6 Highlands plants to spot holidaying on Loch Ness

Holidaying in Loch Ness is full of rich horticulture thanks to its tended parks and gardens, wild woodland and landscaped Highland estates. Every inch of soil here is treasured by locals and tourists, not to mention the keen conservationists who are committed to nurturing Scotland’s wildland.

Through conservation and a thriving habitat the wild hills of the Scottish Highlands continue to bloom. The landscape is a huge part of tourism and people come to see its formal garden displays and its majestic wild terrain what ever the weather. From sprays of daffodils on forest floors to beautiful rose gardens that surround old castles to cascading heather billowing off coastal cliff sides, Scotland is a country of colour. Of course, when Spring comes it can seem that there are way more flowers and colours then any other time of year.

Here, we look at the flowers that create the most splendid, colourful and delicate displays right through to the gritty heart of Scotland’s natural landscape. The variety is vast and the effects are spectacular. Continue reading for some visionary wonders that will really get you in the mood for spring.Holidaying on Loch Ness

Gorse – spectacular hillside hedge-like flower

Gorse is a common type of flower and is widely seen in sandy, coastal soils and thin upland soils. It begins flowering occasionally during the late autumn season and continues to bloom throughout winter until flowering fully in spring. It’s hillside appearance differs from the flower seen up close. All together, gorse has a real shrubbery effect as if covering everything in its vicinity. However, if you look at this flower up close, it really is the most delicate and feminine looking flower. Evergreen gorse is tough, thorny and an excellent windbreak against the cold Scottish sea spray. However, its pretty buttercup yellow petals also makes it the prettiest countryside backdrop.

In Scotland, farmers traditionally use gorse as a winter feed for cows, ponies and other livestock. And its party trick? It exudes a scent similar to that of a coconut when in full flower.

Heather- Ling and Bell have different needs

Looking for that world famous purple spray across wild highland hills? Then you’re best searching out heather ling, also known as the native Scottish heather. This billowing and resilient evergreen mountain plant provides a comforting and nostalgic scene. Despite it seeming tough, the heather ling must be planted in a water-retentive soil and be given an annual trim in order to thrive in all weathers. Heather Ling flowers from July to September making it a Scottish Highlands summer holiday postcard favourite.Holidaying on Loch Ness

The Bell heather has brighter purple/magenta blooms, and is normally found in high and rocky places. It’s more at home planted in thin, gritty soil with high drainage. The Bell Heather normally blooms slightly earlier than the ling variety. In the wild, they often co-exist, with ling lining the damp hollows of rocks, and the bell inhabiting the drier areas. Should your holiday be in the Highlands during winter, rest assured you will be able to find hardier heather varieties that bloom during the cold season.

Cross-Leaved Heath – pretty blooms brighten boggy Scotland soil

Heath is a rarely found relation of heather, even though this flower also thrives in wet soil landscapes. In its ideal setting of soggy and muddy areas, heath produces mid-pink blooms at the tip of the stems. It offers a generous flowering period between June and October. A historic thought? Charles Darwin theorised that this specie might be partly-carnivorous, due to it possessing glands. However, later research suggests that these flowers were more likely to help the heath cling to its exposed surroundings in high winds.

Scottish Bluebell thrives most of the year

The name even sounds beautiful, however, in Scotland the Bluebell is more formally known as the Harebell, and is not to be mistaken for the English bluebell. Aesthetically, it is generally bushier and features delicate, branching stems and larger, bluish-purple bell-shaped blooms. Unlike its English cousin, (which flowers in woodland shaded areas), the Harebell is adapted to poor, moorland soil. It is mostly seen mainly in the dry upland areas as opposed to hidden trails.

Holidaying on Loch Ness

Thankfully, the English bluebell is very common in Scottish woodlands. This benefits Scottish holiday makers who want to appreciate both plants, which are accessible in various tourist spots, including formal Scottish gardens. The bluebell flowers continuously from late spring into autumn.

Interestingly, the harebell is under threat from the introduction of the new Spanish bluebell. The Spanish bluebell is much more aggressive in its reproduction. Conservationists have worked hard in preserving what should really be termed the British bluebell, which is now protected by law.

Scottish Flame Flower

This spectacular climbing flower is thought to have come to Scotland in the 19th century. The Scottish Flame flower has roots that go all the way to Peru. This plant has become so loved here in Scotland that ‘Scottish’ has been added to the name. This romantic flame flower can be found cascading down the walls of old Highlands gardens.

This striking plant can grow up to three metres tall and its extravagant scarlet petals bloom in the late summer season. You can expect this plant to flower from July to September, and during autumn you can expect to see the arrival of  luscious blueberries. A cooler summer is the ideal environment for this Scottish plant and it thrives in shaded, moist, peaty soils. Once it has established itself it is here to stay. The flame flower is edible and would be the ideal addition to Aldourie Castle Estate’s walled garden. Our Chef would love to pick this for his artisan style fruit or green salads.

The Scotch Thistle

Where England has the rose, Scotland’s national flower is the thistle. However less beautiful by far, there’s no denying its resilient and unique nature. It’s a true symbol of Scotland and we are proud to feature it as part of the design on our  website.  The Scottish thistle grows tall, and strong as well as growing up to five feet in height. Once upon a time the thistle was  regarded as a weed, but most gardener’s now recognise it as a flower.

The thistle would be perfectly placed in the Aldourie Estate’s arboretum or woodland, for a wild, fairytale look. The thistle is naturally happiest in poorer soils, waste ground and roadsides. Despite its name, is quite rare in Scotland! There are of course other thistles that can be found more readily in the Scottish Highlands,  and are most commonly known as the Melancholy Thistle. This plant elegantly overlaps purple-edged sepals, with reddish-purple florets. Keep an eye out for these flowers along your Highland country walks.

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.