Aldourie’s top 3 castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What better way to appreciate the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What is the history of Urquhart Castle?

The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. During the 14th century the castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Thereafter it was considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands to this date.

Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?

It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness like any castle ruins. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands is greatly appealing to holidaymakers.

Special fact or feature of the castle

Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back and as a result is one of the most fascinating historic castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands.. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296, when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357. castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.

Another pull for guests staying at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is that it is also located on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker.

Eilean Donan  – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

This attractively named landmark is one of the most recognised castles in the whole of Scotland. You may have seen it one shortbread tins, tea towels and scenic calendars if you have ever before visited a gift shop in the Highlands.  Eilean Donan itself is a small island in the western Highlands and the meeting point of three sea lochs. The castle was restored in the early 20th century and now a footbridge connects the island to the mainland granting easy access to a somewhat untouchable Scottish landmark.

What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan was named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint around in 617. The castle itself was founded in the 1200s, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and the Clan Macrae. The castle was destroyed in 1719 because of the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. What you see is the castle in its reconstructed form in the twentieth-century.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Interestingly, in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain-wall castle was constructed enclosing most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.

Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?

Eilean Donan is the up there with the most picturesque castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. The Castle has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark backdrop to pose for a photograph against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio!

Special fact or feature of the castle

Records suggest that there was a small Christian church on the island of Eilean Donan in the 6th or 7th century. Although no actual remains survive to this day fragments of stone do suggest an Iron Age or medieval history. This astonishing castle ruins has been redeveloped and reconstructed around six times; no wonder it looks tired now.

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century, all of which is well documented. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder that many of Aldourie’s holiday cottage guests like to cross the bridge to this castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, which bears such heritage.

Dunnottar Castle – castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands on ancient ground

Dunnottar Castle is the ruins of a medieval fortress situated on scenic rocky peninsula, elevated from the mainland. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?

The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort was built nearby in the 3rd century and in the following century a place of worship. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and it was captured by William Wallace in the year 1276.

Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. It was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.

Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?

Dunnottar Castle, an isolated castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, is an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. The rock that the castle sits on formed some 440 million years ago; that’s enough to bring anyone to an historic landmark in Scotland. Tourists visit Dunnottar Castle for their own unforgettable experience; there is so much to see and do here. Try walking or cycling to the Castle from the nearby town of Stonehaven, itself a tourist attraction. The route to the castle is very picturesque.

Special fact or feature of the castle

When you visit this special historic landmark you will soon discover the importance of Dunnottar. It is in simple form an invincible fortress that holds important secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland- the Scottish crown jewels- were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army, which invaded in the 17th century.

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the walls of this castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, including:castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
Tunnels
Tower house
Forge
Waterton’s Lodging
Stables
Palace
Chapel
Postern gate
Whigs’ Vault
Bowling green
Sentry box

There’s so much more to the best historic castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to these top three castle ruins.


How to enjoy the great outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Wildlife spotting

Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Hide and Seek in the arboretum

Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found.  If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!

Play make –believe in the tree house

The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens

Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.

Get close to nature in the parkland

We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.

Beach walks on Loch Ness

Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.


A guide to wedding anniversary themes and their meanings

It’s the year of the rooster. But really, that’s of little importance if this year you celebrate a special wedding anniversary with your loved one. In fact, every year until the 70th you can bestow a gift to your husband or wife according to the tradition that has since transcended into modern times. There are various versions of themes but we like this list below. Today, all the anniversary years from 1 up to 30 have been linked with a theme or material, and then every fifth year up to 75 years of marriage. However, we approve the traditional! It also makes sense for Aldourie to go down the more old-fashioned route, being an historical property. Speaking of which, if you are looking for a special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate in, you need look no further than our exclusive location in the magnificent Scottish Highlands.

Bestow your gift inside your own castle

This is such a lovely thing to blog about, especially as we’re now mid wedding season. Maybe you’ve recently become engaged or are planning your intimate wedding in Scotland. You may also discover our enchanting Castle, should you stumble across our helpful blog post, the perfect location for your wedding anniversary party with family and friends. 

Weddings can be exciting and spectacular, subtle and romantic, meaningful and mesmerising. They can be so many things to everybody all at once and just a certain thing to somebody at any one time. Wedding anniversary presents should be just as personal and bespoke – and that is how we like to keep things at Aldourie, a very special wedding anniversary castle.

1st Anniversary – Paper

The tradition has always been to give paper as a gift to celebrate your first year together. This notion was inspired by the first year of marriage being like a blank sheet, and largely fragile.

2nd Anniversary – Cotton

Your lives become more intertwined the longer you stay together as a married couple. This is symbolised by the many carefully woven threads that are used to make a piece of cotton.

3rd Anniversary – Leather

You relationship will become stronger as your marriage continues and matures. The gift for your third year suggests strength and protection. Leather is durable and hard-wearing material that is used to provide shelter and comfort.

4th Anniversary – Fruit & Flowers

This gift is based on a relationship ripening and blossoming as marriage continues. Flowers and/or fruit are the perfect way to celebrate your growing love after four years. Hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion and decorate the entire place with flowers of your choice.

5th Anniversary – Wood

This natural material is a wonderful symbol of a marriage reaching five years. Trees have always been seen to denote strength and wisdom. Your marriage by now is solid and you have established some deep roots keeping you together in body and mind.

6th Anniversary – Sugar

Life is thought to be getting sweeter by the time you reach your sixth year of marriage. Celebrate with some sweet treats. This is a lovely, tempting gift idea offering so much choice!

7th Wedding Anniversary – Copper & Wool

Does this appear a strange combination? The reason for the pairing of copper and wool to acknowledge seven years as a married couple is their ability to conduct heat. Your partnership should be toasty warm after such time, and as comforting as sitting by the fireside in an Aldourie holiday cottage. This inspires some beautiful gift ideas for both your partner and the home.

8th Wedding Anniversary – Bronze

Bronze is an extremely strong metal and is an apt way to recognise this substantial stretch of time together. This beautiful metal is made up of copper and tin; combined they form strength and beauty. If you choose to celebrate in style by hiring a special wedding anniversary castle you’ll no doubt find numerous bronze ornaments dotted around for inspiration.

9th Wedding Anniversary – Pottery or Willow

What a lovely combination with so many ideas for gifts. Pottery is moulded by hand and the careful process results in a work of art. In a similar vein, willow has qualities of flexibility and, again, strength. You can create beautiful things if you take the time and effort to weave it (being sure to work through any mundane moments).

10th Wedding Anniversary – Tin

Tin sounds is such a traditional-sounding gift theme – and it’s also a clever one. This old-fashioned metal was used to store and preserve items so you can see why it was chosen to commemorate a decade of marriage. Tin prevents other metals from corroding when they are plated with it, and can prolong the life of what it is storing; wonderfully symbolic.

15th Wedding Anniversary – Crystal

Crystal is not only beautiful on the eye but has long been seen as a luxurious product. Note how it is the most expensive traditional anniversary gift so far. The material has such clarity to it and is hence the token gift for its representation of a couple seeing each other clearly after 15 years together. Aldourie could be your very own special wedding anniversary castle. After all, for years a beautiful Murano crystal chandelier hung in the Red Drawing Room.

20th Wedding Anniversary – China

China is fragile, but when it is looked after properly, it can stand the test of time. Much like a relationship! Even after two decades together, you may have your moments but if you take care your relationship will always survive. Giving each other china based gifts is a good way to remind yourselves of that. Locate that special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate with family and friends in a private setting. We assure you you’ll behold some of the most beautiful china sets during your Afternoon Teas.

25th Wedding Anniversary – Silver

Silver is a precious metal, and no matter how old it is, if it’s treated properly and polished regularly it will continue to gleam. Give silver gifts for your 25th anniversary to remind yourselves of that.

30th Wedding Anniversary – Pearl

Pearls are a symbol of hidden beauty – they are cultivated over time within the not so pretty oyster, but once you open it up you find something precious inside. After three decades together it’s unlikely you’ll appear the same as you did when you first met, but what’s inside counts. Pearl inspired anniversary gifts are the way to mark this occasion.

35th Wedding Anniversary – Coral

Coral is a very precious substance and was once believed to have magical properties to protect against illness and danger. It is still precious and protected today so think carefully when it comes to choosing a coral inspired anniversary gift and maybe choose something inspired by the beautiful colour.

40th Wedding Anniversary – Ruby

Red is a colour often associated with love, and a rich red ruby is the perfect way to symbolise your love. Whether you want to do the traditional anniversary or the modern, look for ruby inspired gifts as the stone is used for both. This is such a momentous, hopelessly romantic anniversary that you may just need a hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion, a location able to match the beauty of this stunning stone.

45th Wedding Anniversary – Sapphire

Beautiful blue sapphires were once the reserve of loyalty, making them a luxurious, aspirational item. Give the gift of sapphires to celebrate an impressive 45 years together, as it’s used for traditional and modern anniversary celebrations.

50th Wedding Anniversary – Gold

After a lifetime together, there’s only one gift that can do it justice – gold. The most precious metal, gold symbolises lots of things, including prosperity and strength. Again gold is used for modern and traditional anniversaries so buy your loved one a gold anniversary gift. You could even upgrade your wedding rings!

55th Wedding Anniversary – Emerald

Green is considered to be the most calming of all colours, and represents growth. After 55 years together your life may not be as hectic as it once was, but you’ve grown together so give emerald inspired gifts to recognise that.

60th Wedding Anniversary – Diamond

Diamonds flourish under pressure and are extremely hardwearing – just like your relationship will be after six decades of marriage. It is considered to be invincible and is associated with love and wealth. After 60 years of happy marriage, you may not have physical wealth but you’ll have a wealth of experience and love so celebrate with diamond inspired anniversary gifts.

70th Wedding Anniversary – Platinum

Platinum is a metal that resists wear and is incredibly hard to tarnish. It’s one of the rarest metals, making it exclusive and is a symbol of endurance. What better way to describe 70 years of marriage? Celebrate not only with each other but why not mark this incredible milestone with everyone you love? Take over a special wedding anniversary castle with your dearest family and friends in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Make your 70th wedding anniversary a memory for all those you cherish.

This has been a real lesson in love. How fascinating to find out exactly what and why matrimonial gifts are so meaningful and important. Note how the gifts start off simple and inexpensive with great potential for innovation and interpretation. Finding your feet and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t is akin to the first few years of marriage. And making sure there is enough money left in the pot for building a life together. Later, the materials become more elegant and of finer quality and great value. Surely a long, prosperous marriage is worthy of such recognition. It seems right to bestow a gift of beauty that can be admired for years to come, in the same way you look back on the beautiful picture your life together.

Beautiful location to match your anniversary gift

Unique Aldourie Castle hosts a handful of weddings a year and specialises in the intimate wedding celebration. This is mainly because the setting within is made for intimate gatherings and house parties. Also, we like to pay tribute to the history and values of the property. As well as small weddings, the only habitable Castle on Loch Ness makes a stunning location for wedding anniversary parties. Guests come from world-wide to stay in this enchanting Castle and make it their own for a week or even longer. Please call 01463 751309 to discuss your celebration requirements and how Aldourie can make this your very own special wedding anniversary castle.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


5 amazing reasons to stay in a castle

In case you need persuading we’ve listed our favourite five reasons why you might want to stay in a castle. Of course, we could have focused on the exclusivity of some castles, perfect for private family holiday rentals. Or we could have enticed you with talk of luxury bedrooms and spectacular window views. Instead, we’ve considered what might come to mind when conjuring up the image of a castle in your head. If you had never considered a stay in a castle, whether for a luxurious group holiday or special birthday celebration, it’s time to give in to your inner romantic and realise the wonder behind every castle wall.
Aldourie Castle Loch Ness bride internal spiral staircase stay in a castle

They’re in fairytales

Once upon a time people would get married in a church. Then came the shiny, swanky, spotless hotel and that became the ideal wedding venue. But nowadays, brides want it all – and that can often mean getting married in a fairytale castle…but, of course!

Not only can couples officially ‘get married’ but they can also stay in a castle overnight and so can their guests. Whether for your intimate nuptials or full blown celebrity wedding, insist on posing for photographs in the highest turret and use the spiral staircase as part of your walk down the aisle. Because surely, if they had gotten the chance, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty would have done the same thing.

Holiday and history in one

Traditionally, one of the main reasons a castle was built was to ensure protection from enemy armies. They had cold rooms, grey stone walls and floors, and tiny windows to lessen chances of danger getting in. Some castles, in Scotland most definitely, remain precisely this way to this day. These Scottish castles are fabulous for tourists wanting to get a feel for life in the olden days. However, they’re not so enticing for the luxuries one longs for when escaping for a week or two’s holiday. Now that the exclusive use property has taken off like a cannon ball, many castles have been restored and renovated with more opulence and comfort than they’ve ever had before.

old photo Aldourie Castle Estate exterior stay in a castle

Large families searching for that special reunion location can stay in a castle equipped with everything expected of a luxury holiday rental. These range from impressive technology to a five star hospitality service. The added benefit is the history that comes with a castle, from architecture to stories of the past within. A castle stay is ideal for a multi-generational holiday. For example, mum might enjoy the peace and quiet of the old library but granddad will have a whale of a time taking the kids around the nooks and crannies of the castle giving them history lessons mixed with old Scottish fables. See some photos of Aldourie Castle long ago on our History page.

They make a perfect ‘spooky’ Halloween retreat

From ghost stories round the fire, to Hide and Seek that could last a day, a castle is an Aladdin’s Cave of adventure for a Halloween stay. Not every castle is destined to be haunted, but because of its history it’ll most certainly have ‘atmosphere’. Whether a castle built for battle or an old mansion house converted into one like Aldourie, it will have an interesting past.

Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness Graveyard stay in a castle

Wouldn’t it be exciting to stay in a castle with a group of friends over Halloween? You could enjoy themed outdoor activities (arranged by the castle staff) and then make your own fun inside? You could indulge in a Halloween feast and decorate the halls with cobwebs, have a Fancy Dress evening and even carry out a Murder Mystery dinner. Thrilled by this idea? Read our Halloween House Party blog post for many more reasons to stay in a castle over Halloween. It includes lots of spooky ideas for Aldourie Castle – which has its own graveyard, you know?

You can make good use of the moat

Many castles designed for exclusive use or private hire, and notoriously Scottish castles, will feature their own moat. Quaint as this may seem, the moat surrounding the castle was, again, there to make it difficult to attack. If you are lucky enough to stay in a castle with a moat you can access, we suggest family fun activities such as zorbing, outdoor water sports like canoeing and, if the weather permits, wild swimming. Though we are not sure how wild swimming in a moat could be. In Aldourie’s case, the Castle has something better than a moat; it  has magnificent Loch Ness on its doorstep. Let us arrange a ride on the Nessie Hunter, private boat trips to Fort Augustus and water activities in front of the Castle. Water sports are a wonderful way to get everyone in a group stay involved in the holiday fun.

speedboat loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate stay in a castle

Castles unleash children’s imaginations

Nobody should really require an introduction to this point, but if in doubt; think Disney. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Shrek each have castles at the core (and heart) of their stories. Imagine telling the kids you’re all going to a land Far Far Away to stay in an enchanted castle. (The journey to the Scottish Highlands where Aldourie Castle is located, for example, could definitely qualify depending on where you live). Now, surely that’s better than DisneyLand!

There will be boundless opportunities already on offer in many castle grounds. For instance: treehouse antics, woodland to explore, a game of Tag/Tig in the parkland, Billy Goat’s Gruff if there’s a bridge and stream. Kids can create their own fun on a rainy day playing Make Believe, having the authentic props to hand. Should a back-up be needed most exclusive use castles have a dedicated games rooms where you might find a billiards table, large screen TV and board games – but we’re moving onto Times of the Modern Castle now, and that’s another story.

Aldourie Castle Estate loch ness treehouse in woodland stay in a castle

For some of you, the thought may never have crossed your mind before reading the amazing reasons above. But, if you do decide to stay in a castle maybe consider this Castle on Loch Ness. The Aldourie experience would provide you with memories to last a lifetime. On top of that, it could end up being the staple family holiday for generations to come. Make your own history at Aldourie and enquire about exclusive use availability at: info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

On 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest while most of the world will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. But the importance the Scottish people place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar. It’s bigger even than Christmas Day – and it’s certainly worth waiting for. You thought the Highland Games was a cultural signifier; think again…

hogmanay-edinburgh

Definition of Hogmanay and its origins

Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to their celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Where did the word originate? History suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north”. This ocurred in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. The Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule highly influenced these parties. The Scots labelled these celebrations ‘daft days’. Hogmanay culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences now that has been established for a few centuries it. The best celebrations always do!

How do Hogmanay celebrations differ from New Year’s Eve?

The length of celebratory activitiesmainly differentiates Hogmanay from traditional New Year’s Eve parties. The former begins on 31st December but continues throughout New Year’s Day and into 2nd January (itself a public holiday in Scotland). This then divides the two celebrations culturally too. The streets in Scotland remain deserted while the rest of the UK is generally easing back into business.hogmanay scotland

How the big Scottish cities do it

Hogmanay is celebrated throughout Scotland in varying degrees from the intimate yet ‘daft’ gatherings to the elaborate, eccentric festivals. The big cities fall into the latter category and Edinburgh leads the way with a huge 30th December torch-lit parade. This comprises an enviable fireworks display and various performances from up-and-coming acts to full blown rock stars. Everything is performed wholeheartedly to (always) enthusiastic, (sometimes) bemused crowds from more than 60 different countries. Either way, people feel privileged to be part of the throng and tradition that is Hogmanay.

The Scottish capital’s largest crowd totalled 400,000 in 1996 and since then safety restrictions mean fewer people though the numbers are still high. Glasgow is another city that doesn’t disappoint. The Glaswegians can be seen singing, dancing, eating steak pie and stew, drinking by the gallon and storytelling till the sun rises on New Year’s Day.

The importance of Hogmanay to the Scottish people

Scotland began to celebrate Christmas only in recent years. The festive holiday was abolished by the Protestant Reformation for 400 years and it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was accepted as a public holiday in Scotland. Then, in 1974 the Scots announced Boxing Day as a public holiday. Scotland instead had to work through Christmas and wait until Hogmanay to celebrate with family and friends. Is it any wonder now that this traditional get-together has become an exciting explosion of freedom and fun!hogmanay scotland

Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year

It has to be said, there is no hiding it; the Scots love a good party. And that is usually the main focus of Hogmanay. But, if you’re lucky enough to witness this special celebratory period in Scotland you may observe, though you might not know them to be at first, a number of traditions as well.

‘First-footing’, where the first person to enter the house after midnight brings gifts such as food or coal, is the most popular tradition. It is regarded as affecting the fortune of the household for the coming year. This is dependent on the appearance of the visitor; the ideal guest is a tall, dark man. So, if you open the door to a flat-coat retriever called Lizzie wearing a Santa hat…well, you can guess the rest.

There are other traditions. Watching abominable and cheesy TV programmes (ones you would never ordinarily choose to watch, of course) before the bells chime, and linking arms whilst singing with all the clan, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famous poem written by Robert Burns.

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Castle

Speaking of which, why not book your New Year’s celebrations at Aldourie Castle on Lochaldourie-castle-loch-nes-tea-and-champagne-020 Ness? It’s unique, luxurious and scenic; the perfect backdrop to a house party style that’s seen a lot more of Scotland’s history than anyone alive today. While there’s no rules to celebrating Hogmanay, maybe your first attempt could be kept quite simple with the core elements of Scottish culture at its heart. Many Scottish families this year will be sitting down to a delicious meal with family and friends with the drink flowing – oh, please don’t forget the whisky – to help bring in the new year followed by a steak pie dinner the next day. Should your head be a little sore ask any one of our dedicated hospitality team for a glass of Irn Bru (or a bottle). We’re almost certain this bright orange fizzy drink has been curing hangovers for centuries too.


Daily flights from London to Inverness benefit Scottish tourism

This year has seen a tidal wave of new business come to Inverness through both leisure and corporate tourism. Since May 2016 Inverness airport has welcomed travellers from London Heathrow on a daily basis. The direct flight is a great benefit to corporate travellers who wish to commute to Scotland. This applies to travelers from London and from overseas. Aldourie Castle has been host to many American guests as a result of the convenient new flight. Guests see the advantage of a little longer airtime in order to experience the beautiful and wild Scottish Highlands and mesmerising Loch Ness.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Scottish Tourism at its Best.

British Airways decided to resume the daily flight to Inverness Airport, which is just outside of Aldourie Castle Estate. The journey originally stopped in 1997. Aldourie, for one, was extremely confident of the benefits to corporate travelers. They would have instant easy access to a location that is both versatile and spectacular; the Scottish Highlands. Ideal for corporate events and important business meetings, the Highlands is home to a few exclusive use country Estates. The benefits of such Estates include peaceful settings, striking backdrops, impressive facades,

Since May this year the direct flight linking London tourism to Scotland has operated as a year-round service. Its first flight of the day departs from Heathrow just before 10am with an afternoon flight from Inverness back to London.

This remains an exciting opportunity for Inverness, the Highlands’ capital, which already has a strong link to economy. The tourism offering in the Highlands can capitalise further from travelers flying in from overseas and London who previously may not have considered travelling up to Scotland before. Now they can hold their multi-generational family holiday, luxury Scottish holiday, annual corporate event or board of directors meeting up here.luxury bedroom Aldourie Loch Ness - Scottish Tourism

This new option available to both the leisure and business tourism markets diversifies the British hospitality scene in general. It also makes a location once considered unusual and possibly logistically complicated, on par with the more conventional locations. Move over popular high end, but predictable, venues in the UK.

What can a country estate offer overseas corporate clients?

Places like Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness can offer guests who have traveled by plane a change in scenery and culture. This, as we already know, can work wonders for holidaymakers. A conducive environment can help guests to relax, focus and put things in perspective. A business would benefit from this type of support from a corporate hospitality location or property.aldourie castle loch ness Scottish Tourism

Aldourie has spent time and effort in enticing London and overseas businesses to take advantage of the direct flight from Heathrow to Inverness. Both to encourage a more affluent hospitality business in the Highlands and a varied approach to luxury corporate travel. Meetings, events and client incentive stays are just some of the ways in which corporate guests can enjoy exclusive use stays in places like Aldourie. We have already seen an increase in interest from corporate clients. They are themselves interested in using the private hire Castle as a multi-functional business venue.


The history and meaning behind the four-poster bed

When you think of luxury in the bedroom what are your first thoughts? Fluffy white towels. Polished bronze taps in a huge en-suite. A fleece robe with matching slippers. Silk sheets? Now, take yourself back a few hundred years and think what luxury would have meant then. Possibly something of simple design but large and robust enough to make a visual and physical impact.

The four-poster bed has a long history and was built with function in mind. But it was also undeniably very symbolic of status. So, who had them? It was customary for royalty and noblemen to own a four-poster bed and any merchant who had one was seen as being very successful indeed.luxury bedroom Aldourie Castle four-poster bed

Where did it come from?

The origins of the four-poster bed are unknown. This is surprising for such a bold-looking piece of furniture known worldwide for its distinguishable structure. It is, however, thought to have derived in Austria before arriving in England where it captured the hearts of the British aristocracy. Their members naturally fell for its uniqueness and stately style.

Records show that the four-poster bed was in existence in the late C14th and early C15th. The four-poster bed started very simply in its design, like any idea that has the longevity to remain throughout the centuries. Originally, beds themselves were literally no more than hard boards covered in fur or quilts. What came next is interesting: the canopy part of the structure, added to the bed in the C13th. This was suspended from the ceiling and not attached to the bed in any way. Then side curtains were added, supported by beams that were built into the bed frame. Can you picture this? The four-poster bed was born.luxury bedroom Aldourie Loch Ness four-poster bed

Function and style

We mentioned that practicality played a large part in the creation of the four-poster bed. Ironically, it’s the parts that were added out of pure function which make them most attractive. As well as having given them historical charm. Bedrooms – or bedchambers – in the C13th had a chill about them and were often draughty. So the curtains that you would think were added to draw around the beds to give them more style were in fact to keep the sleeper warm during the night. Another reason for the drapes was to afford the lords and ladies of the time some privacy as their servants would often sleep in their rooms with them overnight.

Design began to play a huge part in differentiating it for both class and country once the structure of the four-poster was fully established. The beds of nobility were ornately carved, painted and decorated in coats of arms of the family to which they belonged. Lavish fabrics such as silk adorned the beds and the bed frame itself would increase in size and weight. The larger and heavier the bed, the more status the sleeper held in society. The four-poster became lighter and narrower, As the French adopted the style, to give a sleeker, more elegant look. And, generally, as the years went by iron would replace the traditional English wooden frame of walnut or oak.luxury bedroom Aldourie Castle four-poster bed

Why do Aldourie bedrooms have four-poster beds?

Aldourie features a range of four-poster beds in various styles. We are style conscious as an exclusive use property should be but also concern for the comfort of the Castle’s guests is paramount. Notice how the rooms bring out each bed as a statement piece of furniture paying tribute to the historical style and its place in a stately property.

Open the door of an Aldourie Castle bedroom to reveal a four-poster and you are immediately transported back a hundred years or more, to a time of enchantment (think Disney – Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella), magic (think specifically Bedknobs and Broomsticks; a small, (flying) four-poster but it had four posts nonetheless) and luxury. By luxury we mean comfort, contentment, security; all the things you feel once you are wrapped up safely within these four posts. Once the curtains fall around you in an Aldourie Castle four-poster bed you need nothing else in order to escape into a happy slumber.


Halloween House Party in a castle; get spooked in Scotland

If you’re planning a holiday or family short break over Halloween why not go overboard and book a private castle in the wild Scottish Highlands? Even better, a Castle that looks out across the eerily silent yet constantly moving Loch Ness. And of that variety, there is only one: Aldourie. OK, so it doesn’t possess the spookiest name (in fact it’s quite magical) but with a little help from your hosts and some imagination we can convert your Halloween stay into a spooky holiday to remember.

Here are three excellent ideas for making the most out of a Halloween stay in the Scottish Highlands.

Old fashioned Halloween activities – for the traditionalist

Stick with the tried and tested route during your exclusive use group stay in a private castle.  Start your Halloween adventure early by getting up early with the children to go out and buy some pumpkins to celebrate the famous night. Also look out for little trick or treat and fancy dress items, Halloween chocolates and bits of material in blacks, oranges, silvers and reds.  Later, carve pumpkins by scooping out the flesh and creating scary faces with a sharp knife – why not set up a competition for the scariest face!pumpkins Halloween

Your countdown to Halloween Night can also be made up of creating your lucky dip box. Fill a large cardboard box with polystyrene or shredded paper (usually the Estate Office or hospitality team would be able to provide you with these or something similar) and then carefully add your trick or treat items into the mix. This will add a fun spin to your trick or treating later on.

It’s nearly time for Trick or Treat. Set one of the downstairs rooms up as the fancy dress space and encourage everyone to dress up as their chosen ghoul or character ready to sit down for an Addams Family style dinner. Afterwards, enjoy Halloween buns that you’ve baked with the kids during the afternoon. Ask the youngsters to decorate the Castle with pumpkins, adding them on every other windowsill as well as outside the house or castle door, therefore transforming your exclusive use holiday property into ‘a haunted house in the middle of nowhere’.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Halloween

Theme your night ‘Halloween’ – for the brave

Playing make-believe in a turreted castle in vast, private grounds is easy to convince children to do but Halloween themed hen parties, for example, can also have a ball with more adults and humorous characters from, say, The Rocky Horror Show. A Halloween house party would not be complete without a soundtrack of well-chosen spooky songs and theme tunes. During the day download some music from the Internet and create a Halloween song list on Spotify to play once the sun goes down.

Light candles in the centre of your pumpkin faces, turn off all the main lights and tell ghost stories in the library into the evening. Watch horror movies in the Castle whilst drinking spiced cider or hot chocolate. For those too scared to go to bed afterwards, don’t worry, most of the bedrooms in an exclusive use property have space for a huddle of people and you can also double up if you have one of the single rooms. Just remember, of course, to check under the bed.15-aldourie-estate-graveyard-entrance Halloween

Use the Estate after dark – for the bravest

At Aldourie you can tour the grounds – visit the ancient family graveyard, go on a frightening storytelling walk through the woodland followed by a torch-lit boat trip on the loch. The bravest among you can play Hide and Seek. At Aldourie your seeker can count up in the tree house whilst those of you hiding can use the deepest depths of the exclusive use property and Estate. Remember, there’s always a wine cellar and secret servant corridors, as well as the woods – but only if you dare.

And for those who appreciate an excuse to do something different but shudder at the thought of booking their short break or holiday over the 31st October, you can always take the calmer approach. Exclusive use gusts of Aldourie can sit with their pumpkin friends around a fire on Dores Beach and watch the sun go down whilst happily toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. Because, honestly now, not everything has to be so spooky over Halloween.


How a castle and cottages create the perfect combined holiday

Last time we described how they couldn’t be more different as holiday hot spots on their own. This week, we explain how Aldourie Castle and Cottages, booked together, create the holiday of a lifetime…

The beauty of a private Highlands country Estate

It’s not every year you get to explore at leisure a centuries-old country estate in the heart of Scotland. So, when you get the chance to stay in an exclusive use property that is surrounded by 500 acres of grounds – some wild and rogue made up of woods, forest floor and hidden treasures; some neatly trimmed gardens and hedgerows – it’s best to take it…
aldourie castle loch ness

Fitting for larger parties

Say you are looking for somewhere private and exclusive to host your large family get-together. But the problem is that you have family dotted around the world. You need a place that is easily accessible (an airport nearby and direct flights from major cities a must). You also need a location that is not only beautiful but peaceful and extremely homely too.

Now, say your family is larger than a group of 30 people and you’re struggling to tick all the above boxes. You are also struggling to allocate everybody a room for the night. Many exclusive use properties or luxury destinations in Scotland are converted stately homes or mansion houses. The trouble is they have a small number of bedrooms (usually the original bedrooms of the house). So the property itself is too small for your family stay. A hotel, although it has plenty of space and many guest rooms, does not have the exclusivity ultimately required.

Choosing an historic Estate is the best option because there are usually other properties within the grounds that guests can stay in. For instance, the four traditional holiday cottages on the Aldourie Estate. You can spread your family group out across the entire grounds, where each cottage is within easy walking distance of the Castle. As a result, your bigger party (up to 50 guests at Aldourie) can be accommodated.
Garden Cottage Loch Ness

Another benefit of stay in the Castle and cottages: you have more settings and window views to experience.  Although Aldourie Castle is a luxury in itself, its captivating aura and interior beauty can sometimes be all-consuming. (Be prepared to enter another world when going on an Aldourie holiday). Many private stay guests say they want to explore more of the grounds next time. Therefore, having your family of guests spread out across the parkland means ample reason to roam around.

Best of both worlds

From romantic lie-ins in wooden beamed bedrooms overlooking Loch Ness to showering in a turret and wandering through formal gardens like a Downton Abby character, your experience of ‘Castle’ and ‘Cottage’ could not be more different. Guests don’t have to decide which of these holiday types they prefer when taking over the whole Estate. Both are there for the taking to enjoy whenever they please.

Some mornings you might want a complete five star service at your disposal. And also a large Scottish cooked breakfast on tap. Other days you could want to light the fire yourselves, cook your own eggs and bacon and wash up your dishes whilst admiring the woodland view through the window. At Aldourie, two types of holiday can coexist just minutes apart.

Pier Cottage Loch Ness

Roam down the back garden of Pier Cottage to the shoreline to watch the boats bobbing on the marina. Later, take the family dogs for a walk in the woods (all four cottages are pet-friendly).

Later, sit out on the Castle terrace facing Loch Ness and take afternoon tea. In the evening everybody can reconvene in the Castle to eat banquet style on long tables in the Main Hall. A multi-itinerary for a multi-generational holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

Historic living in the 21st Century

Some just wish to take a short break or luxury stay for the moments it brings and the memories it generates. Others look for something with more meaning and like to know the history of the place they are occupying. Stay on an historic Highland estate making use of both the quaint cottages and the large house and see just how life used to be for the wealthy and fortunate Scots.

Adventure through the ample grounds, which change from season to season and look at the archives in the library to read up on the Scottish clan history. Realise the proximity of the cottages to the castle, and get a feel for how an estate would run. Taking over a Highland retreat of today is not only a luxury family holiday but a learning curve for children and adults alike.library books Aldourie Castle Scotland

The variety of outdoor sports and activities groups and families can take part in together are also another pull for making good use of your exclusive use property and grounds.

Fresh air combined with majestic views across wild scenery make for longer days no matter the time of year and give you more energy to enjoy your stay.