Host the perfect summer garden party: part 2

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.

summer garden party castle accommodation Scotland

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

Milestone Birthdays in a Scottish Castle

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.summer garden party Scottish Castle Vacations

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.


10 tips for hosting the perfect summer garden party: part 1

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.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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…Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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.

Keep your eyes peeled for our second installment of our 10 top tips to the perfect summer garden party. Why not book Aldourie if you’re looking to hold a milestone birthday in a castle or enjoy a family reunion castle stay. We specialise in exclusive family holidays on Loch Ness in this private use Castle and whilst you’re here why not let us host your perfect castle garden party over summer. Email info@aldouriecastle.co.uk or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.

READ PART 2 of our SUMMER GARDEN PARTY blog post here for more outdoor party inspiration.


Darling buds of May on a Scottish Estate

The gardening team at Aldourie were delighted to get to work on the Estate during the Spring. As the team tirelessly planted and mulched their way through truckloads of plants, the energy was rampant. Tom Stuart-Smith, the landscape gardener, designed our new garden layouts, and Duncan Hall, Aldourie’s head gardener, helped with implementation. (If you want to recap we link back to this previous blog post towards the bottom of this page).

More mulching and larger plant deliveries

During Spring, our work on the Castle garden had been a big undertaking with lots of soil to fill. The prepared beds, lovingly tended during the colder months in preparation for the final showcase, were an impressive expanse of plants and topiary trees. After this was completed, the green-fingered team then went on to work on the walled garden. Duncan describes the initial process:

‘Firstly, we rotorvated and raked the new beds to level them and remove the larger stones. The plants were then delivered – about 20,000 of them this time! The same process as before continued; Tom (Stuart-Smith and Ed (his colleague) came up to set out the plants, which the garden team helped with again. We then started planting and mulching.’

The National Trust lends a helping hand

Because of the quantity of plants to get in, Duncan made the decision to get more hands on deck.

‘I called upon the help of the National Trust for Scotland’s gardening students. During my time training as a gardener I spent some time training with the NTS at their School of Heritage Gardening – Threave Garden. I got in touch with them and they agreed to send up five students with two supervisors to help with the planting and gain some valuable experience.’The Scottish Estate Gardens at Aldourie Castle

The team spent three days planting and mulching in the walled garden, which was both extremely productive and fulfilling. Duncan admits they were brilliant to work with. He hopes to establish a working relationship with NTS School of Heritage Gardening for future projects.

Walled garden can reap what it sows

Meanwhile, amongst all the ground work taking place, the long-awaited fruit cages in the walled garden have finally started to appear. This will become an additional element of the ‘exclusive use experience’ for the Castle’s private guests. As well as being able to select fresh produce from the glasshouses, guests can wander through the fruit tunnels outside to add to their pickings.

More variations of vegetables are starting to take root too. Some of the veg has been planted directly into the ground such as the perennial crops, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. Aldourie will have to wait for three years before the asparagus is ready for harvest; so it important to get it in this year. Crops such as carrots and beetroot were directly sown into the beds while others were sowed into pots in the glasshouse to get them started.

‘We have also been chitting potatoes’ says Duncan; an intriguing term we asked him to explain further: ‘This is when you lay potatoes out somewhere cool and light to encourage the tubers to sprout before planting.’

Farm to table cooking and dining

The Castle kitchen and our dedicated chef will use all of this delicious veg and transform it into nutritious, fresh dishes. Now Aldourie can really and truly consider itself a ‘farm to table’ working estate. We have bigger plans afoot for contributing further to conservation in the Highlands but this is a great starting point.

The farm to table movement is becoming increasingly popular up and down the UK’s hospitality sector, and local produce is being used in new and imaginative ways. Take a look at our sister property Killiehuntley’s farm to table dining style.

Home grown flowers to fill the Castle

In and amongst the rigorous gardening the Aldourie team has begun to plant cut flowers for displays in the Castle and cottages. This is yet another example of the property depending on the Estate for its day to day function. Aldourie can easily become self-sufficient in many ways; an ethos long forgotten in these modern times.

Whereas hotel chains like large businesses buy in flowers weekly to display in communal spaces, our hospitality team can just nip down to the gardens and pick the freshest florals with no manufactured scent. Which is your preference to stay in?

Aldourie’s cut flower garden will be a wonderful asset to the private property. We anticipate having fun matching colour schemes to spaces and choosing the best fragrances. We will fill the exclusive group accommodation bathrooms and bedrooms with traditional, bold florals and choose the wilder meadow flowers for the cottages.

Gardeners section in blog

Look out for our new gardens and grounds section of the website. Head Gardener, Duncan, will also appear more regularly in the Aldourie blog, showcasing recent project work in the Castle grounds. He also hands out seasonal tips for your own garden and plants throughout 2018 – read his advice for March in our recent gardens and grounds post. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.


Cranachan: taste of springtime during a castle stay in Scotland

The nights are lighter for longer. The days are warmer. We’re feeling more optimistic by the day. It’s the start of spring. And what better way to celebrate than by tasting the delights of the season during your castle stay in Scotland? One of the most favoured desserts is an old-fashioned pudding known as cranachan. It combines freshness and creaminess with whisky comfort and is very light making it so easy to devour.

Aldourie’s chef loves the Castle and grounds during spring. The colours on the Scottish Highlands’ Estate change from golds, coppers, oranges and reds to crisp greens and bright yellows almost overnight. The lift in the weather makes everything appear clearer too. And the appetites of our exclusive use guests change also. Gone are the preferences for succulent meats, rich sauces, toe-warming soups and puddings. Our guests are now craving fresher, lighter and more colourful desserts. Because Aldourie Estate now features its own kitchen garden our exclusive use house parties are keen to sample some of the fruit grown within those stone walls. And Chef is only too happy to oblige creating some old and new berry-based puddings.

Cranachan: a fresh, fruity spring recipe

Below is a recipe loved for its creamy texture, sweetness and fruity tang as well as the unmistakeable Scottish ingredient: whisky. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert and a delicious alternative to trifle. It is both pleasingly colourful and cooling on a warm spring day.

During the months of April, May and June, private house parties at Aldourie request this dessert time and time again. The Castle’s private chef would like to share one of his favourite and most popular spring puddings with you to make at home during the warmer and lighter months ahead.Cranachan - A Taste Of Springtime

570ml/1 pint double cream
85g/3oz porridge oats
7 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp honey
450g/1lb raspberries

Toast the oats in a frying pan (be careful not to burn them). Lightly whip the cream until it creates soft peaks. Fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. Serve in dessert glasses with a scoop of berry sorbet and garnished with a few raspberries.

Other traditional Scottish berry and fruit desserts to try:

There are few people who can resist a pudding even after they are considered ‘full’ from their main course. If you are one of these people, we salute you, because it’s a rare thing indeed for an exclusive use guests to forego something sweet during a castle stay in Scotland. Favourite finishes at Aldourie include:

Cranachan - A Taste Of Springtime

Raspberry Coulis
White Chocolate Mousse with summer berries
Blackberry Sorbet
Scottish Berry Brulee
Apple Shortbread Pie
Glazed Strawberry Galette Black Bun
Scottish Shortbread served with strawberries
Empire Biscuit
Dundee Cake

Where is best to enjoy cranachan in Aldourie Castle?

Exclusive use Castle stay house parties dine in various rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning treat of cranachan would be best enjoyed from the cosy yet light Lairds Room. On a sunny spring day cranachan after a salad lunch is best tasted outside in the Castle garden admiring views onto Loch Ness. The imposing Main Hall would be the chosen space to eat cranachan as part of a Scottish feast. Here exclusive use house parties frequently gather around the large long oak table for celebration supper in true clan-like fashion.

Last but not least, the beautiful Dining Room is the ideal for dining alongside family and friends. Come dinner time at the Castle we light the candles as the conversation and wine start to flow. Stunning parkland views will accompany your cranachan; your fourth delicious course cooked by Aldourie Castle’s personal chef.Our dining room is perfect for Castle stay house parties

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy a glass of fresh, sweet and cooling cranachan in the comfort of your own home this spring. And don’t forget to post us a photo on Aldourie’s Facebook or Twitter page saying which room you enjoyed eating it in.


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

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

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

Dining out in the Black Isle

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

A favourite amongst exclusive use Aldourie Castle guests:

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

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

Best places to eat for lunch in the Black Isle

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

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

Excellent seafood at the heart of the Black Isle

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

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

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

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

Beer drinking and dining at the Black Isle Bar

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

Why do exclusive use guests of Aldourie go there?

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

Beer tasting at the Black Isle Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

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


January progress in the Castle grounds and gardens

What’s been happening on the Estate recently? The gardens have endured a rather cold winter and are currently either covered in snow or frozen at the moment. The consistent cold temperatures mean that it’s tricky to get really into the soil. However, our dedicated team of gardeners love a challenge so Aldourie’s Castle grounds and gardens are back to thriving as never before. Here you can see some stunning images taken by our head gardener, Duncan, during a magical snowfall on the Highlands’ Estate.Castle grounds and gardens

An enchanting winter walled garden

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

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

Conservation at Aldourie continues to thrive

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

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

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

Aldourie gardening team expands for 2018

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

Castle grounds and gardens

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

As winter turns to spring at the Castle on Loch Ness

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

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


12 days of Christmas during a private use castle stay in Scotland  

Make yourself at home: day 1

The moment you enter the large wrought iron gates at the top of the drive you have begun your Aldourie experience. Turn down the winding drive towards the Castle, relishing luscious view across the Estate and Loch Ness. Then, park up and appreciate a friendly and relaxing Scottish welcome at the Castle door. On the first day of your private use castle stay on Loch Ness over Christmas, you may simply want to stand back and take it all in. So, don’t hesitate. The Castle is your own for a weekend or longer. So once our attentive team has shown your exclusive party to their rooms, make yourself at home in your private luxury group accommodation.private use castle stay

Each bedroom has individual charm and character, beautiful décor and either a private bathroom or en suite. If your first desire is a glass of champagne and a steaming hot bubble bath, we’ll bring up our finest bottle. Alternatively, if you prefer a guided tour of the Castle artefacts and an introduction to every public room, we can arrange that as well.

Explore your surroundings: day 2

After a day of luxury and a good night’s sleep you may wish to see the Castle grounds. This is a treat for senses during a private use castle stay over Christmas. The wintry frost-topped trees, crisp woodland floors and festive pine scents will make you believe you’re walking in a winter wonderland. Your starting point is the welly room; grab yourself a pair to fit and head out through the back door. Start with the Castle garden and then up through the arboretum to the walled garden and beyond. There’s so much to delight at Aldourie out of doors with plenty of trails, walks and cycle routes to conquer and explore.

Feast on the delights of festive Scottish cuisine: day 3

Aldourie Estate has recently undergone some renovations including a revised walled garden and rebuild of the old glasshouses. We now offer a ‘farm to table’ experience for all exclusive use parties of guests. During your exclusive use castle stay take your pick from the fresh produce growing in the walled garden from ripe festive fruits to winter herbs. Then take them to Aldourie’s private chef who will rustle up a festive lunch or snack for your Scottish castle house party.private use castle stay

Now that you’ve settled in, make day 3 the day you sit down and truly devour some traditional Scottish food. Enjoy a full Scottish breakfast, a delicious lunch and an indulgent four courses at dinner time.

Appreciate a spectacular setting of Loch Ness: day 4

Continue your Scotland cuisine experience the following day with a helping of Aldourie’s Afternoon Tea out on the castle garden terrace. Winter berries from the walled garden make delicious cakes to enjoy during your private use castle stay over the Christmas holidays. Wrap up warm in a blanket and gloves and gather your party around you. Then sit listening to the gentle Loch Ness tide and smell the fresh Highlands breeze over a warming mug of hot chocolate. Opt for the chaise longues in the Drawing Room if outside is too chilly. The views of the Loch and hills are just a spectacular from there and the fire keeps everyone toasty.

Discover Scottish Highlands’ wildlife: day 5

Not every animal hibernates during the winter months. Take inspiration from Wildlife bathroom then go find these gems in your own private 500 acre garden. If you’re lucky you may spot roe deer, hares, foxes and red squirrels. Not to mention all the birds: waxwing, robins, snow bunting, osprey and other swooping birds of prey.private use castle stay

Have a warm and cosy day of play: day 6

Stay inside today and check out all the activities and games you can plays indoors during a private use castle stay. Cocoon yourselves in the Billiards Room for a few games looking out of the window over a frosted parkland. Afterwards, why not let the children play some board games whilst the adults go into the library for an afternoon drink and a game of chess or solitaire.

Set your New Year’s resolutions: day 7

Curl up on the sofa in the Drawing Room or take a long bath. Wander around the gardens or Loch Ness shoreline for time to yourself and inspiration. Think about what it is you’d like to change or work on for 2018 and let the resolutions simply come to you in a happy, peaceful place.

Celebrate Hogmanay during a private use castle stay: day 8

It’s New Year’s Eve, so make the most of staying in a Scottish castle such as Aldourie, with its tradition and character. We can lay out a Hogmanay feast for you and your clan in the Main Hall and you can play at first footer at the Castle door.

Exercise in the parkland: day 9

It’s New Year’s Day so what better start to the year than to get out in the great outdoors and let the fresh Scottish air into your lungs and your soul. You’ll feel better for it we promise you – especially if you had a few glasses of sherry too many the night before. The hospitality team can arrange any type of group exercise activity from luxury bootcamps or yoga on the lawn to cycling all around the parkland.private use castle stay

Experience Loch Ness: day 10

If you haven’t already ventured out onto the Loch, then now is the time. You’ve only a few days left and it would be great to say back home that you spent your January out on the most famous loch in the world appreciating the views of the majestic Scottish Highlands. We can arrange boat trips to see historic castle ruins on the shoreline, canoe lessons, zorbing fun for all ages, or a spot of fishing for those wanting to continue the peace and quiet that the initial New Year brings.

Make the most of your 500 acre parkland for all the family: day 11

The Aldourie Estate is full of secret paths, winter trees and spectacular viewpoints, all wonderful to witness during a private use castle stay in Scotland. Find the hidden treehouse in the arboretum or the family graveyard for a spot of Hide and Seek. Family fun and group activities are endless, from falconry, archery and clay pigeon shooting to Segway trips and 4×4 rides along the Loch Ness shoreline.

Whisky tasting day before your last sleep in a castle: day 12

It’s likely you’ve already had the odd sample during your stay with us, especially as all our local whisky just happens to be world renowned. But for a more formal lesson in this Scottish delicacy, we can arrange a private whisky tasting here in Aldourie Castle. You may prefer to take a drive to any of the local whisky distilleries, which we would highly recommend, but in addition we can offer an exclusive experience in any of our public rooms at any time of day. Something for the memory book.private use castle stay

A traditional Scottish Castle holiday can bring so much joy for you and a house party of close friends and family over Christmas. And you will have realised that in only 12 days you can sample a little bit of everything that the Scottish Highlands is best known for. All this in one grand Castle Estate on the banks of famous Loch Ness. Let one of your New Year’s resolutions be to book your 12 days of Christmas 2018 at Aldourie Castle. And start looking forward to your private use castle stay in Scotland.

 


The joy of soup in winter – Scottish castle dining

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

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

Warming winter recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

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

 

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

Other traditional Scottish soups to try:

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

Scottish Castle Dining

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

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

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

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

When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?

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

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

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

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

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


Are exclusive use stays good for your wellbeing?

What do people want from an exclusive use holiday? Why would a group of guests choose to stay in a property that’s there just for their enjoyment? Why is it more exciting to celebrate with your own family and friends without having strangers celebrating around you? Isn’t the answer obvious? Not exactly, because exclusivity might mean something different to each person. Here we explore a few of the reasons why guests opt for exclusive use stays in a property, the reasons they might not even know themselves. We also throw in a few examples of where Aldourie Castle estate has placed the utmost importance on exclusive use.

Intimate surroundings encourage important family time

The world is changing and with it so are people’s perceptions and priorities. Mental health awareness, placing importance on more family time and being ‘in the moment’ are all ways in which individuals in society are striving for the ultimate wellbeing. Why is it so important we find that elusive work-life balance? To be truly happy we need to be around those we love and cherish.  But in order to enjoy the company of loved ones doesn’t there have to be a degree of ‘luxury’, of comfort, that only money can buy? And if that intimacy can be found inside a world of natural beauty and fresh air combined with regal splendour and relaxation, then that surely will make anyone feel good.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays guarantee privacy and space

Everyone enjoys the privacy of being at home. Although the whole point of going on holiday is to be away from home, when you choose an exclusive use holiday it’s likely because you want the ‘home from home’ feeling. Aldourie Castle Estate is continually striving to make your exclusive experience even more exclusive. Take, for example, our brand new private bathroom for Nursery Bedroom that has taken the place of a shared kitchen for exclusive use guests staying in the Nursery suite. There are already numerous public rooms in the Castle perfect for idle conversation, dining, drinking and relaxing with your clan. However, as individuals, we need to always be able to retreat to our own personal sanctuary. During exclusive use stays at Aldourie Castle you can be confident of the right balance of shared and private space.

We all like to feel special sometimes

Who doesn’t want to feel special from time to time? When you know you’re getting a pretty unique experience in a one-of-a-kind property with its own personal heritage, it will undoubtedly make you feel special. For instance, exclusive use stays in a private castle are perfect for anniversaries. For a one-off celebration with your loved one it makes sense for the location to be just as unique.

So, what makes our exclusive use guests feel special? At Aldourie, for some it’s waking up to a view over Loch Ness every morning, indulging in a home-cooked Scottish breakfast then taking a steaming mug of coffee down to the treehouse for half an hour with a ‘classic’ from the Castle library. For others it’s grabbing a perfect-fit pair of Hunters wellies from the cloakroom and wandering the peaceful woodland alone for a sense of well-being. Or bathing next to a huge Georgian window overlooking the parkland with no other person in sight. It might be a game of football with the children before dinner in a never-ending parkland meant for nobody but you. Exclusivity; yes it’s indulgent, but it’s also an opportunity for self-preservation.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays are comforting in every sense

Have you ever been on holiday and things went wrong? You suitcase doesn’t appear on the conveyor belt. Your luxury villa you booked online resembles nothing of its description and photographs; not so luxury at all. Your credit card won’t work abroad or your bag gets stolen en- route to the hotel. Your nerves start to jangle; things aren’t as they should be, and you’re in a place you don’t know.

Exclusivity gives you an instant peace of mind; at Aldourie, in our private Castle, should you have any problems, each member of staff is there to help you and only you at any time. You can start to relax because you don’t have to get anyone on your side or wait until someone is available to assist you. With exclusive use an entourage, if you like, can be at your side to assist you from the moment you arrive until the moment you depart. And there’s definitely comfort in that.

Keeping up with the Joneses is a bygone era

Remember curtain twitching? You don’t tend to get much of that these days. The idea of uniqueness is so much more appealing. Who wants to have the same, but better, these days? When it comes to experiences, whether for yourself alone or with family and friends, the more ‘out of this world’ it is, the more in touch with reality you feel. There’s so much to see and do in life so why not go for something different.

When you and your clan arrive at Aldourie, one of the most charming and welcoming exclusive use properties in Scotland, you truly feel as though you’re the only ones to have ever stepped through the door. Wouldn’t you prefer to make incredible memories in a place that feels bound in history over a modern hotel with characterless facilities and a simple seasonal menu. At Aldourie you can taste the earth on which the Castle sits, pick your own fruit and veg and ask Chef to rustle up something tasty for dinner. You make your own experiences here rather than sharing in a tried and tested package that seems to suit most people.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays in the Scottish Highlands

The combination of a private holiday property in the spectacular Scottish Highlands might just send you into wellbeing overload. With hundreds of miles of beautiful natural landscapes so wild and otherworldly looking you have nowhere to be but in the moment. Here, inside Aldourie, you can experience the joys of a luxury home offering you privacy, absolute comfort and everything you could possibly need at your fingertips. Outside, on the Castle’s doorstep, not only is there a private 500 acre wilderness for you to enjoy, but the wider Highlands boasting some of the most peaceful scenery known to man. A day of walking or cycling in the Cairngorms National Park could very well leave you speechless. Hopefully, however, it will leave you with enough breath to reminisce over your shared exclusive use experience with family and friends for years to come.


Top tips to experience the Scottish Highlands this winter

There are endless reasons to book a week’s stay in a holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands this winter. Firstly, it is guaranteed to warm your soul. (And that’s without topping up the wood-burning stove with a healthy supply of logs.) A country Estate in the heart of the Highlands is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s Loch Ness. It really is the most peaceful and beautiful region. All the more when it comes complete with a private hire castle and four traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages.

We guide you to the best place to visit for a cup of hot chocolate, the finest whisky distilleries and the most bracing walks and breath-taking landscapes. Read on for some of the Highlands’ most favoured highlights in the most renowned locations.

The Isle of Skye - Scottish Highlands

Explore the Isle of Skye

As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland. So, before sinking into a deep hot bath or curling up on the sofa with Harry Potter, be sure to plan your short break itinerary. Make the most of local knowledge and put your time to good use. In your ‘top five’ places to see we suggest you include the tranquil and mesmerising Isle of Skye.

This remote part of Scotland is a perfect trip to experience the most spectacular views of the Highlands. Skye is easily accessible from the Aldourie holiday cottages, as long as you don’t mind an early morning start. It is widely appreciated for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages. Tip: jump in the car at day break to make the most of the three hour journey.

Sights to make memories

Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs. Don’t forget to stop occasionally to admire Skye’s dramatic mountainous backdrop and wild, cascading waterfalls. During winter you would expect to come across an abundance of Highland cattle congregated between snow-capped peaks. And on the clearest of days you’d be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Isle of Skye has fantastic colours that you can capture either with a camera and simply in memory. These sights may strike walkers, hikers and cyclists as ethereal and those of you driving may have to get out once in a while to let the air hit you and make you believe it. After embracing the magic of the highest points of Skye why not meander among the pastel-coloured houses of Portree where you can find a handful of traditional pubs full of Scottish character as well as a host of pretty clothes and gift boutiques.

Loch Lomond in Winter Scottish Highlands

Get up close to Loch Lomond

A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without taking the ‘low road’ to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. This other famous loch is famed for its folklore, castles and golf – there’s no getting away from it up here. It’s central spot crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sports, hiking and camping during winter short breaks in Scotland. Colder months showcase snow-capped peaks framing the famous lake which have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal. Its mysterious forests that weave through and cluster among the mountains have inspired many artists and songwriters over the years.

A must-see is Loch Lomond’s lively city life, which encapsulates a thriving food and drink scene. The famous Scottish landmark also features a variety of creative villages. We recommend a trip to Luss during a snowy winter; a traditional village whose steeple church and bridges would befit the front of a Christmas card.

A wintry setting

During winter, cloudless blue skies illuminate the pristine waters of Loch Lomond. Whether you’re on holiday for the challenging hikes or simply ambling along simple scenic trails there’s a winter walk perfect for you and your family or group of friends. There are a host of walks on the east or southern sides of the loch including Drymen and Balmaha. These have striking views and the promise of summer’s plentiful nature. Listen out for the characteristic call of the winter geese flying overhead in Trossachs National Park. Or take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. And, of course, don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

Luss scotland winter Scottish Highlands

Loch Ness

With such a scenic and adventure-filled itinerary for a cottage holiday in Scotland it may be easy to overlook your holiday location. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and so we invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness. Sail its vast open water and search for the legendary Monster. Or get up close and personal to the exclusive use property. Aldourie Castle, on the Loch Ness shoreline.

Its epic size and folklore sea creatures apart, Loch Ness has so much to offer the curious nature-loving tourist during winter. Some of the most famous whisky distilleries are based here – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness. There are also exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks on your doorstep. The heart of Scotland’s culture is within serious striking distance. Are you planning to visit the Highlands to relax during January or February? We at Aldourie can suggest an endless array of villages and towns, each accommodating and friendly and worthy of a postcard home. Enter Beatrix Potter-style tearooms, gourmet restaurants and beautiful interior shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.

Quaint tourist towns

Beauly means ‘beautiful place’ and that is just what you’ll find only 20 minutes from any of the Scottish holiday cottages on Aldourie Castle Estate. Encounter a real feel of Scotland with a traditional Highland pipe band and quaint row of touristy shops. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truly delicious sandwich and slice of homemade cake, then walk it off around the pretty Priory ruins.

Beauly Priory Scottish Highlands

Some of the best boat cruises on Loch Ness depart from Fort William. This quaint little place is itself an extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate. So do the most bewitching winter walks that lead higher and higher into utter wilderness. You will find your local area around Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate housing a couple of traditional pubs ideally located for holiday cottage guests visiting Loch Ness. There’s no excuse not to pop in for a quick drink in traditional Scottish surroundings. And especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands and a moonlit Loch Ness.