Discover unique Scottish Highlands wildlife during an exclusive use castle stay

Wildlife bathroom, decorated in an artist’s drawings depicting the variety of animal life guests may spot on a Loch Ness holiday at the Estate at Aldourie Castle, is just another example of the uniqueness of this Scottish Highlands property, available only for private hire.Highland Castle Estate

An exclusive stay at Aldourie certainly brings you closer to Scottish wildlife; from its walled kitchen garden abundant in insects busying themselves from flower to flower, to the arboretum, a sanctuary for birds and red squirrel, to striding through long grass across wide, open parkland where you quietly seek out rabbits and deer in their private habitats.

Take a woodland walk and follow the line of flight of a bird of prey soaring high above the tall trees. During a private stay on a Loch Ness holiday you may sight some more unusual wildlife such as the cuckoo or the pine marten. Roe deer are such gentle, beautiful creatures who bring calm and instant joy to the watcher. Through Aldourie’s commitment to conservation we shall encourage wildlife to thrive on this Highlands Estate for generations to come.

Although our magnificent Estate boasts some wildlife treasures guests are encouraged to venture further afield in order to truly experience Scotland’s amazing and wonderful wildlife in a variety of landscapes. From the coasts to the mountain tops, we are privileged to share this landscape with a variety of incredible animals.

Otter

As elusive a mammal as the pine marten the otter is hard to pin down. Can be spotted on the west coast seashore of Scotland during the day. It’s over a two hour drive to Kylerhea, a village on the east coast of the stunning and mesmerising Isle of Skye, but once you’re on a Loch Ness holiday in the Scottish Highlands everywhere is a drive away! It depends how keen you are to spot an otter in Scotland!

Mostly active at night, they are best spotted in sheltered bays in the late evening or early morning. Head out at low tide and you may be rewarded with the sight of a female and her cubs scouring the rock pools for crabs and other crustaceans. Delightfully playful, otters are a genuine treat for those lucky enough to spot one.

Sea eagle

Located in Find Horn Valley 26 miles from a Loch Ness holiday

Extinct from Scotland until the 1970s when a Norwegian breeding pair were released on the Isle of Rum, the white-tailed or sea eagle has firmly re-established itself along the west coast. There are several pairs on Mull, which is generally regarded as the best place to see them but with their huge range they can be spotted anywhere along our western coasts and beyond. Generally scavengers, sea-eagles will also take small rabbits and fish. They are easily distinguished from other birds of prey by their huge wing span which can reach 2.5 metres, and from the golden eagle by their distinctive white tail feathers.

Pine marten

North of Inverness you don’t have to travel far just opt for the forest trails. The pinewoods of Strathspey and and parts of the Black Isle (blog link)This tiny forest-dwelling mammal is now find right across the Highlands and, being largely nocturnal, is best spotted on the late, light nights of summer. Pine martens are adept at hunting and can take down red squirrels with ease. They are also expert climbers scavengers and are not immune to raiding compost and rubbish bins as well as stealing treats left out for garden birds.

Minke whales

Moray Firth in May or June

One of the most commonly spotted of our native whales, minkes are found right across the west coast. Best spotted in calm seas and sunshine – when their breaching backs glint off the sun – minke whales are a sight to behold. Growing up to nine metres long, they are frequent visitors to the seas around the Small Isle of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Minkes feed on fish, squid and krill, which they gulp into their huge mouths and filter. Inquisitive mammals they often approach boats and can breach beside them as they breathe through their blowholes. Beware though, their breath is not the most pleasant.

Deer

One of the most iconic of all Scotland’s mammals, deer, especially red deer are found throughout the Highlands and are easily spotted on rough moorland and the edges of forests. Unfortunately, they are also especially fond of roads but the sharp-eyed driver will spot the reflection of their eyes before any damage is caused. In summer, stags will be sporting their newly-grown, velvet-covered antlers in preparation for the autumn rut when they will battle for dominance of the herd and the right to breed with the hinds, as the females are known.

Red squirrel

These delightful creatures are our native squirrel and were once prevalent throughout the UK. Now, however, they have lost out to the non-native grey squirrel in most of the country but continue to thrive in the Highlands. At home in the coniferous forests of the west and, the Caledonian forest of Strathspey and the central Highlands, they are active during daylight hours but are shy and will freeze if startled.

Dolphins

Chanonry Point

Another of our native marine mammals, an encounter with dolphins is always a special experience. Frequently found riding the bow waves of boats across the west coast, bottlenose dolphins travel in small pods but on occasion pods can join up to make huge groups of playful, breaching animals. Common dolphins travel in larger groups, sometimes consisting of more than 100 animals, and are distinguishable from their cousins by the white hourglass markings on their flanks. Dolphins are especially fast-moving, travelling at up to 20 miles an hour and feed upon fish such as mackerel and salmon.

Wild cat

Highland Wildlife Park is your best bet – mainly because you’ll be able to admire them more close up than in the wild and you are in a safe environment as the wildcat can be aggressive if provoked. That said, they are a diminishing and threated species so we must do all we can to preserve this magnificent, solitary wild creature.

It’s probably the most threatened of all our native species, the Scottish wildcat is now confined to a few spots in the far north and west a victim of lost habitat and, more especially, inter-breeding with its close cousin the domestic cat. Despite their familiar looks, wildcats are not simply feral cats, they are true wild animals. One of the hardest to spot of all our native species, wildcats, in addition to being rare, are shy and nocturnal. They hunt voles and mice and, like their domestic relatives, prey on small birds.

 

 

 


Why Loch Ness and Inverness do Christmas & New Year’s the best

Scotland really does do the entire festive season justice. Why? It goes hell for leather, grabs the bull by the horns and takes Hogmanay by storm. It suffers no fools and takes no prisoners. Now, enough of the idioms and on to the specifics. Inverness and Loch Ness particularly know how to bring the magic of the Christmas season alive. And this makes any stay at Aldourie Castle or Cottages from November to January a pure delight. It also gives ample opportunity for guests to get involved in the Scottish Highlands’ festive spirit when they rent an entire castle. Last month the Highlands had its first snow of 2018, marking the start of celebrations in the region’s capital…

So far, we’ve witnessed the delights of:

Christmas Lights switch on
http://www.invernessfestivals.com/winter08/blog/static.php?page=static090824-123804

Victorian Market, Inverness
http://www.seeinverness.co.uk/shops/victorian-market.html

The Farmers Market
https://www.invernessfarmersmarket.co.uk/about

All the above and more is either still happening throughout winter or to look forward to in your 2019 Christmas holiday in the Highlands.

Yet to come when you rent an entire castle…

Winter Wonderland, Whin Park

For three days from 14th-16th December this already beautiful park is transformed into a Wonderland. Filled to the brim with shimmering illuminations, the event is based around a number of giant attractions installed by The Highland Council’s Lighting Team. Another main attraction is of course Santa, who will arrive in style with his devoted reindeer for a spot of relaxation before all the hard work begins. This event has always been popular with young families and a favourite for toddlers. All you have to do is wrap up warm, believe in magic and watch Whin Park come to life before your very eyes. This is ideally located when you rent an entire castle on the shores of Loch Ness, which provides a sumptuous home from home to return to after a night of festivities.

The Red Hot Highland Fling, Inverness

This official Hogmanay party in the heart of the city has had its line-up of bands and artists confirmed since the end of summer. The people of Inverness are almost bursting with anticipation of this festive celebratory event. Expect upbeat tunes, original songs and traditional Scottish favourites. The Trad Project, Blazin Fiddles and Tide Lines have been given the prestige of bringing in the New Year. Crowds will gather to watch a great fireworks display over Inverness Cathedral to signal the start of 2019.

Dinner with Ceilidh, ‘Bogmanay at Bogbain’

This event promises to be a night to remember in a unique venue. It’s a wonderful celebration of Hogmanay combining all the elements of this magical season with food, music and also laughter at its heart.

And finally, anyone who chooses to rent an entire castle and holiday in Loch Ness during Christmas and New Year will have the chance to spot Nessie in a Santa hat! Well, maybe this one’s a long shot, but here in the Highlands we have nothing if we have not faith. In addition to all of the above there are other ongoing celebrations to commemorate the Christmas culture. These includes festive drams, visits to Santa, Christmas pantomimes, food markets and fairs.


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 is to wait for the day’s guests to arrive. This could be an exclusive use family house party or some corporate guests coming to set up a business meeting. 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 and helping Aldourie’s guests settle in. The experienced pooch tends to take the short cut whilst others stick to the main drive to 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 their lodgings 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, Lizzie consults her trusty list and makes sure that each suitcase is dropped off in the correct bedroom. 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. If you’re staying in one of the tranquil holiday cottages, feel free to sit in front of the fire with a warm coffee. Here is the ideal place to plan your break.

If you’re staying in the Castle overlooking the majestic Scottish Highlands you’ve likely requested a bottle of champagne and are currently enjoying the scenic outdoor views from your window. Then there’s a tap at the door. It’s only Lizzie to make sure you have settled in well enough and to check whether you need anything. Bless her furry paws.

In charge of ‘fun’ and games
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
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 guests who take exclusive use of Aldourie Castle are happy to get lost in the arboretum. Stumble across the wooden Nessie and amble 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 for dinner. That’s when we ask Lizzie to 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 wildlife 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 to jump on the lawnmower to keep the Aldourie grounds in good shape. She particularly likes this job because 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.