In our last blog post Aldourie Castle gave its 10 top tips on how to host the perfect summer garden party. We focused on all the key elements to create the ultimate outdoor party. As always we came back to the guests’ experience. This is something Aldourie as an exclusive use castle on Loch Ness Scotland considers above everything else. Here we complete our list and wish you luck and fun in hosting your own outdoor (or indoor) perfect summer garden party.
Choose the ‘right’ music
The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.
Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party
A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event.
Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.
Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…
Set the mood with lighting
The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy.
Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.
Prioritise comfort for your guests
Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.
You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.
Have a back-up plan
You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.
Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms. We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.
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.
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.
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.
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. Finally, 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.
There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.
Caber toss – great to start off your Games:
How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!
How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.
Stone put – a traditional sport:
How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds. Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.
Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:
How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.
Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:
How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.
How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.
Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):
How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.
Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.
Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds
For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?
It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.
Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds
You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following:
Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.
Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.
Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.
Plan your trip of a lifetime around one of Scotland’s most beautiful coastal routes. Book two exclusive use stays during a life-changing North Coast 500 Road Trip.
We want to tell you about a new driving route through the western Highlands of Scotland. One that is full of adventure and scenic views. It’s called the North Coast 500 a 516-mile (830.4 km) route, and takes you around the north coast of Scotland. The route both starts and ends at Inverness Castle and in this blog we suggest how best to enjoy Scotland’s very own Route 66. For instance why not start your journey with a luxury stay at the resplendent Aldourie Castle. It is the perfect opportunity to stop partway through your drive and relax and recharge. Both Aldourie and Kinloch estates are part of the Wildland group of property and what’s more, each is available all year round for private hire as luxury group accommodation.
When you take this trip you really do experience 500 miles of the best scenery that the North Highlands has to offer. The route itself runs from and to Inverness, and takes you through the heart of the Highlands heading up to the west coast and back via the rugged north coast.
How many miles is do-able in a day on the North Coast 500 Road Trip
Well it’s all about personal preference really and it depends on what kind of experience you want to have. For the sightseers amongst you, you may prefer to stop every 50 miles to appreciate the various famous landmarks. Whereas, if you are a keen motorcyclist or driver you might be interested in just racking up those miles in either your vintage car or your Harley!
Stay in your own castle on Loch Ness
Whatever mode of transport you’ve chosen to travel in along the North Coast 500 Road Trip, there’s plenty of outdoor space at Aldourie Castle to park up your vehicles. Ideally situated just six miles from Inverness, why not make Aldourie Castle your starting point for this epic adventure? After all, the 500 acre Highlands Estate is accessed off the main road into Inverness.
A warm welcome will greet you here at the castle with our dedicated hospitality team helping you settle in. They will take your luggage whilst you can then sit and enjoy a drink in the drawing room. Or, if it’s nice weather you might wish to sit out on the terrace. Aldourie is designed for exclusive use rentals only, so the property and immediate grounds are solely yours for the duration of your stay. Enjoy these first few days of your North Coast 500 Road Trip in your own luxurious holiday setting on Loch Ness. The Castle can accommodate up to 30 guests in 13 bedrooms. However, larger groups can spill into the four holiday cottages on the estate where necessary.
House party before road trip
Off site at Aldourie Castle Estate there are various ways to spend your days before you begin travelling up to the Highlands. For instance, there are the ruins of Urquhart castle, which can be easily reached by boat. Then there’s the numerous famous whisky distilleries where you can taste a wee dram of the good stuff. If you would rather head out in the car or on bike, you could visit Fort Augustus for its winding walks and hikes. At Dores Beach on Loch Ness and nearby, you’ll find quaint market towns and villages a short drive away – visit Beauly for a spot of local culture and shopping.
Back at your luxury base at Aldourie Castle you can organise any type of outdoor sport or activity. So there’s plenty for your exclusive use group to enjoy. Take advantage of being so close to Loch Ness and book onto the Nessie Hunter or a canoe ride against the magnificent Highlands backdrop. A stay at Aldourie is complemented by our five star catering cooked in house by the Castle’s chef. Why not book your own House Party Experience at Aldourie before setting off from Inverness to start your North Coast 500 Road Trip.
The Black Isle
The Black Isle is located just north of Inverness. Eathie Road is one of the most scenic roads of the North Highlands and from here you can actually see Ben Nevis. There are many sightseeing opportunities on the Black Isle including wonderful views of Fort George, bright green fields above the deep blue waters of the Moray Firth, and not to mention the chance to see dolphins at Chanonry Point. The Muir of Ord distillery is a must-see. Designated drives can take their whisky tasting samples with them to enjoy that evening. This is a great Scottish Highlands experience; read more about whisky tasting in the Scottish Highlands.
This is your next stop along the stunning highlands route boasting amazing scenery. Wester Ross is famous for its stunning mountains, glorious lochs and white sandy beaches. Travel along the Bealach Na Ba, a steep and winding stretch of road. This is a truly exciting route for experienced drivers and riders. Extravagant sights will ignite your senses for the start of a memorable road trip. Here you will find some useful information if you are planning to bike along the North Coast 500.
Ullapool is the main town of Wester Ross, a lively and friendly spot with a varied music scene. If you like your music festivals it’s well worth stopping here. Another great pit stop is the picturesque village of Aultbea located on the shoreline of Loch Ewe. Adrenaline junkies will revel in Wester Ross; take advantage of the varied outdoor activities strewn across the region.
The next leg of your journey will take you to Caithness; a hive of history, nature and landscapes. Its dramatic flat lands and skyline give it an otherworldly feel. The district itself has an adventurous soul being home to the village of John O’Groats, the starting point to the UK’s famous end-to-end journey to Land’s End. Once you arrive here you are well established into your North Coast 500 Road Trip. So, take some quality time to relax and discover, and devour some dramatic scenery on the very edge of Europe.
Caithness is an escapist’s dream. A fascinating heritage will enthral curious minds that want to learn as they travel whilst a breath-taking coastline will capture imaginations. If you’re interested in royal connections visit the Castle of Mey, the official holiday home of the late Queen Mother. On a clear day nature lovers may like to take the nice stretch of 71 miles in one go – Cape Wrath to Duncansby Head. Make sure you get off your bike/out of your car to witness the magnificent Dunnet Head, the northern tip of the UK.
This region makes up a significant portion of your North Coast 500 Road Trip and is full of beautiful jaw-dropping scenery. Northwest Sutherland boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and world famous beaches. Particularly seek out Achmelvich and Clachtoll for some scenic strolling. You can not the spectacular mountain ranges of this part of Sutherland.
The east coast is a real treat for golfers and here is home to the 18-hole championship Royal Dornoch golf course. Luxury lovers will meanwhile enjoy visiting the fairytale castle Dunrobin, the seat of the Earl and Clan of Scotland. Spend a few hours if you wish admiring the stunning formal gardens and experiencing falconry up close. If nature is one of the reasons for your luxury North Coast 500 Road Tripwildlife can be found at the RSPB Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, which serves to exhibit and preserve the peatlands of Scotland.
Kinloch Lodge, Sutherland – group catered stays
This exclusive use location offers solitude and comfort in the wild, magnificent setting of Sutherland. Kinloch Lodge is available all year round for private rental by one group/booking. A private holiday here is best enjoyed with a group of family or friends. It is all about appreciating nature, good food and company. Whilst at the same time, residing in a remote, rural paradise. Laidback luxury and tranquility come hand-in-hand, making it easy to nurture friendships or spend quality time. There is no need to lift a finger as the lodge has a private chef. Here we sourc only fresh, local produce. There is also a hospitality team as well as a head keeper to help organise any outdoor experiences.
Kinloch was originally the private lodge of the Duke of Sutherland. It’s a classic sporting property that has been newly refurbished in a Scandi-Scot style. The interior has been inspired by its outdoor setting with lots of wooden furnishings, natural colour schemes and open stone fireplaces. Generous, light living spaces allow for time alone with a good book whilst cosy corners invite fireside chats over a glass of wine. You can also, admire the rugged open landscape of Ben Loyal during dinner in the conservatory. Then again you can make yourself at home in beautifully decorated spacious bedrooms as well.
The unspoiled landscape of Sutherland
This hideaway from the real world is ideal for your second exclusive use stay during your memorable North Coast 500 road trip. You are surrounded by miles of land to roam and explore. So, whilst you’re on foot make the most of your idyllic setting. This area is vast and full of landmarks and attractions, history, shopping and culture. Before you take the last leg of your NC500 road trip why not spend some quality time in Sutherland and enjoy the remoteness of Kinloch Lodge?
On the second morning waking up to a stunning view of Loch Ness we were compelled to experience in more depth the most famous expanse of water in the world. We drove to Fort Augustus, our starting point, via the scenic route so as to take in the spectacular and majestic sights of the Highland hills towering over lakes and forests. This was not without its own set of events, however. Just ten minutes from our destination we came to an abrupt halt; the strong winds that had taken Scotland by storm (pardon the pun) over the past few weeks had resulted in thousands of tall trees being lifted from their roots and strewn across forest floors, woodland and even roads. One absolutely huge tree seemed strategically placed across the B road we were travelling on stopping any major access. Although the van on the other side of its path was forced by logistics to turn around we decided there was just enough room to drive underneath the felled tree, and we were soon on our way again after taking some photos of this unusual sight.
Once at Fort Augustus we realised that March was a quieter time for tourists and we looked forward to a peaceful trip on the cruise boat, Nessie Hunter, to take in the wonders of Loch Ness. It just so happened a coach load of tourists turned up for the 1pm ride and we were part of a crowded but highly enjoyable boat cruise led by an expert team, who kept reminding us not to feed Nessie!
After an hour of high winds, fresh air and a good old traditional hunt for the Loch Ness Monster we ticked off another exhilarating experience in the Scottish Highlands. A boat ride on Loch Ness certainly works up an appetite so an exceptionally tasty sandwich lunch by fireside at cosy Lochside Inn was most welcome and it prepared us for a serene but steep three hour walk in the Fort Augustus hills.
Later, entering the Aldourie Estate by moonlight, we spotted three Roe deer playing in Pier Cottage garden, a wonderful sight for tired eyes and an almost magical moment as they scampered off into the trees as we approached. The warmly lit country kitchen was a welcoming tonic from the cool air outside so we settled in for the night reminiscing and planning over a romantic candlelit dinner.
A day of culture
Another day of activities ahead, after a hearty breakfast we set off to visit the historic Fort George, a large 18th Century fortress near Ardersier to the north-east of Inverness. Fort George is still in use today as army barracks and a popular visitor attraction of the Scottish Highlands. We parked up at the Fort, just across the road from the shoreline, with the roaring tides even late morning crashing up the stone walls below. This wind was incredible! We enjoyed a few hours here experiencing the recreations and exhibits before heading to Glen Ord Distillery for a whisky tour and a few tastes of the Highlands’ famous malt.
So, we travelled to the west of the Black Isle through bracing winds but with a beautiful blue sky above. The tour was interesting, starting in the visitor centre then heading in and out of large spaces to see the distilling process step by step; we had been on two whisky tours before but Glen Ord was the most insightful; the tour even taught us about cooperage, the making of the whisky barrels, and the profession of a cooper. After the detailed tour we had a whisky tasting of a 12, a 15 and 18 year old whiskies, which warmed our cockles and sent us on our way to our final destination, Beauly.
Beauly, meaning “beautiful place” is a Scottish town in Inverness-shire. It’s quite a small town but perfectly formed and there we enjoyed a delicious deli coffee and a walk around the picturesque Beauly Priory ruins. Later that evening, it was back to Dores Inn for a fish dinner and some local beer.
At one with nature
On our final morning we took Aldourie Castle’s pet dog, Loch Ness Lizzie, for a walk in the Castle grounds. Lizzie leading the way we explored the Estate more thoroughly, starting in the forest-thick arboretum she climbed up the treehouse, swam in Loch Ness and showed us the family graveyard. We then ran across the parkland to the marina and back to the greenhouses where Sarah the gardener was hard at work putting into place plans to create a new look for the gardens. From fruit trees to rose arches and topiary lined paths to tending clusters of snow drops and developing a mini orchard, there were big plans afoot for Aldourie’s gardens. Lizzie tried to help but really only managed to make a mess. Sarah, patting her gently, was evidently used to her regular (possibly daily) contributing efforts in the garden and seemed unfazed by the soil that came flying her way as Loch Ness Lizzie tried to bury her stick.
We spotted Garden Cottage peeking through the trees and as we walked back to our own private Highlands hideaway to get ready to go home we passed Gate Lodge on the corner, which had an impressive view of Aldourie Castle in all its glory. We hoped the guests staying in each had enjoyed as wonderful a holiday in the Scottish Highlands as we had and experienced their own Aldourie cottage adventure.
Spend Easter break with family and the Loch Ness Monster
What could be more fun than spending sunny spring on the bonnie banks of Loch Ness with your favourite people, surrounded by the magnificent Scottish Highlands and gorging on chocolate eggs? No, we can’t think of anything either. So, why not do something different for Easter 2015 and make a memorable adventure out of this world famous holiday…
Aldourie Castle is used to having people wander through its huge wooden doors, inviting in the new and welcoming back old guests, just as if the unique wilderness-borne mansion house was made for family house parties. Well, actually, it was. Originally a lowly house in the middle of the baron Scottish Highland hills seeing many a boisterous clan battle go back and forth, it was reclaimed and made into something much more special (read our Highland History blog post here).
Ever since that day, Aldourie Estate has been devoted, give or take a few years during the inevitable refurbishments of the Castle – there’s only so much partying these medieval floors can take – to hosting small family get-togethers, grand parties and even lavish society balls. Aldourie was the Highlands venue of its time and in its heyday enjoyed much more fame than it does now. But that’s the way we like it; nowadays this enchanting and inspiring tucked-away Castle is a secret paradise just waiting to be found.
Now the short history lesson is over, here’s just a few reasons why staying in the wonderland world of Aldourie for a special holiday such as Easter weekend, will bring your family closer and, do not doubt, bring you sheer contentment for your entire stay.
#Adventure and #experiential travel are big trends this year, into 2016 and beyond. But, instead of joining the masses why not do something totally unique and stay in a place where many a celebrity finds sanctuary and where families and groups of friends travel from the other side of the world to stay? Indeed, Aldourie can tell a few stories. Wouldn’t you like to hear them first hand? It would make a change from the usual bedtime reading for the kids. There is so much to experience at Aldourie – let it become a part of their childhood. Don’t miss out on Easter family fun and adventures that can go down in your own family history; after all, Scotland was voted one of the top three places to holiday in the Lonely Planet Awards 2014.
There are thousands of luxury travel hotels to try out; each better, more unique and luxurious than the next. But think about Easter; a special time of year. A time you want to cherish with your children and their grandparents, see imaginations run wild as they gorge on too much chocolate on Easter morning. A private hire Castle offering everything and more than a hotel, can provide something extra special: luxury bedrooms with four poster beds each with individual character and style, walk in showers as big as most bathrooms, original staterooms with comfort and beauty but with an informal welcoming feel and the largest back garden in the Highlands. Enter Aldourie and the whole castle is yours to enjoy; no time restraints, no set meal times, nothing is out of bounds. Be at your leisure over Easter and enjoy all the fun, beauty and relaxation it can bring.
Over Easter weekend, children can play in the parkland and you can still keep a watchful eye on them through the huge Drawing Room windows. Kids can go out into the woodland exploring the wildlife there with the Castle’s very own pet dog, Lizzie. A private luxury castle can afford to dedicate an entire hospitality team for your needs; we can set up treasure hunts throughout the historic Scottish Highlands Estate, private boat rides on the world famous Loch Ness (which you can actually access from the Castle’s personal marina and pier) to spot legendary Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, and traditional outdoor fun for all the family from archery to zorbing and even bagpipe lessons. The Estate’s massive home-built treehouse and ancient family graveyard then offer alternate adventures for those with big imaginations.
A Scottish Castle fit for a King that is lucky enough to be available for private hire holidays is somewhere families can go to relax, enjoy good food and fun times in one another’s company. Multi-generational stays ensure quality time with family and family friends and what better place to spend Easter weekend than a historic, beautiful and homely property with luxury rooms, fresh air and Scottish adventure on its doorstep.
Aldourie Castle Estate’s Easter Weekend special rate stay is available to individual or group bookings for a minimum of 3-nights.