• The Turnberry
  • The Turnberry
  • The Spa at The Turnberry
  • The Spa at The Turnberry

The Turnberry: Saying Good bye to Scotland

By Susan Gwaltney

In 2006 I moved to Scotland to be the Spa Director at the The Westin Turnberry. The property now has been upgraded by Starwood to a "Luxury Collection" and just hosted the British Open in 2009. The Turnberry is a stately old turn of the century railroad hotel that sits on top of a hill at the edge of the Irish Sea. As guest look west, they see landmarks of: the award winning golf course, Ilsa Craig, the Isle of Arran, the light house, the ruins of a 17th castle, and on a clear day, a tip of Ireland. These views can even be seen at the indoor pool that connects to the spa, with its floor to ceiling windows, it feels as if you swimming in the middle of the golf course. During the many wars in the last 100 years, the Turnberry served many purposes; it was a field hospital, and airport, command artillery training center and finally a world class hotel. Deteriorated runways can still be found on and around the golf course, along with monuments and memorials to veterans. The rumor is that the soldiers who died in the hospital were buried on the property- exactly where the spa was built several years ago.

The Turnberry is a quintessential old Scottish hotel, that still serves those magnificent breakfasts, with lots of meat, oats and a champagne/vodka bar. The dining room is elegant with high ceiling, columns, tapestry curtains, linen table clothes, and waiters from all of the eastern EU countries. The halls are dark and wooden, pictures from the centuries of famous visitors, golfers and war heroes hang. In addition, there is a cozy writing room, whiskey room, bar... and SPA!
The spa, at one time was the top spa of Europe, boasting 12 rooms, pool, steam, fitness center, etc. Through the years there has been some construction and reappointing of rooms, and here is where some of the its guest issues have occurred. There is the "old" section and a "new" section- both completely different. Having said this, all guest share the lovely "new" relax area after their treatment, but the waiting area is in the "old" section.

Once the guests remove themselves from that polar experience, they are on the massage table and enjoying their ESPA treatment. Just for a note of interest, the Turnberry is where Susan Harmsworth, the owner of ESPA started her company!

Having said this, the Turnberry is an ESPA, so the products and treatments are lovely. They have a holistic approach to all of their treatments, with detailed intake form, therapist interview and smell test of the oils. (which are gorgeous) A note to visitors from the US and EU, in the facials there is no steam, no extraction, nor head bands to keep you hair out of the way. The approach is holistic and nourishing, so relax and allow the products to envlope you.

There are a few must have products filled with essential oils and natural ingredients: body smoothing shower gel (smells great!), cleansing balm (which is a thick paste that you mix with water- stunning great for moisturizing- you will love it if you have dry skin and the slight smell of roses), regenerating face treatment oil, if you want a great detox bath that will make you sweat all night then try their Detoxifying Seaweed Wrap, and any of their salt scrubs or body oils are also "must haves."

One of the things that I love about working and living overseas is getting to know new cultures, people, food, etc... There always seems to be challenges with communications and cultural differences, and that is what makes the experience truly interesting. I call in my National Geographic moment. Scotland was no different. Having just left years of living in Mexico, I thought that Scotland would be an easy transition- same language, culture, traditions. WOW, I was wrong. Not only is the food, immense drinking and weather different, I really did not understand half of what was being said for almost 2 years! The daily department head meetings that 5-star hotels have, was always a bit of a challenge as there were about 3 people, that I stared at, they stared at me and said, "You didn't understand a word I said, did ya?" Now that sentence I did understand, and nodded my head, NO.

When I left the Turnberry to open the Six Senses Destination Spas in Thailand, I was excited and sad all at the same time. I love Scotland and the old stately Turnberry, my daily walks on the blustery golf course, my weekly bus ride to Ayr or the train to Glasgow, the team, the sea. All of the sad good-byes were said, party was had. As I was leaving, one of the engineers who came into my office and softly said to me, "We are all runts of the litter. In a litter of kittens, you are the first one picked, and we are left behind as the runts." .... I almost stayed!


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Revised: 11/05/2010 - Article Viewed 5221 Times

Susan Gwaltney Biography:

Susan Gwaltney Susan Gwaltney, Principal of Essential Spa Consulting, is a seasoned international spa consultant with over twenty years of project management, space planning, operational solutions, human resource development, and marketing expertise. From imagined vision to its final form, she has structured the foundation for multiple openings and renovations of world-class facilities in major destinations around the world. Susan is well-known for her enthusiastic, can-do attitude that along with her vast global spa and cross-cultural experience enables her to quickly transition your project through general planning or crisis; be it urban, eco tourism, green spa or remote. Essential Spa Consulting is the necessary element to building, growing and reaching your successful spa mission.

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