Discover unique Scottish Highlands wildlife during an exclusive use castle stay

Wildlife bathroom, decorated in an artist’s drawings depicting the variety of animal life guests may spot on a Loch Ness holiday at the Estate at Aldourie Castle, is just another example of the uniqueness of this Scottish Highlands property, available only for private hire.Highland Castle Estate

An exclusive stay at Aldourie certainly brings you closer to Scottish wildlife; from its walled kitchen garden abundant in insects busying themselves from flower to flower, to the arboretum, a sanctuary for birds and red squirrel, to striding through long grass across wide, open parkland where you quietly seek out rabbits and deer in their private habitats.

Take a woodland walk and follow the line of flight of a bird of prey soaring high above the tall trees. During a private stay on a Loch Ness holiday you may sight some more unusual wildlife such as the cuckoo or the pine marten. Roe deer are such gentle, beautiful creatures who bring calm and instant joy to the watcher. Through Aldourie’s commitment to conservation we shall encourage wildlife to thrive on this Highlands Estate for generations to come.

Although our magnificent Estate boasts some wildlife treasures guests are encouraged to venture further afield in order to truly experience Scotland’s amazing and wonderful wildlife in a variety of landscapes. From the coasts to the mountain tops, we are privileged to share this landscape with a variety of incredible animals.


As elusive a mammal as the pine marten the otter is hard to pin down. Can be spotted on the west coast seashore of Scotland during the day. It’s over a two hour drive to Kylerhea, a village on the east coast of the stunning and mesmerising Isle of Skye, but once you’re on a Loch Ness holiday in the Scottish Highlands everywhere is a drive away! It depends how keen you are to spot an otter in Scotland!

Mostly active at night, they are best spotted in sheltered bays in the late evening or early morning. Head out at low tide and you may be rewarded with the sight of a female and her cubs scouring the rock pools for crabs and other crustaceans. Delightfully playful, otters are a genuine treat for those lucky enough to spot one.

Sea eagle

Located in Find Horn Valley 26 miles from a Loch Ness holiday

Extinct from Scotland until the 1970s when a Norwegian breeding pair were released on the Isle of Rum, the white-tailed or sea eagle has firmly re-established itself along the west coast. There are several pairs on Mull, which is generally regarded as the best place to see them but with their huge range they can be spotted anywhere along our western coasts and beyond. Generally scavengers, sea-eagles will also take small rabbits and fish. They are easily distinguished from other birds of prey by their huge wing span which can reach 2.5 metres, and from the golden eagle by their distinctive white tail feathers.

Pine marten

North of Inverness you don’t have to travel far just opt for the forest trails. The pinewoods of Strathspey and and parts of the Black Isle (blog link)This tiny forest-dwelling mammal is now find right across the Highlands and, being largely nocturnal, is best spotted on the late, light nights of summer. Pine martens are adept at hunting and can take down red squirrels with ease. They are also expert climbers scavengers and are not immune to raiding compost and rubbish bins as well as stealing treats left out for garden birds.

Minke whales

Moray Firth in May or June

One of the most commonly spotted of our native whales, minkes are found right across the west coast. Best spotted in calm seas and sunshine – when their breaching backs glint off the sun – minke whales are a sight to behold. Growing up to nine metres long, they are frequent visitors to the seas around the Small Isle of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Minkes feed on fish, squid and krill, which they gulp into their huge mouths and filter. Inquisitive mammals they often approach boats and can breach beside them as they breathe through their blowholes. Beware though, their breath is not the most pleasant.


One of the most iconic of all Scotland’s mammals, deer, especially red deer are found throughout the Highlands and are easily spotted on rough moorland and the edges of forests. Unfortunately, they are also especially fond of roads but the sharp-eyed driver will spot the reflection of their eyes before any damage is caused. In summer, stags will be sporting their newly-grown, velvet-covered antlers in preparation for the autumn rut when they will battle for dominance of the herd and the right to breed with the hinds, as the females are known.

Red squirrel

These delightful creatures are our native squirrel and were once prevalent throughout the UK. Now, however, they have lost out to the non-native grey squirrel in most of the country but continue to thrive in the Highlands. At home in the coniferous forests of the west and, the Caledonian forest of Strathspey and the central Highlands, they are active during daylight hours but are shy and will freeze if startled.


Chanonry Point

Another of our native marine mammals, an encounter with dolphins is always a special experience. Frequently found riding the bow waves of boats across the west coast, bottlenose dolphins travel in small pods but on occasion pods can join up to make huge groups of playful, breaching animals. Common dolphins travel in larger groups, sometimes consisting of more than 100 animals, and are distinguishable from their cousins by the white hourglass markings on their flanks. Dolphins are especially fast-moving, travelling at up to 20 miles an hour and feed upon fish such as mackerel and salmon.

Wild cat

Highland Wildlife Park is your best bet – mainly because you’ll be able to admire them more close up than in the wild and you are in a safe environment as the wildcat can be aggressive if provoked. That said, they are a diminishing and threated species so we must do all we can to preserve this magnificent, solitary wild creature.

It’s probably the most threatened of all our native species, the Scottish wildcat is now confined to a few spots in the far north and west a victim of lost habitat and, more especially, inter-breeding with its close cousin the domestic cat. Despite their familiar looks, wildcats are not simply feral cats, they are true wild animals. One of the hardest to spot of all our native species, wildcats, in addition to being rare, are shy and nocturnal. They hunt voles and mice and, like their domestic relatives, prey on small birds.




Eco-gardening on an exclusive use Scottish Castle Estate

As you will have gathered, from previous blog articles relating to the Estate, our gardens and grounds team at Aldourie have a strong desire to work alongside nature where possible. This doesn’t simply mean being out amongst the soil, plants and foliage; potting and mulching, growing and tending. It means that their primary concern is the environment and – now more than ever before – both realising and acting on what can be done to preserve and improve it, is a fundamental part of their gardening.

Small changes make a big impact

Everybody has the opportunity to play their part in being eco-friendly whether tending your garden and home, looking after public grounds such as a park or school, to creating a working Estate in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Aldourie is known for its commitment to conservation across the wider Estate and being part of the WildLand group of properties.exclusive use Scottish Castle

But what are the smaller things we are doing to help save the environment on a day-to-day basis? We asked our head gardener, Duncan, to share the various ways in which Aldourie Castle is fast becoming more eco-friendly within its gardens and grounds.

“We are aiming to make the running of the garden at Aldourie as environmentally friendly as we can, whilst still producing a beautiful, tidy and well-maintained garden. This is a great challenge. The horticultural industry is changing to meet the demands of an increasing awareness of environmental issues, however there is still an over-reliance on plastic and chemicals.”

An eco-friendly garden functions just as well

Duncan and his team is very passionate about “doing what we can” at Aldourie whilst also demonstrating that a very high standard of garden can be maintained without costing the environment.exclusive use Scottish Castle

“We are gradually phasing out plastics as much as possible and using alternatives, such as terracotta pots. Watering plants in terracotta is different from plastic pots but once you get used to it, it is not a problem. Aldourie had a pottery in Dores for a few years around 1900 and we still have some of the original pots so there is also a historical reference to the use of terracotta here.”

Within the walled garden, Aldourie’s gardening team is also using wooden blackboard labels for herbs, fruit & vegetables. “As well as reducing plastic, the wooden labels look great and help the garden to feel more natural” says Duncan. The same applies to the use of string, we are using natural hessian, which doesn’t tend to catch your eye the way that plastic string does.

Home made mixtures replace chemicals

Aldourie Estate is also aiming to eliminate the use of chemicals in the garden. The horticulture industry has become completely reliant on glyphosate to kill weeds and keep areas such as gravel paths and car parks clean. Duncan conveys the Estate’s dedication to keeping things green; “We have recently bought a hot-water sprayer, which allows us to kill weeds on these hard surfaces without the use of any additives. We have several car park areas and many gravel paths at Aldourie so we can now keep on top of them just using hot water.”exclusive use Scottish Castle

“We are also using no chemical pesticides or fertilisers at Aldourie. Growing so many plants does attract pests so we still need address this. Having a wide and varied garden habitat has seen a massive increase in the numbers of insects and birds in the garden over the past year. Thrushes are foraging for slugs in the vegetable, herb & cutting beds while ladybirds are eating aphids on roses and plants in the glasshouses. Unfortunately, this alone is not enough when there are large numbers of aphids so we are spraying when needed simply with eco-soap.”

The grounds team is currently trying out other home-made mixtures for use as fertilizers and for deterring pests, including a brew made from tomato leaves. The vegetable garden is fed every year with local manure so there is no need to add other fertilisers and in the glasshouse an organic seaweed extract is the only feeding any of the plants get.

Forward thinking for a greener environment

Duncan continues; “The use of peat in horticulture is another systemic problem that we are tackling by using no peat-based composts. There are a few peat-free options including coir, which is made coconut husks, however our alternative is a compost made in Cumbria from sheep’s wool and bracken (Dalefoot Composts).exclusive use Scottish Castle

We have grown all of our plants in this compost this year and so far, are very happy with the results. If this proves to be a good alternative over the long-term then perhaps this is something that could be used more widely. We have plenty of sheep’s wool and bracken in the UK!”

Aldourie Estate is one of many Castle estates in the Highlands who are striving to protect the environment in as many ways as possible through less reliance on chemicals and the eradication of plastic to discourage plastic waste and therefore plastic pollution. This forward thinking attitude is being adopted worldwide; let’s all continue to work together to ‘do our bit’ for the environment and, ultimately, a greener future.

How a Loch Ness holiday could improve your health

If only we could all live near the water, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Or, that’s how many of us think, anyway. There must be something rather compelling and alluring about water for that to be a dream life for so many. But not only does living near water offer beautiful views, fun activities and scenic drives at your fingertips, it can also have life enhancing health benefits. Without delay, we investigated whether a Loch Ness holiday could be good for your mental and physical health.Views over Loch Ness

Aldourie Castle is situated on the shoreline of the legendary Loch Ness. The Castle is available only for private rent as a holiday location of a celebration property for one sole booking or group. The Castle is rentable all year round and Loch Ness provides the most mesmerising backdrop for a holiday. In addition, because your holiday home is within stepping distance to the water’s edge, there’s lots of potential for water to become a large part of your vacation. But, as you will realise by reading on, Loch Ness is not only therapeutic for its exhilarating boat rides. It truly has hidden depths. And in today’s longing to find ultimate wellbeing in body, mind and soul, Aldourie could be the holiday where you can actually have it all.

Aldourie has collated seven health benefits of living near the water’s edge. And with the Castle being available to rent for just a few days to months on end if you wish, this could be the holiday that makes you consider a new way of living.Aldourie Castle Estate countryside

Breathe the freshest air

Air that is close to or exposed to water is charged with negative ions, which helps your body absorb oxygen. Fresh air is well known for improving alertness and balancing levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Serototin improves your mood and decreases stress levels. There is a reason we crave fresh air when we are experiencing something difficult because fresh air gives clarity to the mind, body and soul. If you take a Loch Ness holiday you’re also guaranteed an additional boost of fresh air because the 500 acre Highlands Estate is home to thousands of trees of endless variety. The oxygen they produce along the water’s edge will serve to maximise your intake of fresh air.

Strengthen your immune system

Working together, an increase in your relaxation and a decrease in your stress levels gives you a strengthened immune system. And a strengthened immune system puts you in a better position to fight off illness and disease. Living, or existing, near the water can achieve all of these objectives. And the best part is that once you live, or if you take a holiday, near water, you don’t even have to think about it in order to benefit from it. Take a Loch Ness holiday to begin improving your immune system and enjoying better physical health – well, at least whilst you’re on vacation!A Loch Ness Holiday

You increase your white blood cell count

Plants and trees emit chemicals called phytoncides. This is especially true for foliage and trees that exist near water. When humans breathe this chemical in, it increases their white blood cell count, which is again a great barrier for illness or infection. Being outside and being around water is a natural immune booster. So, in support of strengthening your immune system (above), this point is actually biologically quantifiable.

You sleep better

It is well known that when you are exposed to the sound of water it relaxes the mind and the body like nothing else. For instance, consider how many people enjoy going to sleep at night to white noise or relaxing meditative sounds. Babies often relax into sleep listening to these sounds because they are known to emulate the sound of the womb. There’s real meaning behind the saying ‘sleep like a baby’.  It’s difficult to dispute that the sound of water is helpful to guide into having a good night’s rest. Very interestingly, seeing or existing near water helps clear the mind of unwanted distractions or unpleasant thoughts. Just think how true this is to you alone! In its many ways, water allows the mind and body to relax into greater, deeper sleep. And the benefits of better sleep automatically induce greater rest and better rejuvenation each morning.

Just being exposed to water on a regular basis improves health. So what more reason to make Loch Ness your new regular holiday destination throughout the year?  Many of Aldourie Castle and cottage guests return year on year. You could improve your rest and your sleep for the longterm and make Loch Ness your new home from home. After all, what are holidays for if not a lie in!Loch Ness Holidays

Experience greater happiness

Have you ever heard of the term “Blue Mind”? It refers to the meditative state the brain enters when we are exposed to water. Scientists have determined that looking at/enjoying water naturally floods the brain with dopamine, or feel good hormones. This explains why people exposed to water are often more relaxed and happier in general. When you are relaxed and happy you are undeniably healthier in the mind. And as we know when we relax we can more readily appreciate the fun side of life, and laugh;  ‘laughter is therapy’ and can dramatically improve your physical health.

The idea of a holiday is always wonderful, in theory, and yet sometimes the experience can be stressful. This could be down to travel, your accommodation not being as you expected, the weather spoiling plans by being unpredictable, etc. However, when water is on your doorstep it can be a different story. So take a Loch Ness holiday and let it relax you into a happy state of mind.

You relax

It has become clear the many ways in which water can be very therapeutic. Engaging in simple activities such as fishing or walking can help reduce stress and fight off the negative effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a hard situation. Especially if you battle anxiety or depression, water can be very helpful in overcoming the difficult side effects associated.

You lengthen your life

That’s right! Living by the water and enjoying the great outdoors can actually add healthy days to your life. Getting even a moderate amount of leisure time and light physical activity (including walking along the beach front or picking up shells) can increase life expectancy, according to the National Cancer Institute. What’s not to love about that?Cottage on Aldourie Castle Estate

Ready to live near water? Tired of enjoying the water only on vacation? Let Aldourie realise your dreams and come sample living near water for any length of time you choose. As well as the Castle exclusively sleeping 28 guests, the Estate also has four unique self-catered holiday cottages each within walking distance to Loch Ness. Combined, the four holiday cottages sleep 21. Furthermore, as they are child and pet-friendly cottages, you can sample living near water with a small holiday with your whole family.

Here at the Castle, we’ve always held onto our belief that if you experience Aldourie you experience Scotland. But now we wish to add that a Loch Ness holiday at Aldourie lets you experience a fuller, richer way of life where being outdoors surrounded by the basics of nature and water can empower you and offer you peace.

Easter weekend celebrations in a private Castle on Loch Ness

What could be more fun than spending Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness in Scotland? Add to that your favourite people, the spectacular scenery of the ancient Scottish Highlands and a large supply of chocolate. No, we can’t think of anything better, either.

Easter in a Scottish Castle

More and more people are booking an experiential holiday to celebrate special occasions such as Easter. Why not join them and take over a Scottish Highlands Castle as your own home over the Easter holidays. And make some new family memories to treasure along the way.

Aldourie Castle Estate welcomes private groups of guests at any time of the year. In fact, Aldourie was designed for house parties ever since its early days as a mansion house.  We can just imagine the family clans battling it out across the parkland, for the annual Easter egg hunt.Easter in a Scottish castle

The 13 castle bedrooms laid out across two main floors and the occasional turret, are individually themed, freeing and relaxing spaces. Each room is accompanied by a private bathroom just as colourful, comfortable and characterful. Guests retain their personal space and privacy whilst being able to enjoy the social benefits of celebrating Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness.

Easter hunts on your doorstep

Aldourie Castle was the Highland property to ‘be seen’ at in its day and now enjoys being available only to private bookings from two to 30 people. Guests return year on year to celebrate events and annual occasions such as Easter. The Scottish Castle set in its own vast and varied grounds. It’s the perfect Easter adventure playground for children and explorers young or old.

Book a weekend at Aldourie or stay for a week with your close knit group of family or friends and let us create the biggest and most exciting Easter egg hunt. Our small hospitality team is purely dedicated to your needs. We can devise a bespoke outdoor trail highlighting the best features of this magnificent 500 acre Estate for you to discover and admire. There’s ancient woodland, a beach, a criss-crossed walled garden, an arboretum forest as well as a maze-like Castle garden and an old family graveyard. Children will delight in the changing scenery and the chance to spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster (could Nessie be hiding some eggs?)Easter in a Scottish castle

An historic Castle designed for Easter family stays

There’s only so much partying and children’s scampering these old Castle floors can take, however, without needing a little renovation. The public rooms and some bedrooms have recently been revamped making this enchanting private Castle on Loch Ness even more tempting to private group bookings searching for a unique Easter holiday. Easter is a time for celebration, delicious food and enjoying small luxuries with loved ones. Intimate family gatherings just happen to be a speciality of Aldourie with its atmospheric entertaining spaces and beautiful, characterised bedrooms ideal for hosting Easter parties.

One of the most popular celebratory holidays nowadays comes in the form of the multigenerational stay. This means families made up of babies, great-grandparents and everyone in between travels either en-masse or separately to meet at a chosen destination property. This special place has to feature something for everybody (we will feature more on this type of stay in a later blog post).

Aldourie, of course, has it all: gardens for admiring, grounds for exploring, Loch Ness for cruising or boating. And inside; a games room, library, drawing room, dining rooms, oratory, and a great hall for a big, warm welcome. Upstairs, you’ll find a treasure trove of hallways with windows or doors off either side, turrets, winding staircases leading to more doors or balconies. Children can explore the Castle at their will and never tire of their adventures here.Easter in a Scottish castle

Creative Easter games for children

Aldourie is at the heart of any stay at this private Castle on Loch Ness. Many overseas guests return annually just to experience the warmth of this unique home from home. We love to get children round the big feasting table in the main hall for some creative arts and crafts. Easter holidays provides some great examples including Easter egg painting and hat making. Let us help you hide the children’s chocolate eggs for Easter morning complete with a treasure hunt map and clues.

Later, help Aldourie Castle’s chef dress the tastiest Easter cake or buns, have a member of your party dress up as the Easter Bunny and burn off some energy out on the lawn with an egg and spoon race for all.

In a nutshell (or eggshell)

Easter time at Aldourie promises a luxury Easter holiday like no other with family or friends.

Spacious four poster bedrooms with breathtakingly scenic views over Loch Ness and the magnificent Highlands. Walk-in showers or roll top baths. Original staterooms combining comfort with beauty and an incomparable atmosphere. From the moment you enter the gates let your Aldourie Easter experience begin; no time restraints, no set meal times, nothing is out of bounds. Before your party’s even got through the door you may just find the children racing into the woodland looking for wildlife with the Castle’s very own pet dog, Lizzie. (She can be very persuasive.)Aldourie Castle dog

Further out on the Estate is exclusively yours too; Aldourie can organise a boat ride on the world famous Loch Ness. Board from the private marina and search the waters for Nessie. Boot up in our welly room selecting your own size of Hunters wellingtons. Split up into groups or go it alone. Try some traditional outdoor Highland fun such as archery, clay pigeon shooting or bagpipe lessons. Or explore the Estate by zorbing on Loch Ness or with a Segway ride across the parkland.

Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness is a truly magical time.

One Easter paradise combining beauty, warmth and luxury with fresh air and Scottish adventure on its doorstep. To enquire for availability and further information browse our website or contact us here.

5 benefits of a working walled garden on a private castle estate

Spring will soon be upon us and Aldourie will literally reap the rewards of last year’s work out on the Estate grounds. It may not seem possible right now, with the high winds and heavy rain battering the soil and whipping around the foliage. But at this exclusive use venue in Scotland, once winter has left us for another year, all the dedication and hard work of the Castle’s gardening team will come to fruition.  The benefits of those long hours of sorting, mulching, digging and planting will have been worth the wait.

By the end of summer into early autumn of 2018 the dozens of differing shaped soil beds were showing signs of life, abundant in green. But now that spring 2019 is nearly here, a kaleidoscope of colour, scents, patterns and textures will be unveiled within the red brick and natural stone border of the walled garden.

Imaginative wild flower beds evoke nostalgia

The gardening team worked with landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith on the Estate to create floral displays akin to the Victorian style. Our exclusive use venue in Scotland was already witnessing wild flower growth in September last year (pictured). Tall grasses and plants blended in close-nit harmony as species stumbled into one another to create a medley of colour and style. The benefit of time has allowed these flowers to mature into different heights and shapes giving a sense of freedom and disarray to the structured square beds. That contrast in itself is the romantic lure of the wild flower garden…

Thriving veg patches encourage healthy eating

There’s no doubting a spectacular Castle which has welcomed guests since its origins as a mansion house would’ve ever offered anything less than fine dining. But we all know that centuries ago the extravagant food served in castles was far from healthy. The phrase ‘fine dining’ has in recent years resolutely rediscovered its meaning.

By April the walled garden of our exclusive use venue in Scotland will look like it did in its heyday with lush, leafy veg in abundance. It’s always good to know that the food on the table has come straight from the earth (with a bit of clever cooking in between). But now, more than ever, the concentration on healthy eating is all-consuming and the hospitality industry is no bystander. By providing a farm to table experience for our Aldourie Castle guests we can guarantee nutritious food cooked to the highest standard with the care and attention it deserves from the moment it is picked.

Tasty pickings from the glasshouses; fun in the sun!

Another benefit of the walled garden is its Victorian-inspired and designed glasshouses. Not only do they look splendid under a blue sky on a hot summer’s day, their tall thin window panes shimmering in the sun. But the real treasure is what’s housed within. Guests can select for themselves brightly-coloured, crisp salads, exotic fruits and hardy vine-growing vegetables. The walled garden glasshouses simply by their very nature reinforce many aspects of the Aldourie ethos: ‘in the moment’, meaningful time spent with family and/or friends in the great outdoors.

Herbs help create flavoursome Castle dishes

Not only does Aldourie’s walled garden produce the freshest fruit and veg but our little herb patches in the glasshouses also fill to the brim. It’s wonderful to be able to flavour our traditional and contemporary Castle cuisine with such a wide selection of freshly grown herbs. And they’re all right here on our doorstep, meaning Chef has only to open the kitchen door and take a five minute stroll to the walled garden in order to transform any one of his seasonal dishes.

Fruit cages; a new Aldourie experience for spring 2019

One of the most exciting developments in the walled garden of this exclusive use venue in Scotland last year was when the gardening team erected the two long fruit cages down the centre of this generous outdoor space. Here they are pictured then and we’re looking forward to seeing how much fruit has grown come spring, which will have transformed the look of this bold, asymmetric caging into something rather wild and pretty.

Look out for our next garden blog post where we’ll discover all the new and old plant and tree species now thriving in the arboretum and parkland. Conservation will always continue on the Aldourie Estate and we can’t wait for the next chapter; the greener the better!

Take a browse through our Private Hire pages on the Aldourie Castle website for details of an exclusive use stay. Then take a look at The Grounds gallery to discover all the other exciting areas on the ever-developing 500 acre Estate.

Discover a unique wellness retreat during a stay in your own Scottish castle

At the start of every year we all make promises to ourselves. Promises that benefit other people: be kinder, be more forgiving. Those that mainly benefit ourselves: eat more healthily, get fitter. But now more people are discovering the benefits of looking after themselves, and those closest to them, from deeper within. ‘Find happiness’ as a stand-alone promise to ourselves is fast becoming one of the most sought after New Year’s resolutions. What if a resolution to stay in your own Scottish castle could start your journey to complete well-being?

The idea of mindfulness stems from Buddhist traditions but only over recent years has it come into mainstream practises. Ultimately, it’s the notion of being aware of ourselves and the world around us to improve our mental well-being. Scotland is renowned for its well-being retreats helping people fulfil their dreams in a beautiful, natural and peaceful environment. We believe 2019 is the year to start holidaying with more meaning. Find a place to stay where you can truly express yourself, really relax and thoroughly enjoy being in the moment.

Aldourie Castle Estate can be your wellness retreat for a week or even a month. It’s up to you to decide how best to stay in your own Scottish castle – on your own, with a partner, as a family or with friends. Here are Aldourie’s top five ways in which we can offer you a unique well-being retreat during your stay at the only live-in Castle on Loch Ness. If you like to spend your time wisely, reading on will be time well spent on your soul.

Captivating views of natural landscapes let you escape inner thoughts

From any of the 50 plus rooms within the enchanting Aldourie Castle, guests can enjoy an abundance of natural beauty. Large sash windows peer out over parkland, woodland, Loch Ness and in the very near distance a mountainous Highland backdrop. Any given view from the Castle will evoke a sense of freedom, peace and an appreciation of nature.

Time spent looking out of windows cocooned within a safe, comfortable space is a perfect place from which to meditate and connect to the wider world. Regular acceptance that we are part of something larger and more powerful than ourselves is considered a healthy, mindful activity. Too much time to think can be harmful to our wellbeing so periods of time spent focussing on a beautiful natural scene can only encourage happiness to grow.

Stay in your own Scottish castle away from external stressors

During a stay in your own Scottish castle such as Aldourie, you automatically find yourself in harmonious environment. It was never a Castle in the sense of the word, i.e. no battles ever took place here. Aldourie originated as a mansion house and only turned into a ‘Castle’ when its additional wings and turrets were added. Its main use has always been as a family home designed for entertaining.  This is a great basis from which your well-being holiday can take flight.

Aldourie Castle is set in 500 acres on private land. Many of us do not realise the importance of silence, for time to collect our thoughts and just ‘be in the moment’. We don’t always get the chance on a holiday to appreciate complete silence but on a retreat it is somehow guaranteed and, more often than not, expected. Not only is Aldourie Estate away from public noise such as traffic, tourists and the hubbub of everyday life but there is the opportunity to delve deep into nature and experience the true beauty and calm of the land.

Wildlife and man’s best friend soothe your soul

Aldourie Castle has its own dog who goes by the name of Lizzie. We nicknamed her Loch Ness Lizzie because she loves spending a lot of her time frolicking in the refreshing waters of Loch Ness, only a few bounds away from the Castle’s back door. Most of our guests like to meet Lizzie and take her out on the Estate at some point during their stay – if not daily (she can make quite an impression on dog lovers). You only have to type in the words online and research confirms theories that dogs induce human health. Stay in your own Scottish castle and spend half an hour a day petting, playing and walking with Loch Ness Lizzie and before you know it you’ve reduced your stress levels and begun a regular exercise routine.

Our Castle canine is only one of the creatures you’ll find on the Aldourie Estate, however. An array of wildlife lives and breathes within these scenic grounds which also incorporate an arboretum and walled garden. Discover a freeing sensation as you follow the line of flight of a bird of prey soaring high above. Sightings of more unusual animals such as cuckoos will lift your mood making you focus on the beauty and rarity you’re experiencing. Gentle, beautiful creatures such as roe deer automatically calm you and bring instant joy, their peaceful nature extending to the watcher.

The fact there exists so many species in one location makes you want to witness and feel their presence. This alone brings you into the moment more readily as you quietly seek them out in their private habitats.

Wild water proximity for more happiness

It’s official: being exposed to water on a regular basis looks after your mind and soul in numerous ways. The fresh air it releases improves mood and stress – hence why we crave fresh air when things get ‘too much’. Being exposed to water strengthens your immune system attributing to your mental health. It also puts your mind in a meditative state encouraging relaxation, rest and better sleep. And we all know how happy a good night’s sleep makes us feel! Looking at the steady movement of water, and listening to its gentle gush, floods the brain with feel good hormones.

Stay in your own Scottish castle only metres from Loch Ness and you can walk its calming shoreline daily, hire out a kayak for an adventurous afternoon or experience an exhilarating wild swim.

Wonderful walking holiday cottages on Loch Ness

The inspiring, stunning and majestic Scottish Highlands landscape has enticed and captivated holidaymakers for years. Aldourie’s four unique holiday cottages on Loch Ness provide a luxury base from which to explore this delightful countryside and experience the real Scotland. Now seems the perfect time to tell you about some really fabulous walks, perfect in winter as any other season. So whether you decide to rent a castle for the weekend, or stay in a cosy cottage, leave your log burner, grab your woollies and get walking. We promise you miles of stunning white-laced landscape and fresh fir-scented air.

Luxury holiday cottages on Loch Ness

Each cottage has its own bespoke luxuries: Ivy’s four poster beds lie underneath dark wooden beams. Gate Lodge lets you admire Aldourie’s stunning parkland and just beyond, the Castle itself. Pier’s back door is literally a stone’s through from Loch Ness. And Garden Cottage overlooks the Estate’s historic but recently renovated walled garden. Or you can rent a castle for the weekend with the magnificent Aldourie Castle boasting views right across Loch Ness.

These perfect retreats allow you to relax and unwind after a busy day out and about. Chat about the day’s sights over a glass of vintage wine and cheese bought at a picturesque village farmer’s market. Sit yourself at the holiday cottage’s antique writing bureau and pen a postcard home from Aldourie Estate. Enjoy the surroundings of a traditionally decorated kitchen-diner as you gather the clan around the table for some relaxed home cooking.

Each of Aldourie’s holiday cottages on Loch Ness are available all year round. They offer a private, luxury base within easy reach of seasonal walks and sights. Explore either the simple, local trails on Aldourie Estate’s doorstep or jump in the car for a scenic drive to a legendary landscape.

Breath-taking walks around Fort William and Glen Nevis

The traditional town of Fort William lies an hour and forty minutes from Aldourie Estate’s holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Its stunning location at the heart of Lochaber and along the Highlands’ coastline justifies its nickname as the ‘Outdoor Capital’ of the UK.  It offers a mix of long-distance walking routes, mountain ascents or easier forest, woodland and canalside walks.

Fort William is most famous as being at the base of Ben Nevis, the highest peak of them all. The town is also the gateway to one of the most picturesque glens, Glen Nevis. The Glen leads along the foot of Ben Nevis and past the stunning ridges of the Mamores. It incorporates the dramatic Steall Falls – Scotland’s second highest waterfall with a drop of 120 metres.

Explore the varied terrain of Spean Bridge and Loch Ossian

Spean Bridge is even closer to Aldourie Estate’s holiday cottages on Loch Ness, under an hour and a half’s drive away. It enjoys an accessible position at the heart of the Highlands. The village lies at the foot of Glen Spean offering endless miles of eastward walks that eventually lead to the Cairngorms.

The area encompassing Loch Ossian features an array of different types of walks. Travel through mountain ranges of the Grey Corries, Easains and Creag Meagaidh group. Or tread the lonely Glen Roy deep into the mountains. A more relaxing route is discovering the wilds around Loch Ossian, inaccessible by car.

The challenging, historic Jacobite hills of Fort Augustus

When you rent a castle for the weekend or stay in one of four cottages on the shores of Loch Ness, the travelling time to Fort Augustus is under an hour. However, this is a strenuous linear route climbing 350m through remote countryside. Begin by ascending good tracks through forest and follow with a long section on open moorland. Afterwards, negotiate a series of muddy paths leading down to Glen Moriston.

This glen is a treasure trove of ancient Scotland. Fort Augustus used to be the site of a garrison built in an attempt to break the isolation of the Highlands and suppress the Jacobites following the uprising of 1715. It was taken by the Jacobite rebels just before the Battle of Culloden and the former abbey now marks the spot where the fort once stood. The walk features the legacy of General Wade, an old military road that helped form a network of roads that would connect garrisons across the country.

Lower level forest walking routes of Aviemore

The modern resort of Aviemore is the best known part of the Cairngorms National Park. It’s therefore one of the most popular areas of Scotland for those who rent a castle for the weekend or stay in a holiday cottage on the shores of Loch Ness.

Cairn Gorm itself is only the northernmost high summit on a vast, arctic plateau. This is the snowiest part of Britain; a fragile environment but providing a magnificent wild challenge for the fittest. The lower slopes are clothed with the magnificent Caledonian pinewoods of Rothiemurchus, dotted with jewel-like lochs such as Loch Morlich – with its sandy beach – and Loch an Eilein with its ruined island castle. Undoubtedly this is one of the finest areas of Scotland for easier, lower level forest walks. The wildlife-watching opportunities too are simply superlative; this is the stronghold of the Red Squirrel as well as the elusive Capercaillie, crested tits and Scottish crossbill.

Stay local at Loch Ness and Gen Affric

Loch Ness, with its legendary monster, is the most famous of all lochs; at twenty three miles long it is the second largest lake in Britain by area. Its great depth, however, means it holds several times more water than its nearest rival, Loch Lomond. The area around the Loch features a variety of walks near Aldourie’s holiday cottages on Loch Ness. This includes Waymarked Trails and easy routes suitable for families compared to some other parts of the Highlands.

There are great forest and moorland walks starting from various points along the north side of the Loch. The southern side has much less traffic and a delightful landscape of small hills, attractive woodland and a large number of small, freshwater lochs that are renown among fishermen but little known by the rest of the public.

Few can imagine the scope of walking available around Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands until they’ve experienced it for themselves. Aldourie walking holidays offer the ultimate outdoors getaway in Scotland. Our walking holiday cottages on Loch Ness combine luxury, history, culture and exercise – the best start to your year. Choose to rent a castle for the weekend or relax in the simplicity of a cottage and immerse yourself in all the local area of Loch Ness has to offer.

The life of an Aldourie Castle groundskeeper in the 1900s

William Fraser, was an estate worker on the grounds of Aldourie Castle Estate, now a historic castle to rent, from 1948 until 1974. This was a long career taking up much of his working life. Here we chat to his granddaughter, Wendy Mackay, (through her own father, William’s son) to find out about his general time living and working on Aldourie Estate to help maintain the magnificent historic castle to rent.

What attracted William initially to working for a large Estate in Scotland?

He had to find work after the war, one of the men who worked there was an old friend of his and told him if he ever wanted a job to get in touch with him.  He stayed at Aldourie Pier and he was the foreman.  My father must have known him in Aberdeen.

Could you give a summary of his life until his employment at Aldourie to give an idea of his history?

He was born in Buckie (a town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland) and moved to Bucksburn, Aberdeen, and was from a farming/horseman background.  He worked on the farms initially, then worked as a labourer on building work.  Then went to war (WWII), six out of seven brothers served in the army, on D-Day + 6, got as far as Germany but was injured (shot and lost a couple of fingers), then returned home.

What was a typical day like working as groundskeeper of a castle estate?

He attended to all general maintenance on all the farms belonging to the estate. The Castle itself had a caretaker and was not his priority. Likewise the gardens had a gardener to maintain them. Occasionally he worked with the gamekeepers doing work in the estate grounds. He worked 8am-5pm and went home for lunch. He was a foreman with up to four men working for him.

Did William ever mention who he worked alongside at Aldourie Estate? Was it ever lonely work?

He was always in a team which meant he wasn’t alone. They were all scattered across the estate with Grandad and one other worker living in the village. He must have enjoyed it as he did for a long time and loved the area.

The following information is written within Aldourie’s historic records:

Hester Vere Fraser-Tytler

In 1908 Hester married Alan Cameron, younger son of Cameron of Lochiel. He was killed on 25th September 1914. She died on Aug 9th1949. Their only son, Colonel Angus Cameron MC, bought Aldourie from the Trustees of Neil Fraser-Tytler in 1948.

Was Colonel Angus Cameron MC resident at Aldourie with his own family during your grandfather’s time there, and did he report to him? And If not, who?

He didn’t report to him, all estates had Factors running the estates (whom he reported to) and the Factor liaised with the Colonel.  He did meet the Colonel frequently and he was very good to the local people. My dad thinks he may have visited their house a couple times too.  Dad says he was a nice man.

Your grandfather, William, his surname was Fraser. Any family link to the Frasers who lived at Aldourie from the mid-1700s?!

No. Fraser was and is to this day a popular family name in Scotland.

Was your grandfather ever involved in preparing the land for game shooting for shooting parties?

He used to get involved in the heather burning in the early spring with the gamekeepers and this was in preparation for the shooting.

William was given a beautiful clock as a retirement gift by the family who were obviously very grateful for his work over the years.

He had no direct dealings with the family who lived in the Castle. This must have been bestowed on him via the Factor.

Your grandparents moved from Aberdeen just after the war ended, for the job at Aldourie. Where did they live?

They moved directly into a lovely wee cottage on the Aldourie Estate.

William lived in this same cottage on the Estate for the remainder of his life and I understand the area where this once stood remains a special place for your family.

He lived there until he died…

What work, if any, had your grandmother done in the area of Dores? 

She did home help for some retired policemen in the village but that was all.

 Did your grandfather have his own garden at the cottage and was his obvious love for the outdoors bestowed on his private garden as well as the Aldourie Estate?

Grandad’s garden was amazing, he grew a lot of his own fruit and veg which was how it was done in those days. 

How does your family now celebrate the area of Aldourie Castle Estate where your father spent so much of his life?

We don’t tend to go back to the area much at all as Aldourie and the village of Dores has changed so much.

You used to have your own sports days at school in the Castle grounds. What school did you attend?

I went to Aldourie Primary, a small rural school with two classrooms at the time. They still have the school registers from the time detailing all the parents who worked on the estate!

Can you describe the Aldourie Estate from your own memories? How did you feel to be invited to use the Castle’s private grounds?

There was a big lawn great for Sports Day races.  School Christmas parties were also in the Castle. Santa would come in, that was really exciting! It was the way it was done back then. It was just our way of life and I didn’t know any different.

A note from the Castle

It was fascinating to speak to Wendy about her grandfather, William’s, time working and living on Aldourie Estate. And wonderful to learn of her own family’s intrinsic link to our own beloved Estate in the glorious Scottish Highlands. Lifetime memories for one man and his wife and children. We are grateful for her and her father’s (William’s son) time and effort recounting facts and memories, and for the work William carried out many years ago in maintaining our historic castle to rent. 

Aldourie has continued in the same vein to make lasting memories for families around the world with its exclusive use experience as a historic castle to rent. Groups book Aldourie for their private holiday or house party and can stay in the Castle as their own home for up to a week or longer. We uphold the notion of spending quality family time and time with loved ones inside and around a beautiful and exciting property filled with adventure, the great outdoors and its own remarkable history. There’s something for everyone at Aldourie’s historic castle to rent. And everyone brings something to Aldourie.

If you’re looking for a historic castle to rent we welcome any enquiry for private hire so please contact Aldourie Castle via our online web form on the ‘Contact us’ page or by emailing

Why Loch Ness and Inverness do Christmas & New Year’s the best

Scotland really does do the entire festive season justice. Why? It goes hell for leather, grabs the bull by the horns and takes Hogmanay by storm. It suffers no fools and takes no prisoners. Now, enough of the idioms and on to the specifics. Inverness and Loch Ness particularly know how to bring the magic of the Christmas season alive. And this makes any stay at Aldourie Castle or Cottages from November to January a pure delight. It also gives ample opportunity for guests to get involved in the Scottish Highlands’ festive spirit when they rent an entire castle. Last month the Highlands had its first snow of 2018, marking the start of celebrations in the region’s capital…

So far, we’ve witnessed the delights of:

Christmas Lights switch on

Victorian Market, Inverness

The Farmers Market

All the above and more is either still happening throughout winter or to look forward to in your 2019 Christmas holiday in the Highlands.

Yet to come when you rent an entire castle…

Winter Wonderland, Whin Park

For three days from 14th-16th December this already beautiful park is transformed into a Wonderland. Filled to the brim with shimmering illuminations, the event is based around a number of giant attractions installed by The Highland Council’s Lighting Team. Another main attraction is of course Santa, who will arrive in style with his devoted reindeer for a spot of relaxation before all the hard work begins. This event has always been popular with young families and a favourite for toddlers. All you have to do is wrap up warm, believe in magic and watch Whin Park come to life before your very eyes. This is ideally located when you rent an entire castle on the shores of Loch Ness, which provides a sumptuous home from home to return to after a night of festivities.

The Red Hot Highland Fling, Inverness

This official Hogmanay party in the heart of the city has had its line-up of bands and artists confirmed since the end of summer. The people of Inverness are almost bursting with anticipation of this festive celebratory event. Expect upbeat tunes, original songs and traditional Scottish favourites. The Trad Project, Blazin Fiddles and Tide Lines have been given the prestige of bringing in the New Year. Crowds will gather to watch a great fireworks display over Inverness Cathedral to signal the start of 2019.

Dinner with Ceilidh, ‘Bogmanay at Bogbain’

This event promises to be a night to remember in a unique venue. It’s a wonderful celebration of Hogmanay combining all the elements of this magical season with food, music and also laughter at its heart.

And finally, anyone who chooses to rent an entire castle and holiday in Loch Ness during Christmas and New Year will have the chance to spot Nessie in a Santa hat! Well, maybe this one’s a long shot, but here in the Highlands we have nothing if we have not faith. In addition to all of the above there are other ongoing celebrations to commemorate the Christmas culture. These includes festive drams, visits to Santa, Christmas pantomimes, food markets and fairs.

5 ways to send a postcard from a beautiful Scottish Castle

There’s nothing like sitting down somewhere comfortable on holiday and taking the time to write a postcard to relatives or a close friend. It marks an experience in time and evokes a memory whenever you stumble across it again in the future. A postcard is also a way of sharing your own experience of a special place with those people who mean so much to you. Postcards are treasured by family members just like a private castle vacation will always hold a place in your heart.

At Aldourie, we really believe in the importance of the handwritten message. For instance, we love reading the heartfelt notes left by guests at the Castle in our leather bound book. (It’s like something out of Harry Potter, honestly.) Or the reviews of the four holiday cottages which each have their own guest book too. Our luxury bedrooms each feature a comfy chair and desk so as to encourage guests to spend time writing to a loved one during their stay in this private castle. Guests can pick up postcards on their days out around Loch Ness and the Highlands. But we also leave a blank card in each of the bedrooms showcasing a beautiful photo of Aldourie Castle – in case nothing else can match up! Here we share our 5 favourite spots from which to write a postcard at Aldourie Castle.

From the bath in Print Bathroom

Firstly, let’s set the scene. Turn on the hot tap, get into your dressing gown, light a candle and ask for a glass of Aldourie’s house red wine. As soon as you sink deep into the free-standing tub that gazes out over the serene parkland your thoughts will turn to calm. Now you’re ready to put pen to paper. Get inspiration from the artwork surrounding you in Print Bathroom; from enchanting winding staircases to vast highlands landscapes. Don’t forget the bubble bath!

From the desk in Lorimer Bedroom

Make yourself comfortable. On chilly autumn evening, switch on the beautiful Tiffany lamp and let us pour you a glass of your favourite Scottish tipple. Be inspired by the room’s interior decoration from dark woods to tactile fabrics, rich colours and decorative prints. This is surely enough to get your creative juices flowing for a vivid portrayal of your exclusive use experience.

From the settee in the Drawing Room

Looking out over the parkland towards the woods, be sure to have a pot of steaming tea with a slice of fresh cake and get comfy. Spark your imagination with the portraits on the wall. Aldourie’s history is portrayed before you, all the way to the Fraser-Tytler family members. Each have their own story to tell, just like you. The luxurious fabrics of the drawing room in ruby red and various blues will fuel your stories with texture, colour and elegance.

From beside the fireplace in the main hall

This viewpoint through stunning full length windows takes in the terrace and Victorian-inspired Castle garden recently designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Let the symmetry of the outdoor space help to order and simplify your Highland experiences to make a perfect postcard read. Become entranced by the gentle warming flames within the enormous fireplace. This was only recently discovered in the interior renovation of the hall.

From beneath the tree on the shoreline of Loch Ness

During a cottage stay in one of our four beautiful holiday cottages on Loch Ness, head for the outdoors. This spot is perfect from which to write your postcard. On a spring or summer’s day pour yourself a glass of elderflower or if nippy outside bring with you a flask of hot chocolate. This private place under the shelter of such a beautiful tree is a writer’s paradise. It’s a bit pebbly as far as seats go so be sure to take a thick, cosy blanket with you from the cottage linen cupboard.