The life of an Aldourie Castle groundskeeper in the 1900s

William Fraser, was an estate worker on the grounds of Aldourie Castle Estate, now a historic castle to rent, from 1948 until 1974. This was a long career taking up much of his working life. Here we chat to his granddaughter, Wendy Mackay, (through her own father, William’s son) to find out about his general time living and working on Aldourie Estate to help maintain the magnificent historic castle to rent.

What attracted William initially to working for a large Estate in Scotland?

He had to find work after the war, one of the men who worked there was an old friend of his and told him if he ever wanted a job to get in touch with him.  He stayed at Aldourie Pier and he was the foreman.  My father must have known him in Aberdeen.

Could you give a summary of his life until his employment at Aldourie to give an idea of his history?

He was born in Buckie (a town on the Moray Firth coast of Scotland) and moved to Bucksburn, Aberdeen, and was from a farming/horseman background.  He worked on the farms initially, then worked as a labourer on building work.  Then went to war (WWII), six out of seven brothers served in the army, on D-Day + 6, got as far as Germany but was injured (shot and lost a couple of fingers), then returned home.

What was a typical day like working as groundskeeper of a castle estate?

He attended to all general maintenance on all the farms belonging to the estate. The Castle itself had a caretaker and was not his priority. Likewise the gardens had a gardener to maintain them. Occasionally he worked with the gamekeepers doing work in the estate grounds. He worked 8am-5pm and went home for lunch. He was a foreman with up to four men working for him.

Did William ever mention who he worked alongside at Aldourie Estate? Was it ever lonely work?

He was always in a team which meant he wasn’t alone. They were all scattered across the estate with Grandad and one other worker living in the village. He must have enjoyed it as he did for a long time and loved the area.

The following information is written within Aldourie’s historic records:

Hester Vere Fraser-Tytler

In 1908 Hester married Alan Cameron, younger son of Cameron of Lochiel. He was killed on 25th September 1914. She died on Aug 9th1949. Their only son, Colonel Angus Cameron MC, bought Aldourie from the Trustees of Neil Fraser-Tytler in 1948.

Was Colonel Angus Cameron MC resident at Aldourie with his own family during your grandfather’s time there, and did he report to him? And If not, who?

He didn’t report to him, all estates had Factors running the estates (whom he reported to) and the Factor liaised with the Colonel.  He did meet the Colonel frequently and he was very good to the local people. My dad thinks he may have visited their house a couple times too.  Dad says he was a nice man.

Your grandfather, William, his surname was Fraser. Any family link to the Frasers who lived at Aldourie from the mid-1700s?!

No. Fraser was and is to this day a popular family name in Scotland.

Was your grandfather ever involved in preparing the land for game shooting for shooting parties?

He used to get involved in the heather burning in the early spring with the gamekeepers and this was in preparation for the shooting.

William was given a beautiful clock as a retirement gift by the family who were obviously very grateful for his work over the years.

He had no direct dealings with the family who lived in the Castle. This must have been bestowed on him via the Factor.

Your grandparents moved from Aberdeen just after the war ended, for the job at Aldourie. Where did they live?

They moved directly into a lovely wee cottage on the Aldourie Estate.

William lived in this same cottage on the Estate for the remainder of his life and I understand the area where this once stood remains a special place for your family.

He lived there until he died…

What work, if any, had your grandmother done in the area of Dores? 

She did home help for some retired policemen in the village but that was all.

 Did your grandfather have his own garden at the cottage and was his obvious love for the outdoors bestowed on his private garden as well as the Aldourie Estate?

Grandad’s garden was amazing, he grew a lot of his own fruit and veg which was how it was done in those days. 

How does your family now celebrate the area of Aldourie Castle Estate where your father spent so much of his life?

We don’t tend to go back to the area much at all as Aldourie and the village of Dores has changed so much.

You used to have your own sports days at school in the Castle grounds. What school did you attend?

I went to Aldourie Primary, a small rural school with two classrooms at the time. They still have the school registers from the time detailing all the parents who worked on the estate!

Can you describe the Aldourie Estate from your own memories? How did you feel to be invited to use the Castle’s private grounds?

There was a big lawn great for Sports Day races.  School Christmas parties were also in the Castle. Santa would come in, that was really exciting! It was the way it was done back then. It was just our way of life and I didn’t know any different.

A note from the Castle

It was fascinating to speak to Wendy about her grandfather, William’s, time working and living on Aldourie Estate. And wonderful to learn of her own family’s intrinsic link to our own beloved Estate in the glorious Scottish Highlands. Lifetime memories for one man and his wife and children. We are grateful for her and her father’s (William’s son) time and effort recounting facts and memories, and for the work William carried out many years ago in maintaining our historic castle to rent. 

Aldourie has continued in the same vein to make lasting memories for families around the world with its exclusive use experience as a historic castle to rent. Groups book Aldourie for their private holiday or house party and can stay in the Castle as their own home for up to a week or longer. We uphold the notion of spending quality family time and time with loved ones inside and around a beautiful and exciting property filled with adventure, the great outdoors and its own remarkable history. There’s something for everyone at Aldourie’s historic castle to rent. And everyone brings something to Aldourie.

If you’re looking for a historic castle to rent we welcome any enquiry for private hire so please contact Aldourie Castle via our online web form on the ‘Contact us’ page or by emailing

5 ways to send a postcard from a beautiful Scottish Castle

There’s nothing like sitting down somewhere comfortable on holiday and taking the time to write a postcard to relatives or a close friend. It marks an experience in time and evokes a memory whenever you stumble across it again in the future. A postcard is also a way of sharing your own experience of a special place with those people who mean so much to you. Postcards are treasured by family members just like a private castle vacation will always hold a place in your heart.

At Aldourie, we really believe in the importance of the handwritten message. For instance, we love reading the heartfelt notes left by guests at the Castle in our leather bound book. (It’s like something out of Harry Potter, honestly.) Or the reviews of the four holiday cottages which each have their own guest book too. Our luxury bedrooms each feature a comfy chair and desk so as to encourage guests to spend time writing to a loved one during their stay in this private castle. Guests can pick up postcards on their days out around Loch Ness and the Highlands. But we also leave a blank card in each of the bedrooms showcasing a beautiful photo of Aldourie Castle – in case nothing else can match up! Here we share our 5 favourite spots from which to write a postcard at Aldourie Castle.

From the bath in Print Bathroom

Firstly, let’s set the scene. Turn on the hot tap, get into your dressing gown, light a candle and ask for a glass of Aldourie’s house red wine. As soon as you sink deep into the free-standing tub that gazes out over the serene parkland your thoughts will turn to calm. Now you’re ready to put pen to paper. Get inspiration from the artwork surrounding you in Print Bathroom; from enchanting winding staircases to vast highlands landscapes. Don’t forget the bubble bath!

From the desk in Lorimer Bedroom

Make yourself comfortable. On chilly autumn evening, switch on the beautiful Tiffany lamp and let us pour you a glass of your favourite Scottish tipple. Be inspired by the room’s interior decoration from dark woods to tactile fabrics, rich colours and decorative prints. This is surely enough to get your creative juices flowing for a vivid portrayal of your exclusive use experience.

From the settee in the Drawing Room

Looking out over the parkland towards the woods, be sure to have a pot of steaming tea with a slice of fresh cake and get comfy. Spark your imagination with the portraits on the wall. Aldourie’s history is portrayed before you, all the way to the Fraser-Tytler family members. Each have their own story to tell, just like you. The luxurious fabrics of the drawing room in ruby red and various blues will fuel your stories with texture, colour and elegance.

From beside the fireplace in the main hall

This viewpoint through stunning full length windows takes in the terrace and Victorian-inspired Castle garden recently designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Let the symmetry of the outdoor space help to order and simplify your Highland experiences to make a perfect postcard read. Become entranced by the gentle warming flames within the enormous fireplace. This was only recently discovered in the interior renovation of the hall.

From beneath the tree on the shoreline of Loch Ness

During a cottage stay in one of our four beautiful holiday cottages on Loch Ness, head for the outdoors. This spot is perfect from which to write your postcard. On a spring or summer’s day pour yourself a glass of elderflower or if nippy outside bring with you a flask of hot chocolate. This private place under the shelter of such a beautiful tree is a writer’s paradise. It’s a bit pebbly as far as seats go so be sure to take a thick, cosy blanket with you from the cottage linen cupboard.

5 unique walks around an exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Feel alive with a rejuvenating walk around revitalised private Castle grounds from pottering around a formal garden to striding across rugged parkland. Whether you take the High Road or the Low Road what matters is that you take the opportunity to go outdoors whilst staying on a spectacular country estate in the Scottish Highlands. Aldourie Castle Estate offers Highland holiday cottage tourists and exclusive Castle guests alike a variety of walks on its 500 acre patch. Here are some of the walks you can enjoy during your stay in an exclusive use Castle in Scotland.exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Castle Garden play amongst the topiaries

Children and adults alike love to experience the grandeur of the Castle Garden at Aldourie. It’s greatly admired whilst devouring a cooked Scottish breakfast from the Laird’s Room. It’s also lovely to view it sipping tea at the huge windows in the Drawing Room. But there’s nothing better than actually wandering outside and being enveloped by its Alice in Wonderland charm.

This exclusive use Castle in Scotland stays true to its roots, its castle garden featuring symmetry, structure and lots of hedging! So weave through its criss-cross paths and encourage the kids to charge around it like a Minotaur in a maze. And Aldourie’s gardening team will be thrilled that this aesthetically pleasing outdoor space is being enjoyed to its utmost.exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Adventure outdoors exploring the historic arboretum

Once you’ve got a feel for the Aldourie Estate in the Castle Garden it’s time to venture forth into a more adventurous space. With much less structure to comfort you the arboretum is home to both the old family grave yard and hundreds of thickset, towering centuries’ old trees. With more dips and turns than a rollercoaster this enchanting forest runs along the edge of Loch Ness. So, there’s plenty of light coming through making it an energetic walk full of wonder.

During your stay in an exclusive use Castle in Scotland don’t miss an opportunity to get knee deep in mud and flora. These historic grounds feature a variety of old plant species – do take your time to stop and look at them, and smell that delightfully fresh Highlands air.exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Pick fruit and veg with a walled garden meander

As you approach the top end of the arboretum you’ll come to a clearing and a striking stone wall. This is the entrance to the walled garden. Created by the gardening team led by landscape architect Tom Stuart Smith, the walled garden encloses endless varieties of fruit, vegetables, salads, trees, plants and flowers. It’s a beautiful sight to behold and an Aladdin’s Cave of edible treasure! This exclusive use Castle in Scotland is not only the sole live-in Castle on Loch Ness but it boasts its own farm-to-table experience for private stay guests.

Meander around Aldourie’s walled garden during summer being sure to admire the colourful patterns of the veg patches and the juxtaposition of the topiary trees against the tall oaks beyond the garden wall. There’s so much to see and smell; you’ll get a real taste of Aldourie here. As an exclusive party of guests at the Castle you can pick seasonal fruit and veg in the glasshouses and take them back to the Castle for Chef to prepare and cook. Enjoy a hearty lunch after a productive walk.exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Take in the sights with a parkland roam

If you’re partial to a bit of Jane Austen, as a private guest of an exclusive use Castle in Scotland, you won’t be disappointed with this roaming 500 acre country Estate. In true Elizabeth Bennet style, pick a breezy day and march straight across the flat parkland landscape. (Cue dramatic Highlands’ gusts to blow away any cobwebs and free your troubled mind.)

This really is a walk you’ll want to photograph! You’ll have a choice of backdrops: the stately Castle in all its turreted glory; a sea of lush green trees fringing the Estate; the dark and atmospheric entrance to the Aldourie woodland and not forgetting our architectural triumph – the walled garden.

Romantic beach stroll alongside calming Loch Ness

Feel the romance of the Scottish Highlands warm your soul as you take a relaxing walk along the Loch Ness shoreline. As the only exclusive use Castle in Scotland overlooking Loch Ness, Aldourie’s magic is palpable. In summer, walk barefoot under the hot sun or wait until moonlight casts an ethereal glow across the water.exclusive use Castle in Scotland

Couples staying as part of a private house party at the Castle take delight in walking hand in hand along the stretch of beach that beckons to nearby Dores. Nothing but the best that nature has to offer embraces you as you walk. Hear the gentle gushing of the waves amidst fresh scents of Scotland’s fauna and watch the clouds roll across the sky. Loch Ness and the majestic hills beyond make this walk simultaneously lazy whilst awakening of all the senses.

5 Highlands lochs to visit during Scottish castle vacations

With over 31,000 lochs dotted throughout Scotland, there’s no shortage of beauty spots for nature lovers. But as Scotland has so much else to offer the discerning tourist, many of us think that once you’ve seen one loch you’ve seen them all. However, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Many lochs of the Highlands alone boast their own distinct features and history. Here are five lochs of the Highlands you probably have never heard of, each with their own story to tell. When you rent a Scottish castle you must experience the wonder of Scotland’s hidden lochs.

Loch Tay of ancient Scotland

Loch Tay is a freshwater loch in the central Scottish Highlands. It’s the largest in Perthshire and one of the deepest in the whole of Scotland.Scottish castle vacations

This particular loch is riddled with ghosts of the past and was once the historic province of Breadalbane.  Fascinatingly, ancient settlers used to live on the loch some 2500 years ago in artificially created islands, known as crannogs. Most of these islands are submerged beneath the water but one still remains seen at Kenmore. This was the ancient burial ground of Queen Sybilla, wife of Alexander King of Scots. The magnificence of Loch Tay is only magnified by its eerie expanse of dark waters stretching 15 miles long and 508 feet deep.

During Scottish castle vacations Loch Tay’s shingle beach is the perfect spot for the romantic at heart to soak up the warming autumn rays. Alternatively, families can enjoy sailing its tides or playing water sports.

Loch Awe; as Scottish as a loch can be

Loch Awe is a large body of freshwater in Argyll and Bute, in the Scottish Highlands. Like something out of a dream world, it also houses islands within it.

Loch Awe: it’s all in the name. At 28 miles in length it is the longest fresh water loch (or lake) in the UK. Secondly, it’s known to anglers as holding holds the current record for the largest Brown Trout caught in the British Isles. And thirdly, it has Kilchurn Castle, arguably Scotland’s most impressive and iconic ancient buildings and ancestral home of clan Campbell, at its north-eastern edge.Scottish castle vacations You have probably seen Loch Awe, without realising it. The atmospheric ruin of Kilchurn Castle is one of the most popular images of Scotland.

This autumn why not explore its wondrous islands, beaches, wooded slopes and distant snow-capped mountains.

Loch Rusky is a hidden gem

Loch Rusky is a small freshwater loch near Callander in Stirling in the Scottish Highlands. It lies in the former county of Perthshire.

Hidden away on the very edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Loch Rusky is a beautiful and peaceful little loch which hosts more fishermen and photographers than tourists.

If you enjoy a spot of trout fishing or fly fishing then Loch Rusky is a must when you rent a Scottish castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Katrine has Victorian roots

Loch Katrine is a freshwater loch and scenic attraction in the Trossachs area of the Scottish Highlands. It is also within the district of Stirling. The loch is 13 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide and is situated in the Trossachs National Park.Scottish castle vacations

Katrine is from the Gaelic for “highland thief or robber.” Loch Katrine has been a holiday destination since Victorian times, when the famous steamship Sir Walter Scott, still in use today, was first launched on its waters. Experience the beauty of this loch with a cruise on this ‘Lady of the Lake’, a landmark in The Trossachs for over a hundred years. Perhaps you’ll just want to relax with a coffee or a meal in the Brenachoile Cafe Bar, shop for a souvenir and take a stroll by the shore, or bring the family for a cycle trip?

Loch Morar lets you find peace

Loch Morar is a freshwater loch in Lochaber, in the Scottish Highlands. It is the fifth-largest loch by surface area in Scotland, and the deepest freshwater body in the UK – 100m deeper than Loch Ness!).

It’s a quite beautiful place and so very peaceful and quiet; almost eerie in its serenity. Dotted around its midst are churches, cottages and farm animals. Watch out for the sheep as you drive up close to Loch Morar. This particular loch is not in the least popular with tourists but nonetheless is ideally peppered with little coves, mini beaches and various other little stopping points.Scottish castle vacations

The views over to the mountains on the other side are spectacular and ever changing as the clouds roll in and out. Visits to Loch Morar bring about a peacefulness you can only experience in the Highlands.

Find yourself when you rent a Scottish castle

These lochs detailed above are just a selection of what is on offer when you rent a Scottish castle. Whether you want to explore its local villages, appreciate the surrounding scenery or dive right into the heart of one of these fascinating stretches of water, there’s a loch waiting for you. What’s more, Aldourie Castle boasts fantastic views of Loch Ness and sets you in perfect placing for exploring the loch and those of further afield alike.

Before and after pictures: an exclusive use Castle on Loch Ness

Since 2017 we have made numerous substantial changes to Aldourie Castle both inside the property and out on the Estate. Aldourie has been part of the Wildland portfolio, placing conservation at the heart of running a working estate, for a few years now. All these renovations have made this exclusive use Castle on Loch Ness even more desirable. You may find that hard to believe – but here are the photographs to prove it.

Castle exterior befitting an historic property

Aldourie used to be a pale salmon/cream in colour but recently underwent a drastic renovation to reflect the aesthetic of a true period property of its day. This striking Castle on Loch Ness appeared even more spectacular in its new coat. As they say, it just goes to show what a lick of paint can do!

Luxury Exclusive Castle Holiday Scotland

Inside the Castle on Loch Ness

The Main Hall at Aldourie Castle is one of the interior spaces boasting the most drastic of transformations. It still has the large feasting table in its centre but now has more focus through a shrewd interior design. The light grey walls and dark drapes along with the imposing original fireplace and huge oil portraits give the room further definition and grandeur. This is important considering the ‘great hall’ of a manor house or castle is its main room. And it should, by modern standards of exclusive use properties at least, exude magnificence.

Take a look at the difference in tone and colour between these two photographs, and the effect it has on the mood of the Castle’s Main Hall.

Aldourie Castle Loch Ness


Aldourie Castle - main hall

One of the most loved public rooms of this welcoming Castle on Loch Ness is The Red Drawing Room. Not least because it features views over the loch from a most comfortable space.

In short, the drawing room has lost some of its ‘red’ with the anticipation of adding more warmth and calm to the large, varied space.

The Murano chandelier has now been replaced by a larger, even more opulent one and the main portrait wall was broken up by a large mirror above the fireplace, which reflects some of the ceiling’s white out into the room.

See how this subtle alteration to the furnishings achieves its desired effect.

Aldourie Castle Estate Gallery


The Laird’s Room is now a breakfast room of opulence, compared to its original masculine, almost medieval theme. This also is one of the most changed interiors.

Although previously favoured by most guests staying at the Castle for its cosiness and character, this new look gives the room versatility and an elegance it never had.

Panelled wooden walls were replaced and painted and a dado rail added. Heavy gothic-like wall lanterns were replaced with more delicate ones. Lastly, bright blue ornaments and fire surround helped lighten the look of this dark room.

These photos convey two distinct interiors with the same layout. A bit of glitz makes all the difference.

Aldourie Castle Loch Ness

Rent an entire scottish castle lairds room

Bedroom and bathroom transformations

Throughout the 13 luxury and individual character bedrooms in this Castle on Loch Ness there have been various recent restyles. Mackintosh, Lady Grey and Nursery Wing are amongst those that have been redecorated. The Old Kitchen, part of the latter, became a bathroom featuring beautiful pastel shades.

The space as it was is unrecognisable now since the four piece bathroom suite replaced wall units and white goods.

Nursery Bathroom is quickly becoming a favourite with exclusive use Castle guests for its calming green tones and peaceful aura. It’s so interesting to see the function of a space changed entirely.


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The gardens and grounds have seen some changes too. Our next installment of this post shows the before, during and after pictures of the Castle Garden and the Walled Garden. We ave Margaret Soraya to thank for the beautiful photography shown above and in our next post.

If you are interested in hiring out Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness for your event or house party stay please contact the main office on 01463 751309.





5 reasons to celebrate your milestone birthday in a castle

If you’ve ever dreamed of celebrating any of your milestone birthdays in an exclusive use castle then this blog post is for you. We’ve pulled together all our favourite things about Aldourie that just so happen to make it the most wonderful place to celebrate the exciting and momentous landmarks in someone’s life. Whether you’re turning 18 or celebrating an incredible 90 years of age, there couldn’t be a more perfect location than this enchanting Castle on Loch Ness.

Private location away from the rest of the world

The exclusivity and privacy you enjoy in any hospitality setting will heighten sensations of comfort and relaxation. Don’t believe us? Ask any one of our guests who’ve enjoyed our exclusive use castle in Scotland. Once you enter the large iron gates at the top of the drive, your private castle stay begins. Let go of any troubles and stresses and escape city life with an exclusive use castle stay.milestone birthdays in a castle

Not all of us are partygoers. But most of us can’t deny the wonderful and secure sensation of being surrounded by our very nearest and dearest at the most important times in our lives. A milestone birthday is just that. Celebrate being you in a Scottish castle surrounded by nothing but the majestic Highlands landscape and the calming waves of Loch Ness. This will encourage your own wellbeing and give you time and space to reflect. As social as a birthday party may be, it’s nice to get away from noise and be in the moment. We recommend an early morning stroll with Lizzie, Aldourie Castle’s devoted dog, down to the shores of Loch Ness. Here you can admire the pure serenity of a Scottish Highlands’ sunrise.

Celebrating milestone birthdays in a Scottish castle also lets you see the wood for the trees. You can enjoy the space as your own in your own time, pondering the beauty of nature and exquisite rooms with little or no distraction. It also gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with those you love over a week or even longer. Celebrate, reminisce and make memories at your own pace in an exclusive use castle.

Stunning outdoor setting

Imagine waking up on the morning of your 21st birthday and having an entire Highlands castle and estate to yourself. Every inch of it there to be explored and enjoyed by you and your favourite people. The 500 acres of Aldourie Estate comprises parkland, woods, gardens, the legendary Loch Ness and more. It’s all there to be roamed so don’t hesitate to get outdoors.milestone birthdays in a castle

The views are varied and there’s one for everyone – and every decade. From dramatic highland mountains to pretty floral displays and vast tree-dotted parkland. Enhance the theatrical celebrations of your milestone birthday in a Scottish castle with this beautiful backdrop.

Aldourie Estate is like a patchwork quilt of the best that the Highlands has to offer. Start from the back door and weave your way around this spectacular outdoor paradise. We promise you’ll come across a part of Aldourie’s generous landscape you’ll want to visit again and again. What better birthday present than that. Why not sit amongst the topiary trees of the formal Castle Garden. If there are children in your group they’ll love running together along the flower lined paths.

Historic property gives the illusion of grandeur

We all love a champagne reception in grand, historic surroundings, whether it’s after the wedding nuptials or before a business conference. There’s a definite buzz in the air; a mixture of the bubbles and the posh frocks maybe. But could it also be a reaction to the surreal nature of the place; somewhere you don’t frequent every day? The history combined with elegance is what makes it exciting.milestone birthdays in a castle

In the past, Aldourie has played host to individuals who have chosen to celebrate their milestone birthdays in a Scottish castle. You can have a castle stay house party for a weekend or longer. This is very appealing if you spend your free time travelling up and down the UK visiting National Trust, Historic Scotland or English Heritage sites. The big difference at Aldourie Castle, however, is the fact that there are no roped off areas. In fact, the only rope you’ll see is the handrail to help pull you up the steep spiral staircases. You’ll find these in any Scottish castle but the beauty of our exclusive use castle in Scotland is that no one will condemn you for wandering into hidden towers and turrets.

Luxury group accommodation as individual as you are

Another reason to hold milestone birthdays in a Scottish castle is the wonderful group accommodation. In a castle, the bedrooms are as you would expect them to have been back in the day. Each is extremely comfortable, beautifully decorated and has the ‘wow’ factor. This appeals to exclusive use parties who can place their private guests in bedrooms according to their requirements and personal tastes.Milestone Birthdays in a Scottish Castle

Each castle bedroom, particularly at Aldourie, is designed around a theme thereby determining its own style. Take a look through our luxury castle bedroom gallery to see how Loch Bedroom, Garden Bedroom and The Nursery Wing differ from one another.

Everyone wants to celebrate in a beautiful castle

Let’s face it; it’s nice to receive a personal invitation. Whether it’s to a simple summer garden party or a spectacular celebration of a milestone birthday in a Scottish castle. What makes a celebration location like this so appealing? For a start, guests can live the dream for a little while, imagining a life lived in a castle of their own. Our exclusive use castle in Scotland allows guests to wander the hallways in their finest party attire, admiring old family portraits and exquisite ornamental heirlooms as they go.

A castle is made up of various rooms each with a specific use. For example, the wine cellar, breakfast room and great hall each have an individual purpose. This in particular helps make special celebrations with family and friends feel grander and more personal than simply hiring just another room in a venue.

milestone birthdays in a Scottish castle

Visit Aldourie’s wine cellar to choose your own wine to be served the evening of your birthday celebrations. Greet your guests in the Main Hall offering them a glass of champagne and canapés. Let them retire to the Library for quiet conversation or the Drawing Room for party games. The morning after, meet your family and friends for a full Scottish breakfast in the Lairds Room overlooking Loch Ness.

These are just a few reasons to celebrate your milestone birthday in a Sottish castle. We hope you have fun discovering the rest. For more information on how to hire Aldourie Castle for your special occasion or event please contact the Castle via our website.

How conservation is key at the Castle on Loch Ness

Walled kitchen gardens are such an important part of our history but without conservation efforts they quickly decline. Here’s how Aldourie Estate is putting conservation first to recreate a thriving walled garden for the Castle on Loch Ness.

For centuries, most large country houses featured a walled kitchen garden. They were a hive of production; growing food, herbs and flowers for use by the family and staff of the house and their guests. The historic walled garden used to be considered the main provider of fruit and veg, acting like a supermarket would today. Shipping food from overseas is now more common, which is highly unsustainable. In short, it is the reason why so many properties are reviving their historic walled gardens, reclaiming and using them productively for their original purpose.

historic walled garden

Aldourie Castle is no exception. We are determined to bring Aldourie’s walled garden back to its former glory by fully utilising the land on which it sits. The overall Estate conservation project started in 2017, and reviving the walled garden is only one element of this. Needless to say, this in turn has had other significant benefits to the Estate – something which we will talk about in a later blog post.

How does the walled garden function?

Historically, walled gardens were created to provide fruit and vegetables for the family of the house. The high walls provide protection from predators and the elements and also create a micro-climate within. This is especially important in northern climates such as Scotland which fall prey to wind and frost. These tall sheltered walls create a higher temperature by absorbing and retaining the heat. As a result, this enables species of fruit and veg to survive and grow. Most walled gardens have stone walls that act as a slow release radiator of solar energy. Many walled kitchen gardens have glasshouses, like those on the Aldourie Estate. Heated kitchen gardens extend the growing season and allow exotic fruit and plants to grow.

historic walled garden

Conservation will revive the historic walled garden

Conservation management is the key to the success of a historic walled garden. This incorporates good design and features plus a dedicated plan for repairs and restoration. Conserving a walled garden’s microclimate, mentioned above, is crucial to growing collections of historic fruit cultivars from centuries ago.  Understandably, many stately homes and historic houses wish to achieve historic fruit cultivars by restoring their walled kitchen gardens.

Environmental sustainability is another matter that is important to to reviving the historic walled garden. Part of this process is to monitor the effect and impact of climate change. Doing this ensures that wear and tear don’t get the better of a functioning walled garden. If we can limit the use of peat and manage green waste, historic gardens can be conserved.

Conservation efforts by the Castle on Loch Ness

Pests and invasive plant species continually threaten historic gardens and landscapes such as Aldourie Estate. Although these threats can be managed on private historic estates to a degree, nature is a force which cannot be controlled. The gardening team at Aldourie are only too aware that the presentation and workings of a walled garden can be easily disrupted as the result of wind, water or wildlife.

Aldourie Estate is part of the Wildland portfolio of properties. Wildland is committed to conservation; understanding and appreciating the value of nature as ‘the world’s greatest asset’. Wildland is concerned that wilderness in Scotland, and in fact the world over, is disappearing at an alarming rate. Therefore, above all else, it aims to preserve and regenerate nature. Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness specifically is achieving this through the revitalisation of the 500 acre Estate in line with Wildland’s ethos.
historic walled garden

Within Aldourie’s conservation efforts is the restoration of the historic walled garden. Now the area is both more aesthetically pleasing and functions as a walled garden should do. It grows and sustains a variety of fruit, veg, salads, herbs and plants that it used to do in another life, once upon a time.

Keep up with our conservation projects across the Highlands Estate through our social media pages, particularly via our Facebook page.

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 worshippers 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. Or you could hire an entire castle; 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, and as you hire an entire castle you take 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

Hire an entire castle with delicious food and drink

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 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 when you hire an entire castle.

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.