Wondering what the best spa hotels in Scotland are? It's a question I'm uniquely qualified to answer. As an Edinburgh-born beauty journalist, this could be my Mastermind subject should I ever be plonked in the interrogation-come-quiz show's chilling leather armchair.
I've visited my fair share of Scottish spas over the years (far more than is fair, if we're being really honest) and as with any of the best spa breaks in the UK, what makes a great one is subjective. But, there are some universal markers I like to see. We go to spas to relax, therefore it has to be comfortable. That doesn't always equate to 5* luxury, it could mean a feeling of genuine warmth and care from the staff, an intuitive rather than by-rote massage technique, or making every spa guest feel included, be they budget-conscious, undergoing medical treatment, or simply in the market for a fast, glow-boosting facial.
Good vibes only and an escape from reality is the aim, so you won't spot bootcamp-style health retreats on my list (although if detoxing is your bag Viva Mayr Maria Worth is the best of the best) Then it all comes down to the hotel itself, from location to bedrooms and dining options. So, take three slow breaths, brew a mystery herbal infusion, and settle into my list of the best spa hotels in Scotland, with trips to Scotland to suit all, from city break boltholes to country retreats.
BEST SPA HOTELS IN SCOTLAND TO BOOK IN 2023
1. Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh
Best for: A grand stay in the capital
Despite being under the Waldorf Astoria wing since a £24 million refurb in 2011, to locals, this West End icon will always be known as "The Caley." The huge, handsome building on Princess Street's corner is as much a part of the city's landscape as its neighbor Edinburgh Castle, and started life as The Caledonian in 1903, a grand hotel adjoining a now-defunct Victorian railway line (prizes for spotting the original station clock as you nibble fluffy scones in Peacock Alley bar) These days it's less locomotive, more luxurious, with 200+ rooms and lush public spaces that – unlike a train station – you'll actually want to linger in.
What can guests expect?
All the amenities you could wish for from a top-tier hotel stay. Ultra-comfy guest rooms are furnished with just-enough plaid to keep it classy, while spectacular castle view suites are named after Scottish icons like Alexander Graham Bell. You can try high-end tasting menus at Pompadour Restaurant or relaxed-yet-refined modern plates at Grazing by Mark Greenaway and of course, there's a very luxurious spa.
This underground hideaway rejects clinical white-on-white interiors typical of spas in favor of taupe tones and plush velvet throws. It's all very cozy. There's a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, and gym (should you be that way inclined) but, best of all there are facials by the Harley Street skincare brand, 111Skin.
These doctor-designed treatments are all about results. Try the De-Puffing Cryo Facial, a 60-minute cryotherapy-based ritual combining cold temperatures and deep massage techniques that leaves skin glowing and firm. If you prefer your chill a bit less literal there's also sleep-inducing massage and speedy nail treats from 'queen of the pedicure' Margaret Dabbs.
- View rates for the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh at Booking.com
- Visit the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh website
2. Stobo Castle, Peeblesshire
Best for: A traditional countryside stay
How could I go any further into a list of the best spa hotels in Scotland without including a castle? This one gives you everything you'd want to see from a Celtic fortress – imposing-borderline-frightening facade, turrets aplenty and a cracking location surrounded by rolling hills in the Scottish borders (lots of the castles in Scotland are round this way, best explained by proximity to England) These days the former-Jacobite residence is all peace and love, housing one of the country's best-known destination spas.
What can guests expect?
A hotel that's as traditional as a tin of shortbread, and just as easy to enjoy. Think dark wood, flagstone floors, an oxblood red dining room serving refined country classics and curtains so heavy that if you ducked behind one to take in the views you might never emerge.
Rooms are cozy with a country-house vibe, and some of the suites have spectacular marble bathtubs for even more relaxation. You can stay in the main castle or a lodge, and can expect comfort, characterful interiors, and glorious views wherever you rest your head.
As for the spa, face and body treatments are by luxe French marine brand, Phytomer, or enjoy one of six holistic massage types from reflexology to reiki. Stobo also boasts one of the most advanced hydrospas of its kind, fitness classes to work off your venison dinner, and an unmissable, utterly serene Japanese Water Garden for strolls when the weather allows.
3. Cameron House, Loch Lomond
Best for: A one-stop-shop
Perched on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond yet less than an hour's drive from Glasgow city center, it's fair to say the location of Cameron House ticks both town and country boxes with ease. The vast grounds house a range of accommodation options including 140 bedrooms, 14 grand suites in the Auld House named after the scattered islands that surround the loch and chalet style lodges that'll suit families and groups.
What can guests expect?
Every activity under the sun - and then some - with paddle boarding and seaplane trips over Lomond, a gorgeously retro in-house cinema and well kitted-out leisure center with and flumes for the kids and fitness classes for those who're inclined.
The hotel's spa, The Cameron Club, is a few miles up the road (there's a free hotel shuttle) and a destination in its own right. The treatment offering is by ESPA, with new holistic and hormone-targeting rituals for summer 2023, as well as a selection of thermal experiences, plus a rooftop infinity jacuzzi that's perfectly positioned to observe golfers taking aim on the private course that surrounds the club.
If all that leisure (or lazing around) works up your appetite, you're in the right place. Of the six in-house eateries we recommend the Cameron Grill for succulent Scottish steaks and seafood, the Clubhouse for one of the finest club sandwiches you'll ever try and the Lobby bar for ultra-refined afternoon tea (pray the lemon curd and mascarpone mousse is on the menu.) Truly, something for everyone here.
4. Kimpton Blythswood Square, Glasgow
Best for: A chic city getaway
It takes a lot for an Edinburgher to admit this, but Scotland's second city does outdo the capital on a few aspects. Namely, music and modern art scenes, hipster restaurants, and a generally spirited vibe of an evening out. That raucous Glasgow energy makes it even nicer to have somewhere quiet and chic to retreat to, and The Kimpton Blythswood Square fits the bill beautifully. Set in a leafy Georgian square, this hotel is contemporary good taste incarnate, with gleaming marble floors, a grand staircase plus a swanky cocktail bar and a fine-dining seafood restaurant.
What can guests expect?
Chic decor (and much-appreciated peace and quiet) aside, it's really all about the spa at the Blythwsood. This moodily-lit lair is a warren of hydropools, some for relaxing, some for pummelling you senseless, plus steam and sauna, laconium and relaxation rooms for chilling out with a tea.
The hotel spa has undergone a bit of a makeover with a new snowfall feature and wellness area for summer 2023. In the meantime, guests can enjoy THAW, a garden spa pop-up with various thermal experiences.
Struggling to select a treatment? You can't go wrong with one by Ishga. The Kimpton offers 13 options for the face and body by the Hebridean seaweed-based brand. Or, you can pick two to have as an express pick-n-mix hour, which works out very good value. We love the Ishga Hot Stone Massage, a 55-minute ritual that works said toasty pebbles into "chakra points to open energy pathways." It left us in that perfect post-spa nether zone, somewhere between zoned out and worked on.
- View rates at The Kimpton Blythswood Square at Booking.com
- Visit The Kimpton Blythswood Square's website
5. Fife arms, Braemar
Best for: An arty royal retreat
On paper, The Fife Arms sounds a bit much. What with the Picasso hanging in the parlor, the Freud in the lobby, and the almost-too-perfect Highland location (Balmoral's just up the road and the Royal Highland Games just 'doon the other end of the village) Then there's the small matter of notable guests: King Charles has been known to pop by and if you haven't watched the viral video of Dame Judi Dench 'tinkling' the pianola's ivories on Burns night, please make it a priority. But I promise, this place is real, and, unexpectedly given all of the above, has bags of down-to-earth charm.
What can guests expect?
A visual feast, unsurprisingly, given the Fife Arms is owned by art-world power couple Manuela and Iwan Wirth. The huge collection of works it houses, from old masters to modern murals, is reason enough to visit. Throw in brilliantly maximalist rooms with rugged views, a blinging whisky bar and an annual literary festival hosted hosting the likes of Ian Rankin and you've got yourself a creative's dream.
But what about the spa, you ask? The Albamhor Treatment rooms are tucked away at the back of the hotel and offer plenty of lovely ways to shake the famously challenging northern Scottish climes from your system. Facials by Hebridean seaweed-based brand Ishga soothe, plump, and hydrate while a pleasingly firm full-body massage is an ideal antidote to a day's hillwalking.
It's comfy and chic, but there's no pool or thermal experience offering so the vibe is more day spa than 'spend all day here' spa. But if you're staying at the Fife Arms you probably won't want to spend a minute longer than necessary away from your room anyway. Dash back upstairs, flop on your four-poster bed, and sup a herbal tea (or Harris gin) there instead.
6. Portavadie, Loch Fyne, Argyll & Bute
Best for: A family getaway
Calling Portavadie one of the best spa hotels in Scotland would be like calling Disneyland one of the best playparks in Florida – there's much more to it than that. Between self-catering cottages, woodland hideaways, spots for wild camping in Scotland, and its very own sailing marina, this place has so much going on it should probably have its own postcode. This makes Portavadie an ideal spot for larger groups and families, furry members included, as well-behaved pooches are welcome in most rooms.
What can guests expect?
Lochside views, outdoor activities and every accommodation option you could possibly wish for. The lochside Tighnamara eco-retreat is particularly special for couples, or pick from luxury apartments, which have their own saunas, a big bathtub for end-of-day soaks and offer the best of both worlds with facilities to do your own thing at mealtimes.
That's not to say the spa isn't a frontrunner in the list of reasons to visit Portavadie, this award-winning sustainably built space is impressive in its scale and offering. Expect indoor and outdoor pools (including one of the largest outdoor heated infinity pools in Scotland – mercifully well-heated) a Scandinavian sauna and steam room, plus a divine contemporary relaxation space, with views right across the loch to the Isle of Arran.
Treatments by French aromatherapy specialists, Decleor are available in durations from 25-85 minutes, so there's something to suit even the most time and budget restricted. Try the heavenly Lifting Aromatherapy Face Massage, which plumps and deeply de-stresses, or an Energising Face and Body Scrub, a top-to-toe revitalizing and skin-softening treat.
7. Whispering Pine Lodge, Spean Bridge
Best for: Location, location, location
You don't need me to tell you this hotel has a great location. If it were any closer to the beautiful Loch Lochy (one of the best lochs to visit in Scotland) It would be submerged. Aside from braw water and mountain views – and its own mini private beach – this former hunting lodge is tucked into The Great Glen, an area that packs in Highland superstars including Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, and Ben Nevis, Britain's tallest mountain.
What can guests expect:
Comfort and character, from unique art and local crafts in every room to the wood-clad Burns bar dedicated to Scotland's beloved national poet, which offers 50+ single malt whiskies to sup. Many rooms in the main house have stunning loch views, while self-catering cabins offer flexibility for groups and families.
If location is The Whispering Pine Lodge's top trump card, food is a close second. The hotel sits within the Indian-owned Black Sheep Hotel Group, and the hotel's Lochside Brasserie restaurant is a masterclass in regional South Asian cuisine (with some Scottish seafood specialties thrown in for the spice-averse) The best dishes, such as the salmon Tikka and Malvani fish curry, combine the best of both worlds.
Let's not forget The Little Salon and Spa – bijoux sage green treatment rooms that specialize in unique massages, as well as classic facials and mini beauty treatments. The 90-minute Black Sheep Signature Massage combines Eastern-inspired aromatherapy oils with stretching and a pleasingly firm touch. Or, pick the Abhyanga Indian Massage, an Ayurvedic ritual that aims to deeply detoxify while soothing weary limbs.
8. Gleneagles, Perth and Kinross
Best for: The great outdoors (but make it luxe)
Gleneagles calls itself 'the glorious playground' and we're inclined to agree. Despite a climate that could barely be less suited to it, Scotland is known for outdoor pursuits and this hotel offers a fresh air activity for all. Horseriding? Got it. Golf? Practically invented it. Fishing? The on-site lochs have trout for days. This is probably Scotland's most famous country hotel, and even if dragging your slipper-clad feet from the spa to your room is as active as you wish to get, it's hard to imagine doing it in finer style than here.
What can guests expect?
Yes, there are Ryder-cup hosting courses, tennis courts, and croquet lawns, but there’s plenty more to Gleneagles than balls and rods. Elegant rooms, suites, and lodges are an activity in of themselves with huge beds, and characterful features including working fireplaces and freestanding baths. Dining options range from the fancy-as-it-comes Andrew Fairlie (Scotland's only 2 Michelin star restaurant) to stone-baked pizza in the family-friendly Dormy.
Like everything else here, the spa is elite-level. Bespoke body rituals are a signature of Gleneagles' treatment offering (warning: the Long Exhale, a two-hour long ritual with massage, jade stones, and stretching might ruin you for all future treatments) Facials are by two beauty ed adored brands, either clean and natural by Tata Harper or super scientific by Dr Barbara Sturm. Pick your poison.
The spa menu also includes classic therapies like massages as well as alternative wellness treatments such as ayurveda, Scottish and Himalayan sea salt scrubbing, and Wellness for Cancer-approved rituals. There's also a day spa for non-residents, so even those popping by can get a taste of that Gleneagles life, just for the day.
9. Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, Edinburgh
Best for: A girl's getaway
No apologies for including a second Edinburgh hotel – like everyone I'm biased toward my hometown. Plus, my hometown happens to be one of the prettiest cities in the world with several of the best spa hotels in Scotland. The Sheraton Grand's busy Lothian Road location and functional-looking facade belie the urban oasis that lies within. With its sociable spaces and proximity to the lively Grassmarket (a drink therein being one of the mandatory things to do in Edinburgh) this hotel couldn't be better located, or appointed, for a fun spa trip with the girls or boys.
What can guests expect?
Options aplenty, no matter what type of stay you're planning. As you'd expect from a big name like Sheraton this is a slick operation with options to suit everyone. Guest rooms number the hundreds and range from classic kings with masculine wood and glass finishes to two-bedroom suites with tartan wallpaper and castle views.
Some rooms include spa and club access, where you can enjoy complimentary hot and cold drinks, snacks throughout the day, and canapes at 5pm. G&T lovers should make a beeline for the One Square bar, which pours over 100 varieties of gin including the hotel's very own and offers tasting experiences. There's also a modern fitness suite offering 30-minute HIIT classes for residents on weekend mornings and of course, what we're all really here for, the spa.
The main draw is a giant hydro pool that juts out of the top of the building and is all too easy to lose an hour in, chatting away and peering with superiority at city center pedestrians below. But do make time to wander through the thermal suite's various hot, cold, dry, and steamy experiences, finishing with a classic spa treatment like Swedish or aromatherapy massage, facials, and deeply exfoliating body scrubs.
- View rates for The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa Edinburgh at Booking.com
- Visit the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa website
10. Isle of Mull Hotel & Spa, Inner Hebrides
Best for: Truly getting away from it all
There's something about crossing a body of water that makes switching off from the real world far easier to achieve (physical inability for that niggling work problem or irritating neighbor to follow, perhaps?) Accessible only by ferry from the whisky-lovers haven of Oban, this 4* spa hotel expertly combines its remote location with a contemporary, unpretentious vibe that'll make your shoulders drop by four inches on arrival alone.
What can guests expect?
A boutique retreat with 75 rooms ranging from cozy garden boltholes to luxury sea view suites with private hot tubs and terraces. Views of the water are nigh-on impossible to avoid, and should you blink and forget you're on a Scottish island idyll there are plenty of driftwood-chic furnishings, cozy tartan throws, and local landscapes on the walls to remind you.
No prizes for guessing the specialty of the Òran na Mara Bistro (clue: this Gaelic phrase translates as song of the sea) Fill your boots with scallops, oysters, mussels, or for the less pescatorially-inclined, award-winning rib-eye steaks and plant-based haggis neeps & tatties. Everything is sourced locally, served seasonally, and sings with Scottish pride.
The on-site Driftwood Spa punches well above its weight too, with a 17-meter swimming pool overlooking Craignure Bay. There are outdoor hot tubs perfect for a sunset soak with bubbles, a Norwegian spruce sauna, hydro foot spa, and a Rasul mud room for satisfying skin-cleansing treatments. The huge range of treatments on offer includes deep tissue massage, men's facials and express 25-minute treatments. Truly something for everyone.
11. Dalhousie Castle & Spa, Midlothian
Best for: A historic stay
One last castle for the road. This one is as historic as they come, built in the 1200s and owned by the Ramsays of Dalhousie, who managed to resist invasion and hang onto their seat longer than any other Scottish family. How? The good old-fashioned bloodthirsty way, nods to which can be still spotted in this luxury hotel if you know where to look. There's an intruder-proof moat, coats of armor aplenty, and an original spiral staircase leading to the ‘bottle dungeon’ where prisoners were lowered by rope and held indefinitely. That's how you do it.
What can guests expect?
I hope I didn't put you off with the fighting talk, because those that cross Dalhousie's moat these days will be rewarded with a warm welcome and an eminently pleasant stay.
Public rooms are imposing and packed with history. Bedrooms, accessed through atmospheric, winding corridors are as grand as you’d expect with dark wood furnishings and huge comfy beds decked out in Egyptian cotton linens. Afternoon tea in the Orangery shouldn't be missed, with local-leaning treats including mini Haggis bon bons and raspberry choux buns, while fine dining of an evening is a taken in an evocative vaulted dungeon.
By contrast, Dalhousie’s spa is a modern marvel, with a state-of-the-art hydro pool, Roman-style sauna, Turkish steam room, and cold fog showers for anyone clued up about the benefits of cold water swimming and immersion. Treatments include facial yoga, designed to combat loss of muscle tone while increasing hydration, and Thai silk poultice massages to help de-stress and loosen weary muscles.
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As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.
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