro pools), steams and saunas, a mud-therapy chamber, and relaxation couches.
Also close to Glasgow is Mar Hall Hotel and Aveda Spa. The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other rock groups frequent this storied Gothic mansion, which is available for group buy-outs.
Finally, our trip took us to St. Andrews, where the beautiful Kohler Waters Spa features a waterfall in the large swimming pool, a rooftop deck with a big hot tub and relaxation space, and cold and hot plunge pools near the steam room and sauna.
At the Fairmont St. Andrews, an expansion of the spa opened last spring with 12 treatment rooms and a private “spa in a spa” signature experience.