Outdoor activities to complement a Christmas stay in a Scottish Castle

Aldourie Castle Estate is set in 500 acres of grounds including parkland, woodland, farmland and gardens. It is the ideal space to appreciate nature and the great outdoors, from fresh Highland air to mesmerising landscape views.

During the Christmas period it is easy to forget to look after ourselves as we tend to think about others and their happiness. We can get caught up in the endless spending on Christmas presents, and the frenzy of shopping in loud crowded places. We fill our December days with so many tasks and social commitments because we feel obliged to. We can sometimes forget to look after ourselves in the process of ticking off a list that seems never ending.

Whether you’ve ever holidayed over Christmas or not, we invite you to consider the pros of doing so. Getting away from it all with your nearest and dearest may offer you a new kind of festive feeling. A private castle stay on Loch Ness can provide the luxury and peace you dream of at Christmastime.

As you can imagine, Aldourie’s Highland Castle and Estate provide the stunning backdrop, the five star hospitality, the grand and comfortable bedrooms and the delicious food and drink we’ve come to expect from an exclusive use stay in a grand country house. There is, however, something else that Aldourie can provide for your Christmas retreat on a Highlands Castle Estate. And that is the physical activity we need for our bodies to stay healthy and our mind to stay focussed and calm.

Segway across scenic parkland

Segway rides offer an exhilarating experience, a sense of freedom for the rider. They also have ultimate control over their speedy experience. These are all positive feelings to have over Christmas when life can feel a little hectic despite the overarching theme of peace.

Archery towards the hills

Feel like Robin Hood with a stint at this old sport that made a comeback over recent years. We provide you and your private group of guests with a fully-qualified teacher who can help you hone your aiming skills and reach your target. This outdoor activity is ideal to experience during a Christmas getaway making you feel in the moment and focus on the here and now.

Falconry against a Castle backdrop

The beautiful birds of prey that you will get to handle during a falconry experience in the Aldourie Estate parkland will heighten your senses to the natural world. Simply being so close to these extraordinary animals make you and your party appreciate wildlife that little bit more. This is a wonderful activity to enjoy with loved ones incorporating compassion, wonder and admiration. It will be a memory to treasure especially if your Christmas falconry experience includes a little frost or snow.

Canoeing on Loch Ness

This sport is best enjoyed on a crisp morning during your Christmas holiday on Loch Ness. Nothing beats breathing in the fresh highland air over these refreshing, wild waters, as you greet a brand new day. A canoe ride on Loch Ness can be a group activity to include laughter with friends or a solitary experience with nature to treasure. The ethereal morning mist that rises over the water will bring even more magic to your Christmas holiday in a Castle.

You may have thought that staying in a Castle over Christmas in Scotland would be all about the luxurious rooms, the warming fireplaces and Scottish feasts. Don’t get us wrong; a week at Aldourie is every bit that. However, it also offers you the opportunity to find yourself and at the same time, lose yourself. The outdoor activities we offer bring you closer to nature and make you more appreciative of the outside world. This is something we believe in very strongly. We therefore encourage as many outdoor experiences for your group as possible during your private Christmas house party stay. And if you’re not too game for sport, our revitalised gardens and grounds offer ample opportunity for walking. Don’t worry, there’s always a hot cup of something brewing for your return and the finest cuisine to keep fuelling your Aldourie adventure.

What makes Aldourie the most peaceful Highlands holiday retreat?

Aldourie was created as a mansion house in 1626. Back in the day, the ever-welcoming home was built during one of those rare times when Scotland was at peace. Over the years it has been apparent to private guests of Aldourie that this peacefulness is continually present. In fact, it is there the moment you walk through the doors. So, just what does make this enchanting Castle on Loch Ness the most peaceful Highlands holiday retreat?peaceful Highlands holiday retreat

The warmest of welcomes

Aldourie Castle is renowned for its warmth in welcoming all guests and that makes them feel very special indeed. It’s become a tradition here. Nothing comes more naturally to our dedicated hospitality team than making each and every guests feel at home from the moment they walk through the Castle door. Let us take your coat, your bags, sit you by the fire and offer you a drink of your choosing as you rest from your journey and take in your new surroundings.
Aldourie on Loch Ness is a peaceful Highlands holiday retreat like no other and its sincere warm Scottish welcome will be alongside you throughout your private stay. Read more about our 5 star hospitality that has been appreciated by previous private parties.peaceful Highlands holiday retreat

Relaxed living rooms to emulate a home

The Castle interior has always pleased guests who have rented the luxury holiday property on Loch Ness. The deep, rich colour palettes, luxurious fabrics and exquisitely soft furnishings all help guests to feel instantly relaxed here. The flow between the public rooms on the ground floor enables guests to find each space, naturally and with ease. Interlinking doors give a relaxed and informal air to the generous living space, making each room as inviting as the last. Our website gives a true feel of the downstairs through photographs and descriptions. Although nothing can beat experiencing Aldourie in the present moment to appreciate its relaxed atmosphere. Relaxation is easy in this peaceful Highlands holiday retreat.

A handful of bedrooms in spacious quarters

Aldourie Castle is far from a hotel is so many ways. It still has the feel of the original mansion house as it features only 12 bedrooms. And the bedrooms are able to offer each guest a real sense of personal space because the property is so generously sized . This in turn provides each guest with the peace and quiet expected from a private hire property. Each bedroom and private bathroom in your peaceful Highlands holiday retreat is individually styled, and themed. So at Aldourie Castle, even though you book as a party of guests (up to 24 people) your bedroom quarters are unique to you.

Heavy drapes adorn every window and each room features numerous. Every window in the Georgian style offers a large canvas of the outdoors to admire, whether it be wild Highland terrain or landscaped gardens. In this way, the space guests enjoy within their bedroom extends to incorporate the beauty and magic of nature.

Landscaped gardens and restored wildland grounds evoke happiness

To improve upon the experience for exclusive use guests, Aldourie has spent the past two years creating a structured way to explore the best parts of the 500 acre Estate. Through this revised layout we have subtly linked the four main garden areas inviting guests to take a specific route. Whereby they can take in the authenticity and nostalgia of Aldourie and learn of its history along the way. The marina, graveyard and walled garden are just a few of the outdoor features within the large Estate.

A walled garden a place of fresh flowers and food, of growth and life and colour. Its look, its aura and reason, changes with each season. It is there for Aldourie’s use and for the joy of our private guests: ‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth’ (Streamside, Geoffrey Smith). We strongly believe Aldourie is one of the most peaceful Highlands holiday retreats. For you to believe it, we invite you to stay.

Historic setting evokes gratification for the simple things

This Highlands Castle with a dramatic backdrop is ideal for a house party where the company and the setting are the main ingredients. Aldourie is a peaceful rural retreat away from the pressures of modern life. Put down your mobile phones, the TV and laptops. Instead, choose yourself a book from the library, indulge in home-cooked Scottish food or take our Castle dog Lizzie out for a walk in the parkland or a paddle in Loch Ness. Later, partake in some old-fashioned family fun – board games, a billiard table, chess, cards are all there for the taking. Why not have fun exploring with a game of Hide and Seek in the Castle?peaceful Highlands holiday retreat

Aldourie Castle Estate is a place of warmth, relaxation, freedom of space and soothing surroundings. Discover this historic and magnificent peaceful Highlands holiday retreat on Loch Ness. Please contact us on
+44 (0) 1463 751309 or info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.

5 ways to make your Halloween house party in Scotland an historic event

The striking and unique Aldourie Castle was originally made for flamboyant parties and social celebrations. It was founded in 1626, originally as a Laird’s house. Namely Laird Alexander Macintosh of Kyllachie. We can’t guarantee his ghost – or any other ghouls for that matter. But we can promise an authentic and luxurious setting for your Halloween house party in Scotland.

1. Choose an historic and authentically spooky setting

With 500 acres of private grounds set against an ethereal Highlands backdrop, Aldourie Castle is definitely a contender for an authentic Halloween house party.  Outside, come nightfall, it can be eerily quiet, with only the owls for company.  The Highlands setting on Loch Ness is ideal for ghost stories, Halloween hunts and late night walks.

The long winding drive down to the Castle is accessed via a quiet and winding B-road that stretches back to Inverness. In the autumn and winter months the light suddenly disappears leaving only your instincts and headlights to guide you in through the large iron gates. Needless to say the first glimpse of your private Castle for your Halloween house party in Scotland can seem a little spooky.

Aldourie Castle Estate is famed amongst previous private stay guests for its ancient family graveyard concealed in the woods. The arboretum begins at the east side of the Castle and continues out through the Estate that runs alongside Loch Ness.  The square shaped graveyard is as authentic as they come with an old thatched roof entrance through iron gates with a matching railing enclosing the grave stones. There is even a pet cemetery within; a touching sentiment that brings even more heart and charm to this historic private hire property.

2. Stay in large bedrooms – on your own!

The Castle sleeps 24 guests in beautiful and spacious bedrooms with tall ceilings and hidden doors. Each bedroom door features an old key for privacy from the rest of your Halloween party. But remember: ghosts and ghouls don’t use doors! Spiral staircases lead to towers and turrets beckoning footsteps forever onwards and upwards.

The Castle features its own enchantingly decorated oratory for private prayer part way up one of the western turrets. The fabled Loch Ness Monster is boldly depicted upon its walls sparking deep dreams for any overly-imaginative guests. All 12 bedrooms and private bathrooms are dotted throughout the upper floors and a long hallway spreads from the west to the east of the Castle. Listen out for squeaky floorboards and hope for lashings of Scottish Highlands wind and rain to rattle the windows if you’re determined to enjoy your historic Halloween house party in Scotland.

3. Dine with a grand Halloween feast

The main hall in Aldourie Castle is designed for entertaining. And the dining room creates the perfect Halloween dinner backdrop with its dark wood panelled walls, richly coloured wallpaper and lavish curtains. Of course you and your private house party of guests must do these spacious rooms justice by hosting the most exquisite and delicious Halloween drinks reception and dinner. May we suggest champagne and aperitifs by the main hall fireside? Aldourie’s personal chef will discuss your requirements for your feast; perhaps a four course dinner in true Scottish style finishing with a selection of indulgent desserts?

4. Dress up – of course!

A Halloween house party is not complete without going outside after dark. Move your party beyond the Aldourie Castle walls and head out to the back terrace. If you’re going to spend Halloween in an historic Castle in the middle of nowhere then make sure you use this glorious outdoor space. The Castle garden features topiary tree-lined paths that lead the eye to wonderful views straight down to Loch Ness. Atmospheric lighting will accentuate your Halloween costumes, make-up and party attire. Don’t miss any photo opportunities; the deep limestone harl of the Castle and the eerie woodland create a gothic back drop for your party.

The Aldourie hospitality team would be happy to organise a small fireworks display for your authentic Halloween house party. Let us tempt you with a menacingly good cocktail for you to sip whilst watching the sky come to life with fireworks over a pitch black Loch Ness.

5. Celebrate Halloween with your favourite people

You might opt to spend your Halloween house party cosied up in a woolly jumper by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate. Or celebrate in style with champagne, good food and great music till past midnight. Or you might be encouraged by the children to venture out into the woods for Halloween ghost stories and spooky walks. However you wish to celebrate the scary season, we know you’ll want to share these moments with family or friends. Aldourie Castle can provide an authentic and historic back drop to your Halloween celebrations. And help to make this an historic event for you all to look back on and treasure. Call 01463 751309 to enquire about booking this scarily fabulous private hire property on Loch Ness.

4 very different local towns to visit during a Castle stay in Inverness: PART 2

The moment you set foot on Scottish Highlands’ soil, you know you’re in for an adventure filled with unbelievable history and scenic magnificence. That’s a given. But there is also a sense of calm and inner peace that comes with a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Perhaps that comes from the ethereal landscapes that captivate you as you drive to your destination. Or the stillness of the lochs on a calm, autumnal morning. Or maybe the quaint villages you seek out to try to get a feel for life in the Highlands. Here are two such places we’ve chosen to write about this month, each with a character and history of their own that still stand proud for the 21st century tourist. During a stay in Aldourie Castle we urge you to dig even deeper into the history and beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

Invergarry is peaceful and historic

Just over an hour away from the stunning setting of Aldourie Castle lies a sleepy-looking village called Invergarry. It is home to the MacDonnells of Glengarry, an important clan in Scottish Highland history. Invergarry is located at the foot of Glengarry on the way from Inverness to Fort William. It is between Loch Oich and Loch Garry, both themselves natural beauty spots to wander around. To the south you’ll find the ruins of its Castle, the third of its kind after the last having being burned down in 1746. To the north stands the roadside Well of Seven Heads, a gruesome reminder of the slaying of seven MacDonnell brothers, who had murdered their dead brother’s two sons.

Walk in the footsteps of old

In spite of its gruesome clan history, Invergarry is an ideal day out for those appreciative of simple village life; cosy cottages with well-tended gardens, a parish church, a nice village pub and a coffee shop. There are superb walks for every ability around Invergarry. You can opt for an easy stroll along the Great Glen way, a long distance path in Scotland. Or why not explore the local forest scenery or tackle the local mountain, Ben Tee! Invergarry is on the Great Glen Cycling and Walking Route which runs for 73 miles from Inverness to Fort William. Many hikers choose to stay in Invergarry while completing the trail or following one of the other footpaths in the area.

For those keen on architectural heritage, the Bridge of Oich, located across the River Oich near Aberchalder, is a high concrete bridge built in the 1930s. More local history is housed in the The Invergarry Heritage Centre.

Pitlochry; nature at its best with great views

Take in the beautiful surroundings of Highlands’ Perthshire in the picturesque town of Pitlochry. Housing one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland, Blair Athol Distillery, at the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, this pleasant town makes a good start to your whisky tasting journey. From hills, woods, mountains and lochs there’s a varied offering of natural landscapes in Pitlochry. And you can’t get away from the Highlands’ gory history even in this delightfully pretty town.

Queen’s View and Fishing in Loch Tummel

Named after Queen Victoria herself who visited in 1866, Queen’s View sits just outside of Pitlochry and overlooks the glorious Loch Tummel. As its name suggests it boasts an unforgettable view. No matter what your level you can enjoy walks in this area, including through adventure-ridden forests, to suit the whole family.

West of Pitlochry, Loch Tummel is surrounded by even more spectacular scenery and if fishing is your game this is a popular location for brown trout, perch and pike. (Make sure you’re aware of laws and rules regarding fishing in certain areas before you head out.) The Loch reaches six miles through Perthshire and is a beautiful part of the regions’ ‘Big Tree Country’, also ideal for walks, cycle routes and places to relax.

Ben Vrackie and the Schiehallion mountain

The former is a much-loved hill creating a scenic backdrop to Pitlochry with a summit that peaks at an incredible 2,757 feet. Venture to the top of Ben Vrakie to experience the breath-taking views of the Beinn a Ghlo range to the north and the Strathtay and Strathtummel areas to the west.

Schiehallion, one of Perthshire’s best-known landmarks, stands even taller at a magnificent 3,547 feet high. Take a short stroll from the Braes of Foss car park or, if you’re experienced hillwalkers, climb to the summit to enjoy invigorating wild views over Rannoch Moor. Keep your eyes peeled for the splendid sight of soaring birds of prey. You may also spot grouse, red deer and ptarmigan across the spectacular landscape.

Killiecrankie Gorge combines wildlife with a gruesome past

Once the site of one of the goriest battles in Jacobite history, Killiecrankie Gorge features the 18 foot-wide Soldier’s Leap. It’s worth waiting for a rainy spell to witness salmon leaping at the falls beneath! As with every landmark in the Scottish Highlands there are numerous views to admire along the way. Continue along the path to reach the southern end of the Pass of Killiecrankie. The visitor centre is worth a visit should you want to learn more about the history of Killiecrankie Gorge and its famous battle.

Faskally Wood echoes the natural sentiments of Aldourie Estate

Situated within the Tay Forest Park, famed for nurturing the finest forests in Scotland, Faskally Wood boasts a wide range of tree species. Just like in Aldourie’s arboretum, which has recently had new trees planted alongside old ones as part of our conservation program, some trees are more than 200 years old. If you are staying as a family house party at Aldourie Castle during October you will not want to miss the popular Enchanted Forest event which takes place here each year. For a nod to nostalgia be sure to explore the tranquil Loch Dunmore which features its own boat house and picturesque timber footbridge. Or head along one of the many woodland trails to admire the stunning autumnal blends of reds and purples.

Both Invergarry and Pitlochry are each only a scenic drive away from Aldourie Estate. They each possess a history and beauty that have come to define the Scottish Highlands. This makes them more than scenic local towns to visit during a private stay at Aldourie Castle, but more places to experience the real Highlands.

4 very different local towns to visit during a Castle stay in Inverness

Aviemore – overflowing with culture and family experiences

Situated in the Cairngorms National Park, Aviemore is packed full of outdoor experiences varying from walks to wildlife to sports. It also has a great selection of restaurants, cafes, shops and bars so it’s ideal for those travelling as a group. The famously beautiful town with its exquisite, peaceful settings and lush landscapes, is only a 50-minute drive away from Aldourie Estate. This automatically makes it a regular choice for a family day out. Should you visit during summer then climbing, biking and walking may be your activities of choice. Once wintertime hits snow sports become the popular outdoor activities.

The scenic setting of Aviemore can be enjoyed further with a bit of the town’s culture and history thrown in. The Strathspey Steam Railway has three stations along its ten mile length with its main operating station based in Aviemore. Perhaps you’re staying at Aldourie Castle for a few days to celebrate a milestone birthday or wedding anniversary. In which case an afternoon tea train ride on the historic steam train could be your preferred choice. If you’re a family house party at the Castle you may opt to visit Aviemore over the weekend and enjoy a railway Sunday lunch instead. If you’re serious about steam trains why not upgrade to first class for even more memorable journey during your Castle stay in Inverness.

Snow-topped mountains and real-life reindeers

If you wish to experience a Scottish Castle house party alongside wild Scotland, Cairngorm Mountain must be on your visit list. From skiing to ranger guided walks this place is ideal for outdoorsy sports fans who appreciate far-reaching views. Rothiemurchus Estate is worth a visit particularly if you had hoped to spy a variety of Highlands wildlife during your Castle stay in Inverness. It’s a great family day out because it’s spectacularly scenic and abundant in water activities and walks. Nevertheless, the Estate boasts many outdoor activities you could also easily enjoy back on Loch Ness or the parkland at Aldourie Castle.

A winter or Christmas house party stay at Aldourie Castle would not be complete without a visit to Aviemore’s Reindeer Centre. Let the children indulge their imaginations with the sight of a herd of reindeer in their natural habitat. You may wish to organise your Christmas Castle stay in Inverness before your arrive. Find out what Santa’s helpers get up to over the festive season November to December here: http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/christmas/

More of wild Scotland and historic Highland life

Perhaps you’d planned to spend an entire day out in the Cairngorms National Park. If so, then just 12 miles south of Aviemore you’ll find Britain’s first open air museum; the Highland Folk Museum. It is open every day over spring and summer and is a remarkable delve into historic Highland daily life from the 1700s. It features 12,000 artefacts, 30 historical buildings within its fascinating tours. Ideal for families, besides the thatched roofs there’s also a playground and outdoor picnic area. The Highland Folk Museum is based in Newtonmore, in itself boasting some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Kingussie is small-town, nature-filled and scenic

Just over an hour away in the car you will find the lively and picturesque town of Kinguisse alongside the River Spey. Again located in the heart of the Cairngorms, you’ve the best of Scottish Highland’s scenery and nature at your fingertips. During your private Castle stay in Inverness visit this lovely and town set against a magnificent mountainous backdrop. Kinguisse offers a range of cultural delights from wildlife to lochside walks to golfing and whisky.

The Highland Wildlife Park is located close by to the town and if zoo animals are on your luxury Highland holiday wish list then definitely spend a few hours here. There’s the usual polar bears, tigers, monkeys and a variety of birds. And from the red panda to the snow leopard and the European grey wolf there’s plenty of unusual species to see and learn about.  Like Aldourie Estate the Highland Wildlife Park is committed to conservation – why not find out about and support its conservation projects.

Appreciating Highland whisky and landscapes

There are plenty of whisky distilleries across the Scottish Highlands and Aldourie can recommend a whole host of famous ones to make up an adventurous distillery tour. And Speyside Distillery is definitely one of them. So whilst you’re out exploring the town of Kingussie, be sure to drop by for a tour of one of the prettiest distilleries in all of Scotland. From the founders to the skills used to make the perfect single malt, Speyside is a great whisky distillery to sample. If you enjoy your visit during your Castle stay in Inverness we can always organise a private whisky tasting back at the Castle one evening.

Accessible from the top end of the Kingussie Golf Club, itself a challenging and scenic 18-hole golf course, is the tranquil and peaceful Loch Gynack. The mountain-top lake offers a lovely, easy walk, with breath-taking views and a chance to get away from the hubbub of the town. Follow the secluded woodland trails around the loch taking in the rocky peaked landscape and the wild flowers. Back in the town of Kinguisse, more quiet time, flora, fauna – and some bird-watching! – can be found in the RSPB Insh Marshes nature reserve. Covering 10-square kilometres of the River Spey floodplains it is well known for its pretty wild flower meadow and the butterflies it attracts.

Back to enjoying quality time with the kids, Highland Horse Fun offers a great family experience during your Castle stay in Inverness. Give the children something to remember the Scottish Highlands by with an invigorating pony ride. Take in the dramatic Highland landscape of mountains, rivers and glens. This could be the perfect Highlands experience to end your day before travelling home to your luxury Scottish Castle.

Our next blog instalment will features two other towns close to Aldourie; Invergarry and Pitlochry. Keep up with Aldourie on Twitter and Facebook to find out more things to do during your Castle stay in Inverness.

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 the Estate at Aldourie Castle, is just another example of the uniqueness of this Scottish Highlands, private hire property. An exclusive use castle 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 the shores of Loch Ness 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.exclusive use castle stay

Nonetheless, private castle guests are encouraged to venture further afield in order to truly experience Scotland’s amazing and wonderful wildlife in a variety of landscapes. From woodland walks to mountain peaks, here’s where you may spot your favourite animals.

See the almighty Sea Eagle on the western coast

The sea eagle is the largest bird of prey in the UK and the fourth largest in the world. It was hunted to extinction in Scotland until the 1970s when a Norwegian breeding pair were released on the Isle of Rum. Since then, the white-tail or sea eagle has thankfully firmly re-established itself in the country. The Isle of Skye, Mull and Rum are generally regarded as the best places to spot a sea eagle, but because of their huge range (which can span up to 2.5 metres and their height to 1 metre) they can actually be spotted anywhere along Scotland’s western coasts and beyond. Sea eagles will take small rabbits, seabirds and fish but are generally scavengers. They are easily distinguished from other birds of prey by their huge wing span, their white tail and pale head. They also have broad, rectangular shaped wings and a wedge-shaped tail.

Stay local for the tree-dwelling Pine martenexclusive use castle stay

This tiny forest-found mammal is now find right across the Highlands so during your exclusive use castle stay you don’t have to travel far for the mainly nocturnal pine marten. Just opt for the coniferous and mixed woodland trails north of Inverness and Aldourie. But wait till the late, light summer nights when they’re likely to be out hunting. Red squirrels are their choice of prey but they are again scavengers and can be found raiding bins and garden treats left for birds! If you want to go further afield, the pinewoods of Strathspey and parts of the Black Isle are also scenic hot spots for the pine marten.

The pine marten is part of the otter and badger family featuring a dark brown coat and a bushy tail. Perhaps it’s best recognised by its unique bib pattern that starts under its chin and reaches down its chest, coloured almost yellow to white. It has small dark eyes and large rounded like ears which give it a teddy-bear-like cuteness. The pine marten may stand upright on its haunches to get a better view, a bit like a meercat.exclusive use castle stay

Minke whales in the Moray Firth as summer hits

One of the most commonly spotted of our native whales (most UK sightings are in Scotland) minke whales are found right across the west coast, especially during May and June. They are one of the smallest of their species, between 8.5 and 9 metres long, and best seen in calm seas and sunshine. You may spot their breaching backs glistening under a hot sun.  Just like the legendary lochs against a mountainous Highlands backdrop, Minkes are a spectacular sight to behold. They frequently visit the small Isle of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.

Minkes feed on fish, squid and krill. They often approach boats and can breach beside them as they breathe through their blowholes. A medium sized whale, the minke whale is defined by its sleekness and pointed head. It is dark grey to black in colour with white undersides and white patches behind its head.exclusive use castle stay

A symbol of Scotland, the peaceful deer

The deer is one of the most iconic of all Scotland’s mammals, depicting a beauty and innocence incomparable to any other species. You may spot deer, particularly the red variety, throughout the Highlands. They’re easily spotted on rough moorland and the edges of forests. Deer can also be found standing very still on Highland roads – be sure to look out for the reflection of their eyes to give you time to stop. In summer, male deer (stages) sport their newly-grown, velvet-covered antlers in anticipation of the autumn rut when they will battle to dominate the herd and the right to breed with the hinds (female deer).

Eco-gardening on an exclusive use Scottish Castle Estate

The gardens and grounds team at Aldourie have a strong desire to work alongside nature where possible. This doesn’t simply mean being out amongst the soil, plants and foliage; potting and mulching, growing and tending. It means that their primary concern is the environment and – now more than ever before – both realising and acting on what can be done to preserve and improve it, is a fundamental part of their gardening. As an exclusive use Scottish Castle on an historic estate, Aldourie has a responsibility to the environment. This Highlands estate has been nurturing its wildlife and encouraging nature for centuries. But it has to go a step further and protect the wider environment against climate change.

Small changes make a big impact

Everybody has the opportunity to play their part in being eco-friendly. Whether that’s tending your own garden at home, looking after public grounds such as a park or school, or creating a working Estate in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Aldourie is known for its commitment to conservation across the wider Estate and being part of the WildLand group of properties.exclusive use Scottish CastleBut what are the smaller things we are doing to help save the environment on a day-to-day basis? We asked our head gardener, Duncan, to share the various ways in which Aldourie Castle is fast becoming more eco-friendly within its gardens and grounds.

“We are aiming to make the running of the garden at Aldourie as environmentally friendly as we can, whilst still producing a beautiful, tidy and well-maintained garden. This is a great challenge. The horticultural industry is changing to meet the demands of an increasing awareness of environmental issues. However, there is still an over-reliance on plastic and chemicals.”

An eco-friendly garden functions just as well

Duncan and his team is very passionate about “doing what we can” at Aldourie whilst also demonstrating that a very high standard of garden can be maintained without costing the environment.exclusive use Scottish Castle

“We are gradually phasing out plastics as much as possible and using alternatives, such as terracotta pots. Watering plants in terracotta is different from plastic pots but once you get used to it, it is not a problem. Aldourie had a pottery in Dores for a few years around 1900 and we still have some of the original pots. So there is also a historical reference to the use of terracotta here.”

Within the walled garden, Aldourie’s gardening team is also using wooden blackboard labels for herbs, fruit and vegetables. “As well as reducing plastic, the wooden labels look great and help the garden to feel more natural” says Duncan. The same applies to the use of string. We are using natural hessian, which doesn’t tend to catch your eye the way that plastic string does.”

Home made mixtures replace chemicals

Aldourie Estate is also aiming to eliminate the use of chemicals in the garden. The horticulture industry has become completely reliant on glyphosate. It is used to kill weeds and keep areas such as gravel paths and car parks clean. Duncan conveys the Estate’s dedication to keeping things green; “We have recently bought a hot-water sprayer. This allows us to kill weeds on these hard surfaces without the use of any additives. We have several car park areas and many gravel paths at Aldourie. Now we can keep on top of them just using hot water.”exclusive use Scottish Castle

“Aldourie is also using no chemical pesticides or fertilisers. Growing so many plants does attract pests so we still need address this. Having a wide and varied garden habitat has seen a massive increase in the numbers of insects and birds in the garden over the past year. Thrushes are foraging for slugs in the vegetable, herb and cutting beds. Ladybirds are eating aphids on roses and plants in the glasshouses. Unfortunately, this alone is not enough when there are large numbers of aphids. Therefore, we are spraying when needed simply with eco-soap.”

The grounds team is currently trying out other home-made mixtures for use as fertilizers and for deterring pests. This includes a brew made from tomato leaves. The vegetable garden is fed every year with local manure so there is no need to add other fertilisers. And in the glasshouse an organic seaweed extract is the only feeding any of the plants get.”

Forward thinking for a greener environment

Duncan continues; “The use of peat in horticulture is another systemic problem that we are tackling by using no peat-based composts. There are a few peat-free options including coir, which is made with coconut husks. However, our alternative is a compost made in Cumbria from sheep’s wool and bracken (Dalefoot Composts).exclusive use Scottish Castle

We have grown all of our plants in this compost this year and, so far, are very happy with the results. If this proves to be a good alternative over the long-term then perhaps this is something that could be used more widely. We have plenty of sheep’s wool and bracken in the UK!”

Aldourie Estate is one of many Castle estates in the Highlands who are striving to protect the environment in as many ways as possible. This is mainly through less reliance on chemicals and the eradication of plastic to discourage plastic waste, and therefore plastic pollution. This forward thinking attitude is being adopted worldwide. So, let’s all continue to work together to ‘do our bit’ for the environment and, ultimately, a greener future.

How a Loch Ness holiday could improve your health

If only we could all live near the water, wouldn’t that be wonderful? Or, that’s how many of us think, anyway. There must be something rather compelling and alluring about water for that to be a dream life for so many. But not only does living near water offer beautiful views, fun activities and scenic drives at your fingertips, it can also have life enhancing health benefits. Without delay, we investigated whether a Loch Ness holiday could be good for your mental and physical health.Views over Loch Ness

Aldourie Castle is situated on the shoreline of the legendary Loch Ness. The Castle is available only for private rent as a holiday location of a celebration property for one sole booking or group. The Castle is rentable all year round and Loch Ness provides the most mesmerising backdrop for a holiday. In addition, because your holiday home is within stepping distance to the water’s edge, there’s lots of potential for water to become a large part of your vacation. But, as you will realise by reading on, Loch Ness is not only therapeutic for its exhilarating boat rides. It truly has hidden depths. And in today’s longing to find ultimate wellbeing in body, mind and soul, Aldourie could be the holiday where you can actually have it all.

Aldourie has collated seven health benefits of living near the water’s edge. And with the Castle being available to rent for just a few days to months on end if you wish, this could be the holiday that makes you consider a new way of living.Aldourie Castle Estate countryside

Breathe the freshest air

Air that is close to or exposed to water is charged with negative ions, which helps your body absorb oxygen. Fresh air is well known for improving alertness and balancing levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Serototin improves your mood and decreases stress levels. There is a reason we crave fresh air when we are experiencing something difficult because fresh air gives clarity to the mind, body and soul. If you take a Loch Ness holiday you’re also guaranteed an additional boost of fresh air because the 500 acre Highlands Estate is home to thousands of trees of endless variety. The oxygen they produce along the water’s edge will serve to maximise your intake of fresh air.

Strengthen your immune system

Working together, an increase in your relaxation and a decrease in your stress levels gives you a strengthened immune system. And a strengthened immune system puts you in a better position to fight off illness and disease. Living, or existing, near the water can achieve all of these objectives. And the best part is that once you live, or if you take a holiday, near water, you don’t even have to think about it in order to benefit from it. Take a Loch Ness holiday to begin improving your immune system and enjoying better physical health – well, at least whilst you’re on vacation!A Loch Ness Holiday

You increase your white blood cell count

Plants and trees emit chemicals called phytoncides. This is especially true for foliage and trees that exist near water. When humans breathe this chemical in, it increases their white blood cell count, which is again a great barrier for illness or infection. Being outside and being around water is a natural immune booster. So, in support of strengthening your immune system (above), this point is actually biologically quantifiable.

You sleep better

It is well known that when you are exposed to the sound of water it relaxes the mind and the body like nothing else. For instance, consider how many people enjoy going to sleep at night to white noise or relaxing meditative sounds. Babies often relax into sleep listening to these sounds because they are known to emulate the sound of the womb. There’s real meaning behind the saying ‘sleep like a baby’.  It’s difficult to dispute that the sound of water is helpful to guide into having a good night’s rest. Very interestingly, seeing or existing near water helps clear the mind of unwanted distractions or unpleasant thoughts. Just think how true this is to you alone! In its many ways, water allows the mind and body to relax into greater, deeper sleep. And the benefits of better sleep automatically induce greater rest and better rejuvenation each morning.

Just being exposed to water on a regular basis improves health. So what more reason to make Loch Ness your new regular holiday destination throughout the year?  Many of Aldourie Castle and cottage guests return year on year. You could improve your rest and your sleep for the longterm and make Loch Ness your new home from home. After all, what are holidays for if not a lie in!Loch Ness Holidays

Experience greater happiness

Have you ever heard of the term “Blue Mind”? It refers to the meditative state the brain enters when we are exposed to water. Scientists have determined that looking at/enjoying water naturally floods the brain with dopamine, or feel good hormones. This explains why people exposed to water are often more relaxed and happier in general. When you are relaxed and happy you are undeniably healthier in the mind. And as we know when we relax we can more readily appreciate the fun side of life, and laugh;  ‘laughter is therapy’ and can dramatically improve your physical health.

The idea of a holiday is always wonderful, in theory, and yet sometimes the experience can be stressful. This could be down to travel, your accommodation not being as you expected, the weather spoiling plans by being unpredictable, etc. However, when water is on your doorstep it can be a different story. So take a Loch Ness holiday and let it relax you into a happy state of mind.

You relax

It has become clear the many ways in which water can be very therapeutic. Engaging in simple activities such as fishing or walking can help reduce stress and fight off the negative effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a hard situation. Especially if you battle anxiety or depression, water can be very helpful in overcoming the difficult side effects associated.

You lengthen your life

That’s right! Living by the water and enjoying the great outdoors can actually add healthy days to your life. Getting even a moderate amount of leisure time and light physical activity (including walking along the beach front or picking up shells) can increase life expectancy, according to the National Cancer Institute. What’s not to love about that?Cottage on Aldourie Castle Estate

Ready to live near water? Tired of enjoying the water only on vacation? Let Aldourie realise your dreams and come sample living near water for any length of time you choose. As well as the Castle exclusively sleeping 28 guests, the Estate also has four unique self-catered holiday cottages each within walking distance to Loch Ness. Combined, the four holiday cottages sleep 21. Furthermore, as they are child and pet-friendly cottages, you can sample living near water with a small holiday with your whole family.

Here at the Castle, we’ve always held onto our belief that if you experience Aldourie you experience Scotland. But now we wish to add that a Loch Ness holiday at Aldourie lets you experience a fuller, richer way of life where being outdoors surrounded by the basics of nature and water can empower you and offer you peace.

Easter weekend celebrations in a private Castle on Loch Ness

What could be more fun than spending Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness in Scotland? Add to that your favourite people, the spectacular scenery of the ancient Scottish Highlands and a large supply of chocolate. No, we can’t think of anything better, either.

Easter in a Scottish Castle

More and more people are booking an experiential holiday to celebrate special occasions such as Easter. Why not join them and take over a Scottish Highlands Castle as your own home over the Easter holidays. And make some new family memories to treasure along the way.

Aldourie Castle Estate welcomes private groups of guests at any time of the year. In fact, Aldourie was designed for house parties ever since its early days as a mansion house.  We can just imagine the family clans battling it out across the parkland, for the annual Easter egg hunt.Easter in a Scottish castle

The 13 castle bedrooms laid out across two main floors and the occasional turret, are individually themed, freeing and relaxing spaces. Each room is accompanied by a private bathroom just as colourful, comfortable and characterful. Guests retain their personal space and privacy whilst being able to enjoy the social benefits of celebrating Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness.

Easter hunts on your doorstep

Aldourie Castle was the Highland property to ‘be seen’ at in its day and now enjoys being available only to private bookings from two to 30 people. Guests return year on year to celebrate events and annual occasions such as Easter. The Scottish Castle set in its own vast and varied grounds. It’s the perfect Easter adventure playground for children and explorers young or old.

Book a weekend at Aldourie or stay for a week with your close knit group of family or friends and let us create the biggest and most exciting Easter egg hunt. Our small hospitality team is purely dedicated to your needs. We can devise a bespoke outdoor trail highlighting the best features of this magnificent 500 acre Estate for you to discover and admire. There’s ancient woodland, a beach, a criss-crossed walled garden, an arboretum forest as well as a maze-like Castle garden and an old family graveyard. Children will delight in the changing scenery and the chance to spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster (could Nessie be hiding some eggs?)Easter in a Scottish castle

An historic Castle designed for Easter family stays

There’s only so much partying and children’s scampering these old Castle floors can take, however, without needing a little renovation. The public rooms and some bedrooms have recently been revamped making this enchanting private Castle on Loch Ness even more tempting to private group bookings searching for a unique Easter holiday. Easter is a time for celebration, delicious food and enjoying small luxuries with loved ones. Intimate family gatherings just happen to be a speciality of Aldourie with its atmospheric entertaining spaces and beautiful, characterised bedrooms ideal for hosting Easter parties.

One of the most popular celebratory holidays nowadays comes in the form of the multigenerational stay. This means families made up of babies, great-grandparents and everyone in between travels either en-masse or separately to meet at a chosen destination property. This special place has to feature something for everybody (we will feature more on this type of stay in a later blog post).

Aldourie, of course, has it all: gardens for admiring, grounds for exploring, Loch Ness for cruising or boating. And inside; a games room, library, drawing room, dining rooms, oratory, and a great hall for a big, warm welcome. Upstairs, you’ll find a treasure trove of hallways with windows or doors off either side, turrets, winding staircases leading to more doors or balconies. Children can explore the Castle at their will and never tire of their adventures here.Easter in a Scottish castle

Creative Easter games for children

Aldourie is at the heart of any stay at this private Castle on Loch Ness. Many overseas guests return annually just to experience the warmth of this unique home from home. We love to get children round the big feasting table in the main hall for some creative arts and crafts. Easter holidays provides some great examples including Easter egg painting and hat making. Let us help you hide the children’s chocolate eggs for Easter morning complete with a treasure hunt map and clues.

Later, help Aldourie Castle’s chef dress the tastiest Easter cake or buns, have a member of your party dress up as the Easter Bunny and burn off some energy out on the lawn with an egg and spoon race for all.

In a nutshell (or eggshell)

Easter time at Aldourie promises a luxury Easter holiday like no other with family or friends.

Spacious four poster bedrooms with breathtakingly scenic views over Loch Ness and the magnificent Highlands. Walk-in showers or roll top baths. Original staterooms combining comfort with beauty and an incomparable atmosphere. From the moment you enter the gates let your Aldourie Easter experience begin; no time restraints, no set meal times, nothing is out of bounds. Before your party’s even got through the door you may just find the children racing into the woodland looking for wildlife with the Castle’s very own pet dog, Lizzie. (She can be very persuasive.)Aldourie Castle dog

Further out on the Estate is exclusively yours too; Aldourie can organise a boat ride on the world famous Loch Ness. Board from the private marina and search the waters for Nessie. Boot up in our welly room selecting your own size of Hunters wellingtons. Split up into groups or go it alone. Try some traditional outdoor Highland fun such as archery, clay pigeon shooting or bagpipe lessons. Or explore the Estate by zorbing on Loch Ness or with a Segway ride across the parkland.

Easter in a private Castle on Loch Ness is a truly magical time.

One Easter paradise combining beauty, warmth and luxury with fresh air and Scottish adventure on its doorstep. To enquire for availability and further information browse our website or contact us here.

5 benefits of a working walled garden on a private castle estate

Spring will soon be upon us and Aldourie will literally reap the rewards of last year’s work out on the Estate grounds. It may not seem possible right now, with the high winds and heavy rain battering the soil and whipping around the foliage. But at this exclusive use venue in Scotland, once winter has left us for another year, all the dedication and hard work of the Castle’s gardening team will come to fruition.  The benefits of those long hours of sorting, mulching, digging and planting will have been worth the wait.

By the end of summer into early autumn of 2018 the dozens of differing shaped soil beds were showing signs of life, abundant in green. But now that spring 2019 is nearly here, a kaleidoscope of colour, scents, patterns and textures will be unveiled within the red brick and natural stone border of the walled garden.

Imaginative wild flower beds evoke nostalgia

The gardening team worked with landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith on the Estate to create floral displays akin to the Victorian style. Our exclusive use venue in Scotland was already witnessing wild flower growth in September last year (pictured). Tall grasses and plants blended in close-nit harmony as species stumbled into one another to create a medley of colour and style. The benefit of time has allowed these flowers to mature into different heights and shapes giving a sense of freedom and disarray to the structured square beds. That contrast in itself is the romantic lure of the wild flower garden…

Thriving veg patches encourage healthy eating

There’s no doubting a spectacular Castle which has welcomed guests since its origins as a mansion house would’ve ever offered anything less than fine dining. But we all know that centuries ago the extravagant food served in castles was far from healthy. The phrase ‘fine dining’ has in recent years resolutely rediscovered its meaning.

By April the walled garden of our exclusive use venue in Scotland will look like it did in its heyday with lush, leafy veg in abundance. It’s always good to know that the food on the table has come straight from the earth (with a bit of clever cooking in between). But now, more than ever, the concentration on healthy eating is all-consuming and the hospitality industry is no bystander. By providing a farm to table experience for our Aldourie Castle guests we can guarantee nutritious food cooked to the highest standard with the care and attention it deserves from the moment it is picked.

Tasty pickings from the glasshouses; fun in the sun!

Another benefit of the walled garden is its Victorian-inspired and designed glasshouses. Not only do they look splendid under a blue sky on a hot summer’s day, their tall thin window panes shimmering in the sun. But the real treasure is what’s housed within. Guests can select for themselves brightly-coloured, crisp salads, exotic fruits and hardy vine-growing vegetables. The walled garden glasshouses simply by their very nature reinforce many aspects of the Aldourie ethos: ‘in the moment’, meaningful time spent with family and/or friends in the great outdoors.

Herbs help create flavoursome Castle dishes

Not only does Aldourie’s walled garden produce the freshest fruit and veg but our little herb patches in the glasshouses also fill to the brim. It’s wonderful to be able to flavour our traditional and contemporary Castle cuisine with such a wide selection of freshly grown herbs. And they’re all right here on our doorstep, meaning Chef has only to open the kitchen door and take a five minute stroll to the walled garden in order to transform any one of his seasonal dishes.

Fruit cages; a new Aldourie experience for spring 2019

One of the most exciting developments in the walled garden of this exclusive use venue in Scotland last year was when the gardening team erected the two long fruit cages down the centre of this generous outdoor space. Here they are pictured then and we’re looking forward to seeing how much fruit has grown come spring, which will have transformed the look of this bold, asymmetric caging into something rather wild and pretty.

Look out for our next garden blog post where we’ll discover all the new and old plant and tree species now thriving in the arboretum and parkland. Conservation will always continue on the Aldourie Estate and we can’t wait for the next chapter; the greener the better!

Take a browse through our Private Hire pages on the Aldourie Castle website for details of an exclusive use stay. Then take a look at The Grounds gallery to discover all the other exciting areas on the ever-developing 500 acre Estate.