Zoë Boothby visits Irvine’s The Gailes Hotel and finds a relaxing hideaway with top-quality leisure facilities that can also host the party of a lifetime. See you in Ayrshire…
Over the last 18 months, I’ve become something of a self-care enthusiast. I’m not entirely sure what has inspired this new obsession – maybe the pandemic that has ravaged our way of life and redefined what baseline level of anxiety can be considered ‘normal’? Or perhaps the steady decline of the global economy and my generation’s financial prospects? Whatever the cause, all I can say is that I’m now the proud owner of 14 face masks, countless candles, a jade roller and a gua sha (and if you don’t know what that is, get googling pronto – it’s truly a life-changing purchase).
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that a little indulgence never hurt nobody. And, after a summer of all work, no play, I was feeling as antsy as Jack Nicholson holed up in that Colorado lodge. So, when a message from The Gailes Hotel & Spa hit my inbox asking if I’d like to come for a night to test out the new spa facilities, I was decanting my lotions and potions into travel-size containers pronto. A stay at the Overlook this was not.
Although it’s conveniently located right off the motorway and just five minutes from Irvine, I was immediately struck by how secluded the Gailes felt. I’d been in the car for under an hour, but the hotel couldn’t be further from my everyday life in Glasgow. The air was clearer, the grass was greener, and as I discovered when I saw my room, the sheets were softer. Needless to say, I was very excited about the next 24 hours.
Before I could enjoy the amenities, however, I had a date with Janette Mitchell, group sales and revenue manager for SimpsInn venues. She has spent much of her 18 years at the Gailes looking after the weddings held here, and I’d wager no one knows this bolthole like she does.
Janette wasted no time in showing me the Lagavulin Suite, where most weddings are hosted: with a number of ‘rooms’ which can be joined or separated by partitions, this sure is one flexible space. Plus, wedding parties have access to their own private bar – perfect for shotting late-night tequila sans glares from other guests.
I was then guided upstairs, to the impressive terrace and conservatory. The views from here, out to the area’s famous golf courses, are a treat. You can also see the new Pavilion, which looks marvellous draped with flowers and greenery. If I was tying the knot here, especially if it was a day with the unseasonable autumn warmth of my visit, I think we’d say ‘I do’ in the bandstand, then raise a glass to wedded bliss on the terrace. Just need to get the boyf onside first.
Next up was a tour of the leisure facilities, and I saw straight away why Gailes weddings are often held across a whole weekend. Those with a penchant for Scotland’s national sport can hit up the nine-hole course, golf academy (with pro PGA teaching) or on-site driving range. My fellow self-care devotees, however, will find themselves right at home in the new Si! Spa, which only opened last year. There’s a menu of treatments to choose from, including facials and massages, which use ishga and ESPA products. I chilled out in the thermal suite and outdoor spa pool, before being treated to a Rasul Experience (a blissful combination of heat, steam and mud). Two hours later, my skin was as smooth as a baby’s bottom and I felt relaxed to the high heavens. Did I really have to return to real life?
Later, I tucked into hearty fare in the recently redeveloped Coast restaurant: scallops, followed by sirloin steak, with a knickerbocker glory to finish the whole thing off nicely. I retreated to my room, promptly unbuttoned my waistband and snuggled into bed, feeling a gazillion times more mellow than I had just that morning.
I’m not sure I like this brave new world we’re living in, but if the antidote is an indulgent overnight in Irvine, I’ll be zipping down the M77 a lot more often.
Need to Know
Quantity and quality go hand in hand at the Gailes, as the hotel gives couples as much choice as their hearts desire…
The Gailes is filled with versatile spaces, and as such can host all manner of celebrations. For big bonanzas, the Lagavulin Suite can sit up to 240 for the meal. Smaller affairs may feel more at home in the rooftop conservatory, which can fit 110 for the ceremony, but will happily accommodate fewer for a more intimate reception.
Counting the pennies? If you don’t mind marrying on selected dates between November and February, you might want to consider the hotel’s excellent value winter wedding package for 50, priced from £2,600. It includes a three-course meal and drinks package, alongside exclusive use of the Lagavulin Suite and an overnight stay in the Ailsa Suite. ’Tis the season!
The Gailes has 42 rooms, with the venue able to offer a 15% discount for wedding guests. For the couple, however, only the Ailsa or Arran suites in the penthouse will do: with double jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and dressing room in the former, and single jacuzzi, lounge and private kitchen in the latter, we’d want to book them out the night before as well to get ready with our bridal party.
The food and drink
There’s no option for outside catering, but why would you look elsewhere when the hotel already has a wide variety of menu selectors to choose from: salmon, chicken, lamb, beef and venison are all mains options, with prices ranging from £49pp to £60pp. For the evening buffet, our pick would be bacon, sausage and pulled-pork rolls – the ideal energy boost to keep your gang dancing all night.