A grand hotel located at Ewanfield on the southern slopes of the Knock of Crieff, a quarter-mile (0.4 km) north of the centre of the village, the Crieff Hydro lies at the centre of a 364-ha (900-acre) estate. Founded in 1868 as the Strathearn Hydropathic Establishment by Dr Thomas Henry Meikle, an early exponent of the 'science of hydropathy' which had been developed in Germany in the 1820s, the hotel remains family-owned. Designed in the Scots Jacobean style by Robert Ewan, the original structure cost around £30,000, but was extended with wings to the S, E and W in 1878, 1888 and 1894 respectively, creating a large rambling institution of a building of limited architectural merit. Rather more impressive is the two-storey Winter Garden to the S elaborately constructed in cast-iron and wood in 1903-04. There are several further extensions of the late 20th C., together with the Melville Hall, a £3.5 million conference and sports hall which opened in 2007. The hotel has been B-listed since 1971.
In the 19th century Crieff Hydro had more patients than guests, with no alcohol and no smoking, and was once described as a "cross between a boarding school and theological training house". The hotel now offers 213 en-suite bedrooms, of more than twenty different types and employs more than 500 staff, 100 of whom live in extensive staff quarters around the estate. However, it still preserves something of the flavour of its origins as a Victorian sanatorium, providing a range of healthy pursuits and promoting traditional family entertainments. Facilities include a Victorian Spa, with a 16-m (17-yard) heated swimming pool, featuring stunning ceiling art work, a sizeable gym, a further 20-m (22-yard) indoor heated swimming pool, children's pool, sauna, steam room and spa bath. The Melville Hall offers a wide range of facilities including 5-a-side football, basket ball, badminton and squash courts, as well as a children's recreation and entertainment centre. Perhaps reminiscent of the traditional Victorian nursery, children can be handed over to hotel staff to be entertained and fed separately to their parents. The main lounge (drawing room) includes fine coloured glass depicting various Perthshire scenes and a sizeable pipe organ which was the gift of the founder's wife in 1900 - religious services are still held here on Sunday evenings. The hotel also benefits from a fully-equipped doctor's surgery.
There are a number of chalets and cottages in the grounds, and the hotel also provides a range of outdoor activities, including tennis courts, a football pitch, bowling green and croquet lawn, together with its own riding school, 18-hole parkland golf course (Culcrieff) and water-sports centre on Loch Earn (11 miles / 18 km to the west). The estate also includes extensive woodland, with a nature trail, walks and mountain-bike tracks, and further golf courses at Dornock, Ferntower and the Crieff Golf Club.