10 tips for hosting the perfect summer garden party

As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.

Consider your guest list

When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.

Have a theme to focus on

The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.

Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.

Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting

Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…

Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party

You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience. The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.

Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!

Create pretty flower displays

Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.

Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.

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.


Private anniversary celebrations with family and friends – in a Castle far, far away

Keep the romance alive whilst throwing the party you’ve always dreamed of. Aldourie Castle is brimming with secret stairways and cosy corners for the perfect anniversary retreat, with a twist…

Your Ruby wedding anniversary was a different story; a quiet country hotel with just a few rooms, each taken by different couples most likely away on their own anniversaries. Anonymous yet intimate, but sort of passé, don’t you think? So, now that it’s your Golden anniversary, instead of staying in a beautiful setting full of strangers, why not create your unique paradise in an exclusive use property with those closest to you. After all, this is a very personal time in your life and it’s your time to shine.

spiral staircase Aldourie Scottish Castle

Romance at its heart

As you wind down the drive to Aldourie you realise one thing; that you have never arrived at anywhere quite like it. And you never will again. What better thought to start off your anniversary celebrations? With an imposing castle door, stately rooms and beautiful castle grounds, the scene is set for a romantic getaway.

Magnificent setting​ easily accessible

But let’s not forget the reason you’re here – to celebrate! Aldourie oozes enough charm, ambiance and style to rival any regal place. So, spoil your guests with luxurious surroundings, bedrooms fit for royalty and food of the highest order. Here, you’re all left to enjoy the Castle and Estate in your own way and in your own time.

With just the sounds of wildlife at your door you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re miles away from anywhere. In fact, the main road to Inverness is just outside the Castle walls and direct flights go from London Heathrow to Inverness airport daily. This means a private hire Castle in the Scottish Highlands is a lot more accessible than you would at first think.

Anniversary Celebrations Aldourie Castle ScotlandCelebrate in your own style

Anniversary celebrations come in all shapes and sizes. So there’s no reason to stick to something tried and tested just because it works. Trust us; everything works and anything goes at Aldourie. But by all means be led by recommendation. What would we suggest? Drinks and canapes in the Drawing Room, an elegant feast in the Dining Room featuring the best of Scottish cuisine, followed by a party in the Main Hall. If a summer anniversary celebration, your guests can overspill onto the lawn that reaches down to Loch Ness.

Note: Ceilidhs certainly vamp up any party especially if you hoped to accompany your traditional Scottish Castle with traditional dance and music. And night caps are best enjoyed in the library against the backdrop of bookshelves and dark wood. But don’t be surprised if the wanderers amongst your party decide to stray and find themselves stargazing from an inviting-looking window seat or roaming portrait-laden passageways looking for a wardrobe that leads to a whimsical wintry world. The beauty of a great inner hall Aldourie Scottish Castlecelebration at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is the possibilities it creates.

Party atmosphere

Whether you stay for a weekend or two weeks for your special celebration, rest assured your every whim can be catered for. You may wish to have one main party evening to celebrate your anniversary with a host of activities strewn throughout your stay. We can organise any activity, from Charades around the fireplace to a full blown Nessie hunt on Loch Ness.

An exclusive Highland Castle such as Aldourie can inspire a traditional Anniversary Party Celebration to exceed itself. And the beauty of that? It’s likely to become one of your best memories of all because it includes all your favourite people.

 


A castle or cottage; where would you rather stay?

On the southern shores of Loch Ness in the magic setting of the Scottish Highlands there is a place where two of the most different kinds of holidays exist within moments of each other.  On these beautiful historic grounds sit four characterful holiday cottages with private gardens. But there is also a large and luxurious exclusive use property. From relaxed and cosy short break cottage stays to grand and luxurious family house party holidays, you don’t need to venture far if you wish to sample the other.

The best thing about a cosy cottage

The type of holiday you will experience in a cottage is one of cosiness, simple living and creature comforts. The holiday cottages are laid out with ease of use and practicality in mind. Enjoy spacious, clean lined rooms but on a much smaller scale than the Castle. Each lounge has a comfy sofa, a television, DVD player, coffee table and armchairs. Windows are delicately framed with country style or Highland inspired curtains. When the evenings draw in or a rain cloud forms above, turn on the lamps for ultimate ambiance.ivy cottage aldourie estate loch ness Cottage

Self-catered cottage stays require a bit of forward planning. You will need to clock where the nearest supermarket is and decide whether you will shop for the week or each day. Note the local pubs and what time they serve food until- just in case you’re caught short or arrive home later than planned from a Scottish Highland attraction or walk.


Out and about on a Highland Estate

The great outdoors is yours for the taking on the Aldourie Estate. Wander down to the shoreline of Loch Ness for a beach stroll. Or head towards the woods for wildlife spotting, dog walking or a gentle jog. Family cottage stays are great fun at Aldourie. Children can explore the Estate at their leisure from hide and seeking in the woods, swimming or paddling in the Loch to cycling the many trails around the Scottish Estate.Aldourie Castle, loch ness -68 Cottage

It’s perhaps best to loosely plan your week ahead in order to make the most of the stunning Highland scenery and the surrounding attractions. Primae examples include whisky distilleries and historical villages and towns. Back at base, find yourselves having a barbecue in pretty, scenic gardens brimming with the season’s best flowers.

How exclusive use properties lure group stays

Join the growing luxury travel market and book a group stay with friends, a family reunion house party or private celebration in a beautiful Scottish Castle like Aldourie. Within moments you’ll be wandering the corridors as if you’ve always lived there. This is because hospitality and a warm, friendly atmosphere is at the heart of any exclusive use stay in Scotland.

Expect higher ceilings than a holiday cottage or Highland inn and possibly most modern hotels. Grand entrances, lobbies and wide hallways give you ample room to move and take in the exquisite decorative detail on walls, floors and ceilings. You could easily while away an evening idling from room to room, admiring the many hundreds of portraits and historic references as you go.aldourie castle portraits Cottage

Exclusive hire properties such as privately let Aldourie Castle provide a catered stay to suit your group’s requirements. An in house chef creates, prepares and cooks all your meals throughout your stay. Aldourie Castle’s chef is careful to choose fresh, seasonal Scottish produce. We aim to top any previous dining experience the private party or individual group booking may have had.

Bespoke activities for exclusive use parties

The hospitality team at an exclusive use property can organise any activity for your private party, day or night. This is unlike a short break in a Loch Ness cottage where you are responsible for creating your own fun. The surrounding 500 acre Estate combines many elements all of which are available to use and enjoy. Take a trip to the private marina for a boat ride on Loch Ness or spend an afternoon playing archery in the park. Multi-generational holidays in Scotland can book their own falconry days to experience the very best of Scottish wildlife. So, why lift a finger during a stay in a private hire property when you can concentrate on exploring beautiful rooms or simply relaxing in them.Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots Cottage

No need to venture out into the wilderness of the Highlands to find a drinking hole. We can arrange wine tasting or whisky tasting ‘back at home’ in the Castle. Perhaps after you’ve taken in the view over Afternoon Tea al fresco on the terrace, which faces the calming loch and majestic hills.

NEXT TIME we let you in on a secret – how the Castle and Cottages on Aldourie Estate can work together to bring you the most memorable holiday of a lifetime.


A dog’s role on a Scottish Castle Estate

It really is ‘a dog’s life’ when home is a Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s find out what this Castle dog’s daily routine is really like. After all, all play and no work makes Loch Ness Lizzie a restless pooch – and we wouldn’t want that…

Watching for guests’ arrival
One of Lizzie’s very first jobs after she wakes up in the morning is to go out to the main gate of Aldourie Estate and wait for the day’s guests to arrive. This could be an exclusive use family house party who are taking over the Castle as their own home for a week, some corporate guests coming to set up a business meeting or even a group of cyclists who have booked one of the four holiday cottages on Loch Ness for a cycling weekend.At the main gate Scottish Castle Estate

Meet and greet
Once she has clocked their arrival Lizzie is highly trained at directing the cars and bikes to their allocated ‘home’ and helping Aldourie’s guests settle in. The experienced pooch tends to take the short cut across the lawns whilst private groups of families and friends staying at the Castle stick to the main drive so as not to lose their way – and make more of a grand entrance. They soon realise however that being met and greeted at the Castle or Aldourie cottages is a very informal process and that, despite the grandeur of this historic Highland Estate, guests are made to feel right at home at Aldourie straight away.

Fetching and carrying
It’s a busy life for a Castle Dog; no sooner has Lizzie shown our new arrivals to the impressive Castle door or down the garden path into their idyllic Highland cottage on Loch Ness then it’s time to grab their luggage and take it inside. If the Castle guests are part of a group booking where bedrooms have been pre-designated Lizzie consults her trusty list and makes sure that each suitcase is dropped off in the correct bedroom. (Of course, sometimes nature intervenes, and the highly clever retriever forgets what she was going to pick up and opts for the nearest stick).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots Scottish Castle Estate

Making sure guests are settling in
So, you’ve arrived at your luxury holiday destination in beautiful Scotland and unpacked all your belongings needed for a short break in the Highlands or a week long house party celebration in a Castle with family and friends. If you’re staying in one of the tranquil holiday cottages on the quiet Estate you’ve no doubt made a cup of steaming coffee from the coffee machine and sat down in front of the fire ready to plan your short break.

If you’re staying in the Castle overlooking the majestic Scottish Highlands and magical Loch Ness waters you’ve likely requested a bottle of champagne and are currently enjoying bathing in your roll top bath whilst admiring the scenic outdoor views from your en suite window. Then there’s a tap at the door. It’s only Lizzie with her courtesy call to make sure you and your party of guests have settled in well enough and to check whether you need anything. Bless her furry paws.

In charge of ‘fun’ and games
Here’s another example of Lizzie getting distracted and not completing her previous job before starting a new one. Being responsible for organising the fun activities both on and off the Highland Estate, either inside or outside the Castle, is something Lizzie takes a great deal of pride in. Liaising with Aldourie’s trusted suppliers in order to arrange unique and exciting activities such as archery in the grounds or a boat ride on Loch Ness for guests to enjoy is no mean feat. (No, Lizzie, that’s ‘mean feat’ not ‘meat treat’ – you can have one of those later. When you finish all your jobs).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots n Paddles Scottish Castle Estate

Organising Highland walks
One of the most popular and enjoyable ways to spend your time on the Aldourie Estate in Scotland is to borrow a pair of Hunters wellies from the Castle and take an adventure through the lush woodland. With 500 acres to explore no route you take will ever be the same in this unique place near Inverness. Some of our parties of guests who take exclusive use of Aldourie Castle are happy to get lost in the arboretum stumbling across the wooden Nessie and ambling along to the private marina to gaze out across the mesmerising Loch. Other like to have a structured route and know exactly what time they are going to return to their dwelling for dinner. That’s when we ask Lizzie to lend a hand and act as tour guide showing people the short cuts and most scenic spots making sure to incorporate a trip to the tree house, family graveyard and pretty gardens.Near Pier cottage spotting wildlfe Scottish Castle Estate

Maintaining the grounds and gardens
Speaking of the gardens at Aldourie, there is much to maintain that sometimes our gardeners need a bit of support to do the manual jobs whilst they concentrate on landscaping and making each area functional and pretty – or both.

Lizzie is always ready with her outdoorsy nature to jump on the lawnmower and take an hour out of her otherwise busy schedule to keep the Aldourie grounds in good shape. She particularly likes this job because the weather has to be dry so she tends to get a clear view of Aldourie Castle; her favourite place in the world…


Explore the Highlands from a real Winter Wonderland on Loch Ness

A Scottish Highland Estate on Loch Ness – is it really the perfect retreat during winter months? One read of our New Year blog and you’ll be in no doubt of it. As 2016 lifts its head let us open your eyes to the mystical winter wonderland of a true Scottish Castle…

Scottish wildlife in many forms

Walk the parkland and traipse the trails of this fine 500 acre Estate in Scotland and you will soon discover fauna at every turn. From pine martens in the trees to wildfowl on the Loch the beauty of Scotland’s distinct nature unfolds before you letting you into its secret winter paradise. Photographers frequent the Estate at this time of year hoping to catch a glimpse of the Red Squirrel or a scarpering Mountain Hare if the snow has fallen from the Highland hills.Aldourie Castle Estate roe deer - Explore the Highlands

Luckily for Aldourie’s exclusive parties of guests, roe deer on the Castle Estate can be seen all year round so a winter walk on Loch Ness and through the trees could lead to a picture perfect scene – especially if the parkland is laden with a gentle covering of frost.

Woodland retreats

The secret woodlands of Aldourie are home to many surprises, some so small you may miss them – but no need to worry, if you read on all will be revealed. Right in the middle of the Castle’s arboretum lies a little haven where guests can sit together and light a campfire, toasting marshmallows and their well-clad feet whilst sipping warming spiced cider in winter. Look out for Aldourie’s very own wooden Nessie, a spectacular carving made from an old oak lying horizontally across your path.

Further into the wooded winter wonderland you’ll come across the towering tree house boasting mesmerising views across a scenic Loch Ness and Highland peaks. This is a great place for children to safely experience the great Scottish outdoors, let their imaginations run wild and we guarantee some fresh wintry air to fill their lungs.Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness treehouse Explore the Highlands

Maybe the romantics among you would like to walk the shoreline from one side of the Highland Estate to the other, finally arriving at Aldourie’s private pier that juts out into Loch Ness. Or take the adventurous route through ethereal woodland coming to a clearing where you eventually spot the peaceful marina dotted with bobbing boats that have been moored up for the winter.

Festive food and warming winter treats

Once you’ve made the most of the great outdoors here in Scotland’s mystical Highlands we invite you to sample the finest food and drink this country has to offer in the chilly, festive winter months. From succulent meats and decadent desserts to fish fresh from Loch Ness on our doorstep the Castle can make you feel as relaxed in the heights of Scotland as you would settled around your own dining table back home.Aldourie Castle Exclusive Use Afternoon Tea Explore the Highlands

Family and friends can gather around the traditional Lairds’ Room in front of a roaring fire or sit cosily together in the Red Drawing Room with seasonal meat sandwiches, local cheeses and rich cakes as part of our fine Afternoon Tea offering.

Later, wash down your daytime treats with a glass of the finest single malt whisky straight from the Highlands’ favourite distilleries.