Experience the Black Isle during an exclusive use stay in Scotland: Part 2 – food and drink

Our last blog post featured Part 1 of your exclusive use stay in Scotland incorporating a trip to the Black Isle. It focused on the history, culture and scenery that this majestic part of the Scottish Highlands offers the discerning tourist. This beautiful part of the world should definitely be a on the tick list for anyone visiting Scotland as a luxury travel destination.

From coastal walks to castle ruins and the quaint towns and villages in between, we showed you how to best enjoy the wonder of the Black Isle from your luxury holiday on Loch Ness. This week we’re introducing Part 2 of our post which focuses on the Black Isle’s dining and drinking scene. We pay particular attention to the tourist hot spot, The Black Isle Brewery. Hop on board for a taste of what’s on the menu in this remarkable and thriving peninsula in Scotland.

Dining out in the Black Isle

The Black Isle region spans from the village of North Kessock all the way up to the town of Cromarty. There are many haunts to sample good food and drink (we are in Scotland after all!). But here are just a few well selected cafes, bars and restaurants to delight during your exclusive use stay in Scotland.

A favourite amongst exclusive use Aldourie Castle guests:

Many of the Castle’s guests book a luxury multi-generational stay at Aldourie. Therefore, they are often looking for family-friendly places to eat when adventuring outside the five star property. The hotel based restaurant Chanterelle Kinkell  has just the right amount of everything you’d want from a dining venue. It has featured on many an itinerary of guests during their exclusive use stay at the Castle. And it’s not too far up from Inverness.

Aside from its name drawing in the crowds for its simple allure, Chanterelle Kinkell is a brand new restaurant. It offers dining throughout the day including lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Within a peaceful, stylish setting the restaurant provides a friendly atmosphere, well presented and delicious cuisine and a fine wine list, all alongside striking countryside views. What’s not to love?

Best places to eat for lunch in the Black Isle

Fortrose Café is a delightful place to stop off to have a tasty lunch if you’re travelling as a family. Conveniently placed on the high street it’s a high quality and friendly place to eat. It masterly combines a stylish, cosy atmosphere with great food. If you have little children with you during your exclusive use stay in Scotland, you can keep them entertained. The kids’ corner  is greatly appreciated while you sit back with a mug of freshly ground coffee. From cakes to light lunches and warming pies on a chilly spring day, you’ll find something for all your party. Dining here will set you on your way for an activity-fueled afternoon.

Aldourie also recommends Applecross Walled Garden not just for its charming location, which features beautiful flowers and wildlife. Whether you sit inside or out on the elegant garden chairs you can enjoy creatively prepared dishes, delectable afternoon teas and fruity homemade juices. Coupers Creek in Cromarty is a café-come-gift shop. Its nostalgic stripy tables perfectly complement the colourful Highlands gifts on sale. The tempting hot and cold sandwich menu also features traditional ice-cream sundaes and milkshakes.

Excellent seafood at the heart of the Black Isle

It depends what type of dining experience you prefer during your exclusive use stay in Scotland as to where we would recommend our guests book a table. Here we’ve selected a few seafood restaurants because in the Black Isle there’s nothing but water all around. Seafood is the speciality here so here are Aldourie’s top 3 seafood restaurants for exquisite food within a unique setting.

Sutor Creek in the historic town of Cromarty is famed for its wood-fired pizzas and tranquil harbour location. It is committed to serving locally sourced cuisine from the ‘Black Isle’s natural larder’. Dishes range from exceptional meats and vegetables to edible flowers and foraged mushrooms.

Looking to eat off the beaten track during your adventurous exclusive use stay in Scotland? Try SALT Seafood Kitchen in the heart of the long linear village of Achiltibuie, between Ross and Cromarty. This is a wonderfully Scottish-sounding restaurant in which to enjoy a true Scottish dish.

On the waterfront on the shores of Loch Carron sits Plockton Shores restaurant, a small friendly village eatery with heaps of local flavour. Enjoy a bowl of fresh mussels overlooking bobbing sailing boats, chirruping wildlife and the loch.

Beer drinking and dining at the Black Isle Bar

This famous tourist destination in the Highlands is a well-loved haunt for many exclusive use stay guests at Aldourie Castle. Predominantly a brewery specialising in world class organic beers brewed in the Highlands, it is also a stylish bar. The welcoming Black Isle Bar features all the Black Isle Brewery’s drinking produce. It also boasts a deliciously rustic food menu all produced from the on-site farm and other local organic suppliers. The tourist attraction is situated near Inverness as you approach the Black Isle. On your exclusive use stay in Scotland, you can either enjoy it going up to your destination or back down.

Why do exclusive use guests of Aldourie go there?

There are so many reasons why this place is such a popular tourist destination for those travelling to Scotland from overseas or the UK. The Brewery’s beer is its obvious pull – there’s nothing like grabbing a table here and rejoicing over a freshly pulled pint of craft beer and a wood-fired pizza and crisp salad. The perfect lunch. The popularity of the Black Isle Brewery could just as easily be its rags-to-riches start up story: unemployment led the determined David Gladwin to produce a world class beer in an environmentally-friendly way.  

Beer tasting at the Black Isle Brewery

What does the tour involve and what will you see and learn?

The Black Isle Brewery uses only the finest malt and hop grown on farms and without any chemicals, ‘just as nature intended’. It houses its own organic farm where it grow malting barley for brewing and even has a dedicated brewery house cow, who eats the malt from the brewery mash tun and in turn provides the brewery with 20 pints of fresh, creamy milk every day. On the tour you will venture outside to witness the brewery’s self-claimed ‘beautiful, unspoilt, unpolluted, wild, and more than a little bit wet, highland home’ that keeps its staff and owners very happy indeed.

Black Isle brews up to 10,000 litres of beer a day, which is then packaged in bottles, casks and kegs. It is later shipped all over Scotland, the UK and around the world from Sweden to Japan. The brewery makes a variety of beers including a wheat beer and a blonde ale. All the beers are organic and suitable for vegetarians, as they do not use isinglass in the brewing process.

Black Isle Brewery’s recommended beers for Aldourie guests during an exclusive use stay in Scotland:
Blonde
Goldfinch
L’ile Noire
Yellowhammer

As with any brewery or whisky distillery tour, there’s the opportunity to purchase what you’ve tasted as well as little trinkets and memorabilia perfect as Scottish Highlands gifts for back home or as a reminder of your exclusive use stay in Scotland. During the busy summer months tours run on average twice per hour. Please refer to the website for tour details and opening times: https://www.blackislebrewery.com/tours/

Now the entertainment and cuisine of the Black Isle has been catered for with this article we look forward to completing our Highlands tour with a look at some of the best towns and villages in the Black Isle. For more information on hiring our Aldourie Castle for an exclusive use stay on Loch Ness in Scotland please visit our ‘Contact’ page on the website.


Experience the Black Isle during an exclusive use stay in Scotland

The Black Isle is a peninsula in the Scottish Highlands, just north of Inverness. It’s a wonderful place to explore with family, friends or a loved one during an exclusive use stay in Scotland at Aldourie Castle. The Black Isle is surrounded by water on three sides. To the north is the Cromarty Firth, to the south the Beauly Firth and the Moray Firth marks its east. The Isle also has rivers to its west; water, water, everywhere. You can imagine the views to be had during a day of walking there.

Wildlife, woodland and water

This famous spot in the magnificent Highlands is home to nature and history in equal measure. So, there is lots more to see besides the stunning views that come with its many walks. The Black Isle is well known for its rich farmland and showcases neatly ploughed, lush green fields over-spilling with crops. This itself is enough to draw large numbers of tourists annually to the Black Isle Show, the largest agricultural show in the north.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Aside from farm animals, the Black Isle is home to a variety of Scottish wildlife. During your exclusive use stay in Scotland on Loch Ness, you may think Aldourie Estate is brimming with nature. But just wait till you get here! Watch the dolphins swimming and playing in the water or catch a glimpse of a deer or two wandering through shrubbery on land. The water is also home to otters and seals whilst some days the sky can be filled with soaring osprey.

The green landscapes are reinforced by the sprays of endless trees. Amongst the flora and fauna look for the towering Scots Pine, just one of three conifers native to the UK. Through all this woodland you can see Ben Nevis on a clear day.

An historic Highlands paradise

The Black Isle is also steeped in history with its fair share of castles, cairns, a cathedral and a host of museums. There are few holiday destinations that can offer such a large number of historical sites amongst such natural beauty. The Scottish Highlands always comes up trumps for this. The self-contained peninsula is home to numerous historical plots from different eras from Medieval to Georgian.

Kirkmichael Church has long been neglected and left to ruin but recently it has reopened to visitors, complete with a lovely cemetery to wander around. Guided tours will inform you of its local and associated families’ history. Redcastle was, until recently, one of the oldest inhabited houses in Scotland, with evidential links to William the Lion in 1179. This ruins creates a haunting skyline silhouette worth gazing at and gives some perspective to your exclusive use stay in Scotland in a luxury private Castle. Cromarty Courthouse, on the Isle’s museums, houses an excellent detailed exhibition including an audio tour for keen tourists.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Fabulous walking in the Black Isle

Just like the vast culture of the Black Isle there is a walk for everyone on this charming Highlands peninsula. This is in terms of both the length and the topography of walk. From short circular woodland ambles to long distance coastal trails, you can find something to suit you or your group. Take a look at the walking map and guide page of the Black Isle website which includes a detailed map ideal for planning your walking routes.

A highly challenging walk:
A favoured walk by exclusive use group stays is the 147-mile John O’Groats Trail. It conveniently starts at Inverness, home to Aldourie Castle, and ends at the pretty civil parish of Alness. This stunning but serious coastal walk is set in two stages and features a mix of shorelines, cliff tops and back lanes as well as the hallmark highland footpaths.

An easy walk:
During their exclusive use stay in Scotland many previous guests of Aldourie have enjoyed rambling through the country lanes of Rosemarkie. This is an enchanting village at the bottom of the aptly named Fairy Glen. Stop for a romantic picnic at the falls partway through the delightful wooded glen. Learn about its quaint intimate history as you stop at the spring then leisurely stroll past the pockets of floral parades.exclusive use stay in Scotland

An interesting walk:
McFarquhar’s Bed and Cave is a ‘there and back’ style walk combining coastal highlights and geology, with some climbing both ways. Groups of friends who’ve stayed at Aldourie Castle have enjoyed this walk over the years. This is because it captures a bit of everything but is great for the non-rambler who appreciates scenery. Expect to see seals and dolphins around the Moray Firth and historic gems in Cromarty village.

Towns ‘a must’ to visit in the Black Isle

Here is just a selection of places worth a visit, each with their own distinct heritage.

Fortrose is the largest town laying on the southern coast of the Black Isle. Architectural loves will appreciate its ornate Victorian buildings amongst its older history – Fortrose Cathedral was built in 1250 A.D. Follow the narrow twisting roads to its bonny harbour and secluded beach for quality time in a true Scottish Highlands town.

Avoch is a traditional and tranquil fishing village on the east coast with a long heritage. Fishing for herring and sprats in the Inverness and Beauly Firth provided much of the local living for the village which was to last over 100 years. Admire the old town, passing the fisherman’s dock and up Henrietta Street to see the row of low white-walled fisher cottages.

A day out in the Highlands during your exclusive use stay in Scotland is not complete without a little whisky on the side. Muir of Ord, home to the Glen Ord Distillery, features a thriving and dynamic community. The historical village boasts three churches and is a pleasant place to stop for lunch and a spot of shopping.exclusive use stay in Scotland

Look out for our blog post coming soon on the varied towns and villages of the Black Isle, which delve much deeper into those mentioned above.

The beauty of the Black Isle is yet another gem that the great Scottish Highlands has to offer both its locals and tourists. Exclusive use stays in Scotland become even more spectacular and exciting with wonderful places like this to visit. Make the very most of your luxury holiday on the shores of fabled Loch Ness by getting out and about off the Aldourie Estate for a day or two to explore the famous Black Isle and its much loved countryside, coast and villages.


January progress in the Castle grounds and gardens

What’s been happening on the Estate recently? The gardens have endured a rather cold winter and are currently either covered in snow or frozen at the moment. The consistent cold temperatures mean that it’s tricky to get really into the soil but our dedicated team of gardeners are not easily defeated and love a challenge so Aldourie’s Castle grounds and gardens are back to thriving as never before. Here you can see some stunning images taken by our head gardener, Duncan, during a magical snowfall on the Highlands’ Estate.Castle grounds and gardens

An enchanting winter walled garden

The glasshouses have a surreal feel about them when coated in snow and it gives exclusive use guests at the time such pleasure to walk amongst them. The Castle team are looking forward to spring and summer when the newly refurbished architecture can really come into its own for guests. It’ll then be warm enough for them to enjoy sitting, drinking and dining in the buildings whilst watching the world go by in the walled garden.

Here you see one of our lovely team members, Fe, planting a fruit tree in the Castle’s new orchard at Garden Cottage, situated just behind the walled garden. The orchard featured a variety of different plums, a few apples, a medlar, a quince and a damson. The wildflowers you see have since been cut but they will regrow in the spring.

Conservation at Aldourie continues to thrive

The orchard area is attached to the walled garden but forms the new garden for the cottage, which is a lovely little orchard with wildflowers growing under the trees, helping to attract pollinators. As always, Aldourie is striving to cultivate an estate in complete harmony with its main aim of conservation, by planting new and tending to the old. Come rain or shine, our gardening team is committed to conserving every inch of the 500 acre Estate.Castle grounds and gardens

You may recall Aldourie’s ambitious plans for the four main garden areas we developed over 2017. Part of this was to bulk plant across the woodland to increase our plant collection. Well, this work has indeed begun during the cold, wintry months of December and January. We have been planting approximately 400 new rhododendrons in the arboretum.

These comprise many varieties to build upon the collection we already have. See this beautiful image of the generous flower the moment they arrived at the Castle; an exciting moment for the passionate gardening team! Plans continue to add to the collection of colourful rhododendrons in the spring.

Aldourie gardening team expands for 2018

The other exciting news is that we have taken on a new Assistant Head Gardener, Chris Smart, so Aldourie Castle’s team has grown to four. Yes, we really do cover all that ground with this small but talented and capable team.  Chris joins Duncan, Sarah and Fe at the right time meaning he can settle in before the major planting of no fewer than 35,000 plants on the Castle grounds and gardens begins in spring.

Castle grounds and gardens

Just like the hospitality team inside the Castle the outdoors team is always having to make forward plans and be extremely organised. There is a set itinerary for each of the four spaces on the Estate. We need this in order to stick to the proposed time frame for the grounds and gardens project as it moves into its second year. “Once new planting begins in early March the team of four will be really busy planting, mulching and watering, etc. so I wanted to make sure we were ready for that,” says Duncan.

As winter turns to spring at the Castle on Loch Ness

From now on and over the next few weeks Aldourie’s gardening team are preparing the soil in the new beds for planting. We are also continuing to keep on top of the woodland garden – pruning and digging out all of the unwanted plants that have regrown. Soon, the contractors will be back on site to complete the architectural elements of the walled garden including hanging all of the gates, building and installing the fruit arches and cages and finishing the cold frames. The look of this thriving garden space will change yet again in no time.

We look forward to showing you more of the Castle grounds and gardens progress as it develops and comes into fruition. Keep a look out on our social media pages for snapshots of work in the gardens, which we continue to share with all our Aldourie followers.


The joy of soup in winter – Scottish castle dining

Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!

Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie.  Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.

Warming winter recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp olive oil sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ medium chilli
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 celery sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
pinch smoked paprika
2 pints veg/chicken stock
splash cream

 

Chop all the vegetables and sweat in a pan with olive oil. Add the stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add splash of cream.

Other traditional Scottish soups to try:

A soup is tastier if it is rich in ingredients and some of these Scottish traditional dishes are also particularly rich in proteins and vitamins.

Scottish Castle Dining

Bonfire Warmer Soup
Scotch Broth
Cullen Skink
Potato-Leek-Mushroom Soup
Scottish Oxtail Soup
Golden Vegetable Soup
Highland Chicken Soup
Haricot Bean Soup

Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?

Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!

The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.Scottish Castle Dining

When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?

You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.

Boat ride – during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.

Segway ride – the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.Scottish Castle Dining

Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.


Revitalised gardens and grounds heighten exclusive use experience

Aldourie Castle and Estate underwent some renovations during 2017. We are always looking to add to the exclusive use experience of our private guests and beauty of the Castle and Estate. We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl (we’ll cover this more in the next post), revitalised the old walled gardens and carried out further landscaping around the Castle. However, behind reviving this 17th Century exclusive use Estate, there’s a lot more meaning than initially meets the eye.

The gardens design team

The plan was to develop the gardens to create a fitting, high quality setting for the Castle. We employed a head gardener Duncan Hall, who is passionate about innovative landscaping for historic settings. Duncan and his dedicated team have been thrilled to work alongside landscape architect, garden designer and writer Tom Stuart-Smith, an inspirational leader in his field. Aldourie Castle Estate feels privileged to have Tom designing the revised estate including the four main garden areas (detailed below).exclusive use experience

Formal Garden: on the Castle’s doorstep

The main Castle Garden (to the west) creates a formal setting for Aldourie whilst hinting at playful associations with the property. The turret-inspired topiary trees and historic references like the planned fortress-inspired bastions are good examples of this. The already impressive space combines order with fun to heighten the exclusive use experience. The idea is for the garden to be used and enjoyed by private guests, despite its formal layout.

Walled Garden and Glasshouses: for ‘living off the Estate’

This garden has a rugged feel in comparison to the Castle garden and has been restored to a very high standard. It features attractive dry walls made with a local stone. As guests walk into it tey definitely feel as though it belongs in the highlands. Its central area is primarily for vegetable and fruit production (including high value crops and soft fruit). These are used to supply the castle kitchen as well as the other Wildland properties. Do you remember the 18th century glasshouses being restored in 2016? Now they also grow fruit and veg and are open for exclusive use guests to wander through.

exclusive use experience

Arboretum: historic discoveries through hard work

This has been a major renovation. The gardening team unearthed a fine tree collection dating back to the 19th Century. The Castle is now committed to nurturing them all. All design elements have been carefully planned, for example, the winding paths and interweaving plant patches at the foot trees. These will, in effect, guide Castle guests from one garden to another allowing no aspect of the arboretum to go undiscovered. The burial ground is also a significant historical feature. Tidying this area has helped to preserve its ornamentation and archaeological relevance.

Parkland: keeping it green

There are further plans afoot to create a landscape of wild meadow and Highland cattle. But for now, the parkland starts to rejuvenate with new trees. Guests will notice that an Estate railing clearly separates the Castle setting from the wider park.exclusive use experience

Head Gardener, Duncan, comments on the parkland design; “The new trees have breathed some life into the park, which is the first part of the Estate that guests will experience as they enter the main drive. Enticing views of different parts of the estate are revealed encouraging guests to explore, as well as stunning views across the wider landscape of Loch Ness.”

Focus is on the exclusive use experience

The landscape of Aldourie Castle and Estate is of outstanding scenic value. It’s therefore vital that the design and gardening work serves to enhance its beauty. It forms an archetypal Scottish Baronial scene highly visible from the northern shores of Loch Ness. One of the key reasons for revitalising the Castle and grounds was to compound the feeling, during an exclusive use experience, of staying in such a historically valued, spectacular location.

The initial warm welcome at the Castle now extends to the entirety of the 500 acre Estate. Guests are now encouraged to really discover the gardens, to explore and play, and feel the heritage beneath their feet. Regular pruning of tree branches in the walled garden will offer glimpses of the estate and wider landscape. This will entice exclusive use guests to wander further afield.exclusive use experience

The ‘farm to table’ aspect of this particular garden will also transcend to the guests’ experience. This will allow them the opportunity to pick their own fruit and veg for the Castle’s chef to cook that day. The idea is to reinforce the exclusive use experience at every opportunity. As a result, exploring the beauty and history of Aldourie Estate becomes an integral part of their stay.

Look out for our next instalment of the Revitalisation of Aldourie Castle & Estate. For more information on exclusive use of Aldourie please visit our Private Hire pages or contact the main office through our online contact form.