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. Scottish castle vacations are not the same without experiencing 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 Kilchern 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 flyfishing then Loch Rusky is a must-experience during Scottish castle vacations 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.

These lochs detailed above are just a selection of what is on offer during your Scottish castle vacations. 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.


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.

Nursery-Kitchen

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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 a Scottish 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 a private 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.

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 worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.

Prioritise comfort for your guests

Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.summer garden party Scottish Castle Vacations

You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.

Have a back-up plan

You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.

Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms.  We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.


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

As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.

Consider your guest list

When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Have a theme to focus on

The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.

Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.

Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting

Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party

You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience.

The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.

Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!

Create pretty flower displays

Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.

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

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


Darling buds of May on a Scottish Estate

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

More mulching and larger plant deliveries

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

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

The National Trust lends a helping hand

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

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

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

Walled garden can reap what it sows

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

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

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

Farm to table cooking and dining

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

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

Home grown flowers to fill the Castle

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

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

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

Gardeners section in blog

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


Recreating a Victorian garden in the Castle grounds

This past month has all been about planting; well, what else is Aldourie Castle’s gardening team going to do with a delivery of 20,000 plants! Let’s take a more in depth look at what the dedicated green-fingered team got up to during March and April.

Planting in the woodland; a thorough process

The team has been busy for months clearing and preparing the woodland for planting. Good things come to those who wait – the gardeners have had to be patient to say the least. The Scottish Highlands, as with all the UK, have endured unusually cold weather. Coupled with heavy rainfall, this makes full gardening days difficult to maintain.  Head gardener Duncan says:

‘We were waiting on the soil drying out properly to enable the team to complete the final preparation on the main beds.’

Aldourie Castle Estate woodland

‘We have also started removing lots of daffodils so that we can plant different bulbs. The woodland is to be clear of yellow so that’s why we are removing yellow Azaleas and Daffodils.’

You may wonder at this choice to clear the woodland of such a symbolic springtime colour. The reason for this is simply a design choice. Much of the existing collection of Rhododendrons is in a range of cooler colours such as blues, purples and pinks. We don’t want it to clash with strong yellows. The 400 new Rhododendrons we planted recently in the woodland are again mainly cooler coloured, to complement the existing collection.

The gardening team’s overarching aim is still to recreate the Victorian elegance that permeated the estate gardens of the 1800s. With that comes the planting of specific plants in tune with the gardening style of that period. That doesn’t just happen overnight, however. The garden design team, headed by Tom Stuart-Smith, has worked hard to ensure that the look and feel of each of the four garden areas in the 500-acre grounds will eventually showcase a perfect portrayal of a Victorian Scottish estate.

   Victorian Garden Aldourie EstateAldourie Castle garden Loch Ness

Transforming the Castle garden

The Aldourie gardening team have had time to perfect the way they work together having planned the revitalised estate design for over the past year. It is no surprise therefore that when it came to physical planting of these highly anticipated flowers each member of the team had a specific role to play.

The recent delivery for the Castle garden alone, the enclosed area facing Loch Ness, totalled 10,000 herbaceous perennial plants. With such a large delivery and working to a tight timescal, preparation is key and eases the potential stress or problems that may occur. Duncan explains;

Aldourie Estate castle garden

‘As the photos show, there are some of us setting out the plants and some of us planting and mulching. First, Tom Stuart-Smith and Ed Shackleton (from his office) came up and we all set out the plants according to Tom’s design. Then, after Tom and Ed left we planted them all.’

The gardening team then mulched the beds with a thick layer of composted bark, which helps to prevent weeds and keeps moisture in the soil. There are a few gaps that will be filled shortly when additional plants arrive.

‘It doesn’t look like much now but it will change a lot through the seasons and even more over the next few years. This was hard work but really exciting to get so many plants in the ground.’

Aldourie Castle Estate gardeningAldourie Castle gardening team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gardening team of four had some additional support during the Castle garden planting as spring arrived. ‘We also had a student, Louise, from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with us for a week, which was a great help.’ We are sure that working in authentic Victorian walled garden has proved a learning curve for Louise and a credit to her gardening portfolio.

THE NEXT PHASE: new vegetable patches in our walled garden

Aldourie Estate has just received the next delivery of plants (approx. 20,000) and these are destined for the walled Victorian garden. Also, something to excite our ‘farm to table’ lovers: the outdoors crew will soon start work on filling the vegetable beds to complement the glasshouses and al fresco dining experience. This means that by the height of the season we should have a fully functioning walled garden just like in the Victorian times. Yet another way for the Castle’s private guests to appreciate exclusive use living on the Highlands Estate.

Gardens team Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness

Elsie, the gardening team’s loyal and diligent canine friend, is excited to begin work on the walled garden beds. We’re sure those paws are just raring to go!

Duncan’s gardening tip for early spring

TIP: At this time of year it’s important to keep a really close eye on the weather. It can be really changeable and some late frosts may still appear, so take care when putting things like tomatoes into an unheated glasshouse. If anyone has potatoes beginning to show and a late frost is forecast it is worth putting a fleece covering over them to protect them. Conversely, this time last year we had a really dry spell so make sure seedlings and anything in pots are regularly watered as they begin growing.

Look out for our new gardens and grounds section of the website that will sit within the existing grounds pages. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.


Cranachan: taste of springtime during a castle stay in Scotland

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

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

Cranachan: a fresh, fruity spring recipe

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

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

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

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

Other traditional Scottish berry and fruit desserts to try:

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

Cranachan - A Taste Of Springtime

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

Where is best to enjoy cranachan in Aldourie Castle?

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

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

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


6 Highlands plants to spot holidaying on Loch Ness

Holidaying in Loch Ness is full of rich horticulture thanks to its tended parks and gardens, wild woodland and landscaped Highland estates. Locals, tourists and conservationists treasure every inch of soil.

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

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

Gorse – spectacular hillside hedge-like flower

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

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

Heather- Ling and Bell have different needs

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

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

Cross-Leaved Heath – pretty blooms brighten boggy Scotland soil

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

Scottish Bluebell thrives most of the year

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

Holidaying in Loch Ness

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

Interestingly, the harebell is under threat from the introduction of the new Spanish bluebell. The Spanish bluebell is much more aggressive in its reproduction. The native British Bluebell is now protected by law thanks to conservationists.

Scottish Flame Flower

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

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

The Scotch Thistle

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

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