Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.

There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.Highland Games in castle grounds

Caber toss – great to start off your Games:

How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!

How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.

Stone put – a traditional sport:

How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds.  Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.

Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:

How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.

Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:

How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.

Highland Games in castle grounds

How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.

Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):

How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.

Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.Highland Games in castle grounds

Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds

For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?

It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.

Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds

You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following: Highland Games in castle grounds

Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.

Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.

Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.

For more information on exclusive use house parties and holidays please complete the contact form on our website found here.


A guide to wedding anniversary themes and their meanings

It’s the year of the rooster. But really, that’s of little importance if this year you celebrate a special wedding anniversary with your loved one. In fact, every year until the 70th you can bestow a gift to your husband or wife according to the tradition that has since transcended into modern times. There are various versions of themes but we like this list below. Today, all the anniversary years from 1 up to 30 have been linked with a theme or material, and then every fifth year up to 75 years of marriage. However, we approve the traditional! It also makes sense for Aldourie to go down the more old-fashioned route, being an historical property. Speaking of which, if you are looking for a special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate in, you need look no further than our exclusive location in the magnificent Scottish Highlands.

Bestow your gift inside your own castle

This is such a lovely thing to blog about, especially as we’re now mid wedding season. Maybe you’ve recently become engaged or are planning your intimate wedding in Scotland. You may also discover our enchanting Castle, should you stumble across our helpful blog post, the perfect location for your wedding anniversary party with family and friends. 

Weddings can be exciting and spectacular, subtle and romantic, meaningful and mesmerising. They can be so many things to everybody all at once and just a certain thing to somebody at any one time. Wedding anniversary presents should be just as personal and bespoke – and that is how we like to keep things at Aldourie, a very special wedding anniversary castle.

1st Anniversary – Paper

The tradition has always been to give paper as a gift to celebrate your first year together. This notion was inspired by the first year of marriage being like a blank sheet, and largely fragile.

2nd Anniversary – Cotton

Your lives become more intertwined the longer you stay together as a married couple. This is symbolised by the many carefully woven threads that are used to make a piece of cotton.

3rd Anniversary – Leather

You relationship will become stronger as your marriage continues and matures. The gift for your third year suggests strength and protection. Leather is durable and hard-wearing material that is used to provide shelter and comfort.

4th Anniversary – Fruit & Flowers

This gift is based on a relationship ripening and blossoming as marriage continues. Flowers and/or fruit are the perfect way to celebrate your growing love after four years. Hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion and decorate the entire place with flowers of your choice.

5th Anniversary – Wood

This natural material is a wonderful symbol of a marriage reaching five years. Trees have always been seen to denote strength and wisdom. Your marriage by now is solid and you have established some deep roots keeping you together in body and mind.

6th Anniversary – Sugar

Life is thought to be getting sweeter by the time you reach your sixth year of marriage. Celebrate with some sweet treats. This is a lovely, tempting gift idea offering so much choice!

7th Wedding Anniversary – Copper & Wool

Does this appear a strange combination? The reason for the pairing of copper and wool to acknowledge seven years as a married couple is their ability to conduct heat. Your partnership should be toasty warm after such time, and as comforting as sitting by the fireside in an Aldourie holiday cottage. This inspires some beautiful gift ideas for both your partner and the home.

8th Wedding Anniversary – Bronze

Bronze is an extremely strong metal and is an apt way to recognise this substantial stretch of time together. This beautiful metal is made up of copper and tin; combined they form strength and beauty. If you choose to celebrate in style by hiring a special wedding anniversary castle you’ll no doubt find numerous bronze ornaments dotted around for inspiration.

9th Wedding Anniversary – Pottery or Willow

What a lovely combination with so many ideas for gifts. Pottery is moulded by hand and the careful process results in a work of art. In a similar vein, willow has qualities of flexibility and, again, strength. You can create beautiful things if you take the time and effort to weave it (being sure to work through any mundane moments).

10th Wedding Anniversary – Tin

Tin sounds is such a traditional-sounding gift theme – and it’s also a clever one. This old-fashioned metal was used to store and preserve items so you can see why it was chosen to commemorate a decade of marriage. Tin prevents other metals from corroding when they are plated with it, and can prolong the life of what it is storing; wonderfully symbolic.

15th Wedding Anniversary – Crystal

Crystal is not only beautiful on the eye but has long been seen as a luxurious product. Note how it is the most expensive traditional anniversary gift so far. The material has such clarity to it and is hence the token gift for its representation of a couple seeing each other clearly after 15 years together. Aldourie could be your very own special wedding anniversary castle. After all, for years a beautiful Murano crystal chandelier hung in the Red Drawing Room.

20th Wedding Anniversary – China

China is fragile, but when it is looked after properly, it can stand the test of time. Much like a relationship! Even after two decades together, you may have your moments but if you take care your relationship will always survive. Giving each other china based gifts is a good way to remind yourselves of that. Locate that special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate with family and friends in a private setting. We assure you you’ll behold some of the most beautiful china sets during your Afternoon Teas.

25th Wedding Anniversary – Silver

Silver is a precious metal, and no matter how old it is, if it’s treated properly and polished regularly it will continue to gleam. Give silver gifts for your 25th anniversary to remind yourselves of that.

30th Wedding Anniversary – Pearl

Pearls are a symbol of hidden beauty – they are cultivated over time within the not so pretty oyster, but once you open it up you find something precious inside. After three decades together it’s unlikely you’ll appear the same as you did when you first met, but what’s inside counts. Pearl inspired anniversary gifts are the way to mark this occasion.

35th Wedding Anniversary – Coral

Coral is a very precious substance and was once believed to have magical properties to protect against illness and danger. It is still precious and protected today so think carefully when it comes to choosing a coral inspired anniversary gift and maybe choose something inspired by the beautiful colour.

40th Wedding Anniversary – Ruby

Red is a colour often associated with love, and a rich red ruby is the perfect way to symbolise your love. Whether you want to do the traditional anniversary or the modern, look for ruby inspired gifts as the stone is used for both. This is such a momentous, hopelessly romantic anniversary that you may just need a hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion, a location able to match the beauty of this stunning stone.

45th Wedding Anniversary – Sapphire

Beautiful blue sapphires were once the reserve of loyalty, making them a luxurious, aspirational item. Give the gift of sapphires to celebrate an impressive 45 years together, as it’s used for traditional and modern anniversary celebrations.

50th Wedding Anniversary – Gold

After a lifetime together, there’s only one gift that can do it justice – gold. The most precious metal, gold symbolises lots of things, including prosperity and strength. Again gold is used for modern and traditional anniversaries so buy your loved one a gold anniversary gift. You could even upgrade your wedding rings!

55th Wedding Anniversary – Emerald

Green is considered to be the most calming of all colours, and represents growth. After 55 years together your life may not be as hectic as it once was, but you’ve grown together so give emerald inspired gifts to recognise that.

60th Wedding Anniversary – Diamond

Diamonds flourish under pressure and are extremely hardwearing – just like your relationship will be after six decades of marriage. It is considered to be invincible and is associated with love and wealth. After 60 years of happy marriage, you may not have physical wealth but you’ll have a wealth of experience and love so celebrate with diamond inspired anniversary gifts.

70th Wedding Anniversary – Platinum

Platinum is a metal that resists wear and is incredibly hard to tarnish. It’s one of the rarest metals, making it exclusive and is a symbol of endurance. What better way to describe 70 years of marriage? Celebrate not only with each other but why not mark this incredible milestone with everyone you love? Take over a special wedding anniversary castle with your dearest family and friends in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Make your 70th wedding anniversary a memory for all those you cherish.

This has been a real lesson in love. How fascinating to find out exactly what and why matrimonial gifts are so meaningful and important. Note how the gifts start off simple and inexpensive with great potential for innovation and interpretation. Finding your feet and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t is akin to the first few years of marriage. And making sure there is enough money left in the pot for building a life together. Later, the materials become more elegant and of finer quality and great value. Surely a long, prosperous marriage is worthy of such recognition. It seems right to bestow a gift of beauty that can be admired for years to come, in the same way you look back on the beautiful picture your life together.

Beautiful location to match your anniversary gift

Unique Aldourie Castle hosts a handful of weddings a year and specialises in the intimate wedding celebration. This is mainly because the setting within is made for intimate gatherings and house parties. Also, we like to pay tribute to the history and values of the property. As well as small weddings, the only habitable Castle on Loch Ness makes a stunning location for wedding anniversary parties. Guests come from world-wide to stay in this enchanting Castle and make it their own for a week or even longer. Please call 01463 751309 to discuss your celebration requirements and how Aldourie can make this your very own special wedding anniversary castle.


48 hours in an exclusive use executive retreat

Arrive to an exclusive concierge

You’ve enjoyed the convenient flight to Inverness Airport or the swift route of the A9 to Inverness. Now you’ve arrived at your destination and driven through the large iron gateway to Aldourie Estate. Firstly experience the long winding drive through glorious parkland that takes your directly to the door of the Castle. Then you shall be greeted at the big Castle door by the property’s hospitality manager. A small but dedicated team will make sure you and your business guests experience only the highest standard of hospitality during your stay. You have arrived at Scotland’s most welcoming exclusive use executive retreat.exclusive use executive retreat

5-star 4-course dinner

As with any private hire property in Scotland, the quality of food at Aldourie Castle is of the highest standard. The competition for luxury exclusive use executive retreat is growing therefore no private use property can rest on its laurels.  Lucky for you; our guests. You are about to be spoiled by a succession of sophisticated dishes. All Aldourie’s cuisine is planned, prepared and cooked by our private Castle chef. Dinner is a treat offering the finest meat, fish and game from the Scottish Highlands alongside the freshest local produce.

You first evening’s meal might consist of the following mouth-watering cuisine:
Applecross scallops with crème fresh and chorizo
roasted loin of Speyside lamb cooked with olives and rosemary
Passionfruit meringue with strawberries
Selection of Scottish cheeses with oatcakes

Rest in private group accommodation

Here are a few of our beautiful bedrooms, all with four poster beds and private bathrooms. They offer the ideal setting for an exclusive use executive retreat for corporate and business group stays.

Lady Grey – this room is a sophisticated suite perfect for your top client. Its regal red decoration and dark wooden furnishings make it warm and luxurious. A large bay window looks over the Estate; a light and spacious room designed to impress.exclusive use executive retreat

Fraser Wing – allocate this relaxing executive suite to your CEO or Chair. It features a separate living space to relax and rejuvenate whilst calming autumnal tones decorate the bedroom.

Old Nursery Wing – this is a nostalgic space with loch views, perfect for creative thinking. Light, airy and atmospheric, this room is full of character.

Multi-functional luxury meeting spaces

To say there are no rules at Aldourie, an exclusive use corporate retreat on the edge of Loch Ness, would be a little unwise. However, we have simple rules that are easily played by. And we certainly have none when it comes to how you wish your business meeting or event to pan out. The expertise of our hospitality manager and team will be at your disposal, however, and can greatly simplify your workload. Trust us to advise on the best spaces and rooms for specific tasks and events.

Generally, the Castle features a sophisticated design and an informal atmosphere so can befit any corporate requirement. Aldourie’s public rooms are listed here with their helpful descriptions:

Library – cosy decoration with lots of natural light; great for brainstorming sessions
Drawing Room – spacious and large subtly L-shaped room, copious light and varied views making it ideal for presentations and small conferences.
Lairds Room  – this features a large oak table with comfortable chairs and open fireplace ideal for a BoD meeting or private, interview/catch up meeting.
Main Hall – this has just had a stunning new makeover and makes a great welcome area and networking space. Here also a hot or cold buffet lunch can be served and guests can retreat to the terrace overlooking Loch Ness.exclusive use executive retreat

Midday food designed to spur you on

Chef is keen to provide a healthy nutritious food for all our corporate guests during the day. This helps the brain take a well-needed rest and encourage enthusiasm for the afternoon ahead. Fresh cold meat, eggs, salads and slow burning foods like healthy potato salads and herb infused pastas. A light buffet will be just the ticket to get the creativity flowing for that brainstorming session in the library.

Later, Afternoon Tea will be served; the perfect break needed to make the most of those last few hours of business during your exclusive use executive retreat. Try fresh juices and fruit if you still have a challenging meeting ahead. Or you may wish to reward yourself for that afternoon presentation with one of Aldourie’s home-baked cakes. A selection of hot drinks will be available throughout the day.

Pre-dinner drinks

Enjoy these either indoor or outdoor before another sit down dinner in the dining room. As with any exclusive use Castle, you will find an array of spirits and liquors lined up just waiting to be appreciated. Clock that 50 year-old whisky that you’ll sample as a night-cap later on whilst listening to the gentle tide of Loch Ness. After a day of hard work treat yourselves to some bottles from the Aldourie wine cellar, which can be expertly chosen by our hospitality team to accompany any dish.

Corporate activities to beat all outdoor experiences

You’re now on the second day of your exclusive use executive retreat and the important issues have been tackled at yesterday’s board meeting. Today is all about staff teambuilding and building morale within your team. Enter the best location for outdoor activities in Scotland: Loch Ness. Aldourie’s hospitality team can arrange a stream of corporate teambuilding events and activities alongside trusted local suppliers. These can include any of the below and more besides:exclusive use executive retreat

Nessie Hunter boat rides
canoeing/kayaking
water zorbing
4×4 driving Loch Ness shore

The 500 acre Aldourie Estate is also a fantastic location to carry out corporate outdoor activities. From Segway races around the parkland to team treasure hunts in the woodland, there is so much fun and adventure to be had during staff away days. Archery on the lawn or falconry are exceptional experiences not to be missed when you’re doing business in a spectacular Castle.

For more information on exclusive meeting hire or corporate teambuilding opportunities at Aldourie Castle Estate, please contact the main office via our enquiry form. Alternatively, you can phone 01463 751309.


Take the high road with a North Coast 500 road trip

Plan your trip of a lifetime around one of Scotland’s most beautiful coastal routes. Book two exclusive use stays during a life-changing North Coast 500 road trip.

We want to tell you about a new driving route through the west Highlands of Scotland. One that is full of adventure and scenic views. It’s called the North Coast 500; a 516-mile (830.4 km) route around the north coast of Scotland, starting and ending at Inverness Castle. Here we suggest how best to enjoy Scotland’s very own Route 66. Start with a luxury exclusive use stay at the resplendent Aldourie Castle. Then stop partway to relax and recharge at the idyllic Kinloch Lodge in Sutherland. Aldourie and Kinloch are both part of the Wildland group of properties. Each is available all year round for private hire rental and luxury group accommodation.

Experience more than 500 miles of the best scenery the North Highlands has to offer. The route runs from to and from Inverness, then round the capital of the Highlands, up the West Coast and back via the rugged north coast.

How many miles is do-able in a day? It’s personal preference and it depends what kind of experience you want to have. The sightseers amongst you may prefer to stop every 50 miles to appreciate the famous landmarks in all their glory. If you are a keen motorcyclist or driver you and your beloved vintage car or Harley you may be in it more for the ride and rank up a lot more mileage in a single day.Aldourie Castle

Stay in your own castle on Loch Ness

Whatever mode of transport you’ve chosen to travel along the North Coast 500, there’s plenty of outdoor space at the Castle to park up your vehicles. Ideally situated just six miles from Inverness, Aldourie Castle Estate is your starting point for this epic adventure. The 500 acre Highlands Estate is accessed off the main road into Inverness. Simply turn into the huge iron gateway and follow the drive down to the Castle.

A warm welcome will greet you here and our dedicated hospitality team will help you settle in straight away. Hand over your luggage and enjoy a drink in the Drawing Room. Or, if it’s nice weather you might wish to sit out on the terrace. Aldourie is designed for exclusive use rentals only so the property and immediate grounds are solely yours for the duration of your stay. Enjoy these first few days of your North Coast 500 road trip in your own luxurious holiday setting on Loch Ness. The Castle can accommodate up to 30 guests in 13 bedrooms. Larger groups can spill into the four holiday cottages on the Estate.

House party before road trip

Off site of Aldourie Castle Estate there are various ways to spend your days before you begin travelling up the Highlands. The ruins of Urquhart Castle is close by and can be reached by boat and Invernesshire houses numerous famous whisky distilleries. If you want to head out in the car or on bike visit Fort Augustus for its winding walks and hikes or simply stay local around Dores Beach and Loch Ness. You’ll find quaint market towns and villages a short drive away – visit Beauly for a spot of local culture and shopping.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back at your luxury base Aldourie Castle can organise any type of outdoor sport or activity. So there’s plenty for your exclusive use group to enjoy. Take advantage of being so close to Loch Ness and book onto the Nessie Hunter or a canoe ride against the magnificent Highlands backdrop. A stay at Aldourie is complemented by our five star catering cooked in house by the Castle’s chef. Why not book your own House Party Experience at Aldourie before setting off from Inverness to start your North Coast 500 road trip.

The Black Isle

The Black Isle is located just north of Inverness. Eathie Road is one of the most scenic roads of the North Highlands and from here you can actually see Ben Nevis. There are many sightseeing opportunities on the Black Isle including wonderful views of Fort George, bright green fields above the deep blue waters of the Moray Firth, and not to mention the chance to see dolphins at Chanonry Point. The Muir of Ord distillery is a must-see. Designated drives can take their whisky tasting samples with them to enjoy that evening. This is a great Scottish Highlands experience; read more about whisky tasting in the Scottish Highlands.

Wester Ross

This is your next stop along the stunning highlands route boasting amazing scenery. Wester Ross is famous for its stunning mountains, glorious lochs and white sandy beaches. Travel along the Bealach Na Ba, a steep and winding stretch of road. This is a truly exciting route for experienced drivers and riders. Extravagant sights will ignite your senses for the start of a memorable road trip. Here you will find some useful information if you are planning to bike along the NC 500.

Ullapool is the main town of Wester Ross, a lively and friendly spot with a varied music scene. If you like your music festivals it’s well worth stopping here. Another great pit stop is the picturesque village of Aultbea located on the shoreline of Loch Ewe. Adrenaline junkies will revel in Wester Ross; take advantage of the varied outdoor activities strewn across the region.1200px-Ullapool_sun

Caithness

The next leg of your journey will take you to Caithness; a hive of history, nature and landscapes. Its dramatic flat lands and skyline give it an otherworldly feel. The district itself has an adventurous soul being home to the village of John O’Groats, the starting point to the UK’s famous end-to-end journey to Land’s End.  Once you arrive here you are well established into your NC500 road trip. So, take some quality time to relax and discover, and devour some dramatic scenery on the very edge of Europe.

Caithness is an escapist’s dream. A fascinating heritage will enthral curious minds that want to learn as they travel whilst a breath-taking coastline will capture imaginations. If you’re interested in royal connections visit the Castle of Mey, the official holiday home of the late Queen Mother. On a clear day nature lovers may like to take the nice stretch of 71 miles in one go – Cape Wrath to Duncansby Head. Make sure you get off your bike/out of your car to witness the magnificent Dunnet Head, the northern tip of the UK.

Sutherland

This region makes up a significant portion of your NC500 road trip and is full of beautiful jaw-dropping scenery. Northwest Sutherland boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and world famous beaches. Particularly seek out Achmelvich and Clachtoll for some scenic strolling. You can not the spectacular mountain ranges of this part of Sutherland.mountain-landscape-sutherland

The east coast is a real treat for golfers and here is home to the 18-hole championship Royal Dornoch golf course. Luxury lovers will meanwhile enjoy visiting the fairytale castle Dunrobin, the seat of the Earl and Clan of Scotland. Spend a few hours if you wish admiring the stunning formal gardens and experiencing falconry up close. If nature is one of the reasons for your luxury road trip more wildlife can be found at the RSPB Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, which serves to exhibit and preserve the peatlands of Scotland.

Kinloch Lodge, Sutherland – group catered stays

This exclusive use location offers solitude and comfort in the wild, magnificent setting of Sutherland. Kinloch Lodge is available all year round for private rental by one group/booking. A private holiday here is best enjoyed with a group of family or friends. It is all about appreciating nature, good food and company whilst residing in a remote, rural paradise. Laidback luxury and tranquility come hand in hand making it easy to nurture friendships or spend quality time with your clan. There is no need to lift a finger as the lodge has a private chef. Here we sourc only fresh, local produce. There is also a hospitality team as well as a head keeper to help organise any outdoor experiences.

Kinloch was originally the private lodge of the Duke of Sutherland. It’s a classic sporting property that has been newly refurbished in a Scandi-Scot style. The interior has been inspired by its outdoor setting with lots of wooden furnishings, natural colour schemes and open stone fireplaces. Generous, light living spaces allow for time alone with a good book whilst cosy corners invite fireside chats over a glass of wine.  Admire the rugged open landscape of Ben Loyal during dinner in the conservatory. Then make yourself at home in beautifully decorated spacious bedrooms.kinloch lodge sutherland

The unspoiled landscape of Sutherland

This hideaway from the real world is ideal for your second exclusive use stay during your memorable North Coast 500 road trip. You are surrounded by miles of land to roam and explore so whilst you’re on foot make the most of your idyllic setting. This area is vast and full of landmarks and attractions, history, shopping and culture. Before you take the last leg of your NC500 road trip spend some quality time in Sutherland and enjoy the remoteness of Kinloch Lodge.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


5 amazing reasons to stay in a castle

In case you need persuading we’ve listed our favourite five reasons why you might want to stay in a castle. Of course, we could have focused on the exclusivity of some castles, perfect for private family holiday rentals. Or we could have enticed you with talk of luxury bedrooms and spectacular window views. Instead, we’ve considered what might come to mind when conjuring up the image of a castle in your head. If you had never considered a stay in a castle, whether for a luxurious group holiday or special birthday celebration, it’s time to give in to your inner romantic and realise the wonder behind every castle wall.
Aldourie Castle Loch Ness bride internal spiral staircase stay in a castle

They’re in fairytales

Once upon a time people would get married in a church. Then came the shiny, swanky, spotless hotel and that became the ideal wedding venue. But nowadays, brides want it all – and that can often mean getting married in a fairytale castle…but, of course!

Not only can couples officially ‘get married’ but they can also stay in a castle overnight and so can their guests. Whether for your intimate nuptials or full blown celebrity wedding, insist on posing for photographs in the highest turret and use the spiral staircase as part of your walk down the aisle. Because surely, if they had gotten the chance, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty would have done the same thing.

Holiday and history in one

Traditionally, one of the main reasons a castle was built was to ensure protection from enemy armies. They had cold rooms, grey stone walls and floors, and tiny windows to lessen chances of danger getting in. Some castles, in Scotland most definitely, remain precisely this way to this day. These Scottish castles are fabulous for tourists wanting to get a feel for life in the olden days. However, they’re not so enticing for the luxuries one longs for when escaping for a week or two’s holiday. Now that the exclusive use property has taken off like a cannon ball, many castles have been restored and renovated with more opulence and comfort than they’ve ever had before.

old photo Aldourie Castle Estate exterior stay in a castle

Large families searching for that special reunion location can stay in a castle equipped with everything expected of a luxury holiday rental. These range from impressive technology to a five star hospitality service. The added benefit is the history that comes with a castle, from architecture to stories of the past within. A castle stay is ideal for a multi-generational holiday. For example, mum might enjoy the peace and quiet of the old library but granddad will have a whale of a time taking the kids around the nooks and crannies of the castle giving them history lessons mixed with old Scottish fables. See some photos of Aldourie Castle long ago on our History page.

They make a perfect ‘spooky’ Halloween retreat

From ghost stories round the fire, to Hide and Seek that could last a day, a castle is an Aladdin’s Cave of adventure for a Halloween stay. Not every castle is destined to be haunted, but because of its history it’ll most certainly have ‘atmosphere’. Whether a castle built for battle or an old mansion house converted into one like Aldourie, it will have an interesting past.

Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness Graveyard stay in a castle

Wouldn’t it be exciting to stay in a castle with a group of friends over Halloween? You could enjoy themed outdoor activities (arranged by the castle staff) and then make your own fun inside? You could indulge in a Halloween feast and decorate the halls with cobwebs, have a Fancy Dress evening and even carry out a Murder Mystery dinner. Thrilled by this idea? Read our Halloween House Party blog post for many more reasons to stay in a castle over Halloween. It includes lots of spooky ideas for Aldourie Castle – which has its own graveyard, you know?

You can make good use of the moat

Many castles designed for exclusive use or private hire, and notoriously Scottish castles, will feature their own moat. Quaint as this may seem, the moat surrounding the castle was, again, there to make it difficult to attack. If you are lucky enough to stay in a castle with a moat you can access, we suggest family fun activities such as zorbing, outdoor water sports like canoeing and, if the weather permits, wild swimming. Though we are not sure how wild swimming in a moat could be. In Aldourie’s case, the Castle has something better than a moat; it  has magnificent Loch Ness on its doorstep. Let us arrange a ride on the Nessie Hunter, private boat trips to Fort Augustus and water activities in front of the Castle. Water sports are a wonderful way to get everyone in a group stay involved in the holiday fun.

speedboat loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate stay in a castle

Castles unleash children’s imaginations

Nobody should really require an introduction to this point, but if in doubt; think Disney. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Shrek each have castles at the core (and heart) of their stories. Imagine telling the kids you’re all going to a land Far Far Away to stay in an enchanted castle. (The journey to the Scottish Highlands where Aldourie Castle is located, for example, could definitely qualify depending on where you live). Now, surely that’s better than DisneyLand!

There will be boundless opportunities already on offer in many castle grounds. For instance: treehouse antics, woodland to explore, a game of Tag/Tig in the parkland, Billy Goat’s Gruff if there’s a bridge and stream. Kids can create their own fun on a rainy day playing Make Believe, having the authentic props to hand. Should a back-up be needed most exclusive use castles have a dedicated games rooms where you might find a billiards table, large screen TV and board games – but we’re moving onto Times of the Modern Castle now, and that’s another story.

Aldourie Castle Estate loch ness treehouse in woodland stay in a castle

For some of you, the thought may never have crossed your mind before reading the amazing reasons above. But, if you do decide to stay in a castle maybe consider this Castle on Loch Ness. The Aldourie experience would provide you with memories to last a lifetime. On top of that, it could end up being the staple family holiday for generations to come. Make your own history at Aldourie and enquire about exclusive use availability at: info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.


Experience the best couples’ holiday on Loch Ness: Part 2

Our last blog post focused on romantic retreats in the Scottish Highlands. This next chapter highlights activities available for a couples’ holiday on Loch Ness during a stay at an Aldourie holiday cottage.  Stretch your legs as well as your imagination with these inspiring Highlands tours and outdoor activities. Then, by the end of the day you’re ready to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine in anticipation of you next adventure.

Explore another loch

Despite an incredibly scenic and famous lake on Aldourie Estate, it’s always worth broadening your horizons with new scenery. Try a boat ride on Loch Lomond one day during your romantic Highlands trip. Loch Lomond is just as glorious as Loch Ness and here you can experience many types of boating trips. Book onto a fascinating public tour, hire a boat of your own or even try some water sports. The range of boating trips offer different experiences depending on your preferences; feel the rush of adrenaline and see the sights in a flash from a speedboat or indulge in the romance of Loch Lomand with a pedal boat for two.Kayak on loch lomond - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

Visit secret hidden beaches, ancient burial grounds and old ruins off the shoreline of Loch Lomond. Or simply watch the passing scenery from the comfort of your own boat as you make memories to treasure. Loch Lomond is a popular place for couples to visit; many romantic holidays in Scotland have begun on these waters and couples return year after year to celebrate their anniversary in this magical setting.

Boat hire or Loch Lomond activity suppliers include Loch Lomond Leisure, Sweeny’s Cruises and Cruise Loch Lomond. Why not find out even more about how wonderful a day trip on Loch Lomond can be.

Into the wild

Romantic walks around Fort Augustus are another way to enjoy a romantic couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. Within moments of setting off on foot from Fort Augustus up into the hills, you will discover a sense of freedom and peace. As you climb into the scenic wilderness of inclining woodland with trees that reach up to the sky, you will soon realise you are more likely to see unusual wildlife than other walkers. This is because the area is so vast; no matter which route you take it’s likely to be a quiet one.romantic walks in fort augustus - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

Lose yourself in romantic thoughts, your hands folded into each other. Elizabeth Bennett’s flat, open landscapes have nothing on Fort Augustus’s Highlands’s countryside. Wild and remote, it is the perfect place in which to voice your innermost feelings and we don’t doubt that many a Scottish proposal has been carried out in this enchanting setting.

Need a break from the world? The small, quaint villages of the Highlands are hardly overcrowded and overbearing, but you might still need a little more escapism for your couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. To really forget about your busy lives and spend quality time together in beautiful surroundings, lose yourselves in the peaks and valleys of Fort Augustus. Here, wildlife is almost touchable – timid roe deer will rustle leaves and osprey will soar above. So, of course, remember to bring your camera (as if you would forget).

Romantic bike rides for two

Windswept and in love; surely the best way to explore the wild passionate Highlands is in tandem. Ticket to Ride is a great informative website for bike hire and cycling routes around Inverness and Loch Ness. From canal and riverside cycling to exploring the Great Glen Way or the relatively new and exciting North Coast 500, experience an unforgettable cycling holiday, or simply a day of cycling, with your loved one.

Nowhere is unreachable; take a good look at the cycling maps available to download online and choose your most romantic destination – whether you prefer road cycling or woodland routes you can find the best cycling trails for you as a couple to make the most of the romantic views of Ness and surrounding areas.couple cycling in highlands - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

So, as you will have gathered, whether walking, boating or cycling, the romance of Loch Ness and the Highlands is hot on your heels during a couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. You could argue that all your need is each other but we all know that a scenic escape is always more than welcome when it comes to spending quality time alone with each other. The Scottish Highlands and its beautiful freeing lochs are the perfect place to celebrate your love. After all this activity you’ll be ready for a rest in your idyllic holiday cottage on Loch Ness  and a relaxing evening in with your favourite tippled to toast your holiday happiness.

Why not check our holiday cottage calendar for the dates that would suit you best – scroll to the bottom to find it and simply search for your holiday dates! It’s easy to book your couples’ holiday on Loch Ness – just send us an email.


Couples holiday hideaway on Loch Ness: PART 1

Today’s world is hectic and stressful so it’s important that we take time out to enjoy the simple things. Not only that, but, as a couple, you need to keep the romance alive and make lasting memories. Depending how frantic your own lives can be on a day-to-day basis, it can be necessary to ‘get away from it all’ in order to truly appreciate one another and put ‘life’ into perspective.  We think the Scottish Highlands, and in particular Loch Ness, is the ideal holiday destination for 2017 and beyond. Here you can unwind, enjoy one another’s company and reflect on your past year together. You’ll soon realise that Loch Ness, with its beautiful, wild countryside and calming waters, is a sanctuary for lovers. In order to assist, we’ve selected some of the best ways to enjoy your couples holiday on Loch Ness.

Couples holiday on loch ness
shoreline of loch ness with highland hills beyond

Loch Ness best up close

You can browse the holiday cottage websites, go online to see photographs of the Highlands of Scotland and order brochures to your door. Everywhere you look, from websites and blogs to books, this surreal-looking place dangles a carrot promising pure escapism. But, unlike many places, the moment you drive over the border into the Scottish Highlands and of course anywhere in the surrounding rural areas of Loch Ness, and lay your eyes on this overwhelmingly spectacular and other-worldly scenery, you will discover an unbeatable haven. It’s a place that has not been oversold or exaggerated – but is, in fact, just as you imagined. What a fabulous start to any holiday!

Loch-side cottages make a romantic retreat

Some couples like to stay inland and be enclosed by the glorious remoteness of the famous Highlands. Others prefer to be on the shoreline of Loch Ness, as close as possible to its enticing romance. Aldourie Estate is an ideal hotspot for a romantic break in Scotland. Here, traditional holiday cottages combine rural bliss with waters’ edge making your stay here utter perfection.

In the private lush grounds of a country Highlands Estate, couples can appreciate nature right on their doorstep. Look out of the window onto woodlands whilst you wait for the perfect mug of morning coffee to brew. Wait a while and roe deer will emerge to munch quietly on the brambles outside your garden fence. Their delicate, gentle nature makes for a most peaceful scene only accentuated by a dense backdrop of centuries’ old trees. Listen carefully for their leaves rustling up high in a gentle morning breeze. Everything about Aldourie culminates to embody a tranquil couples’ cottage retreat on Loch Ness.

Traditional Highland cottage interiors spark romance

ivy cottage and garden couples holiday on loch ness

There are four individual – each in their character, layout and location – holiday cottages on Loch Ness at Aldourie Estate. Two of these that really entice lovers to book are Ivy Cottage and Pier Cottage. Both are very different but each offers a beautiful base for a couples’ holiday on Loch Ness.

Ivy Cottage sits slightly away from the loch itself. On the edge of the Estate and its main pulls are its two en-suite double bedrooms set in the eaves of the property. Each has a similar interior design with naturally finished or antique wooden furnishings. Windows on both sides of the bedroom let you see the clouds idly pass by as you enjoy a hot drink from bed. Dark wooden beams overhead bring a simple nostalgic charm to the peaceful holiday dwelling. The rooms are spacious yet intimate and one has an elegant free-standing bath in a corner below a skylight – lie back and you really can watch the world go by.

pier cottage exterior couples holiday on loch ness

Downstairs at cosy Ivy Cottage you’ll find a light-filled dining kitchen complete with all the modern appliances that make dining and living simple. This frees up more time to focus on and enjoy your romantic short break or cottage holiday together. Soft throws, open fires and snug sofas invite couples to cosy up once the evenings draw in. Outside, a pretty floral garden parted by a typical narrow cottage path to your front door from a romantic gated archway, is your surrounding paradise. A beautiful stone sitooterie is great for alfresco dining whilst watching the Highland cows in the adjacent field.

The sound of the waves from a cottage idyll

Pier Cottage, by contrast, is located on the edge of the shore of Loch Ness. On a breezeless day as you sit in the garden you can hear the gentle lapping of the water as its waves break along the sand. With three double bedrooms you choice of outlook is varied. Opt for the view of the loch with its distinctive Highland hills or the fairytale woodland setting. A recently renovated kitchen provides a large space in which to enjoy preparing and cooking food during self-catered stays with your loved one.

Aldourie pier couples holiday on loch ness

The property – which as close to Loch Ness as you’re going to get – is spaciously set across one floor. It is especially cosy during autumn and winter stays and features open fireplaces, comfy rugs, and soft muted colours. It is however equally as inviting in spring and summer having so many windows to let in fresh air and light.

With land on all four sides and doors on three sides Pier Cottage houses many accessible romantic spaces to relax in. Couples who stay here will never be bored, even on a rainy day. Its main garden is a haven; enjoy a refreshing afternoon drink in the sun or put the barbecue on. Walk it all off with a short but romantic stroll down to Aldourie Estate’s pier. Later, watch the sun go down over the rugged mountains beyond the shimmering lake. At Aldourie, realise your romantic holiday cottage stay of dreams on Loch Ness.

You deserve the most romantic couples cottage hideaway

A stress-free existence is everyone’s dream but it’s rarely achievable all of the time. That is why holidays are so important; not just while you’re on them but the anticipation of them too. Looking forward to something you really “can’t wait” for induces the excitement a child experiences leading up to Christmas. As a couple, that excitement can be doubled. The true beauty of a trip to the Scottish Highlands, whether for a weekend break or two weeks, is its feel of ‘magic’. From the scenery you will see and the land you’ll discover- if only from your cottage window – your couples’ holiday hideaway on Loch Ness can be anything you want it to be.

Our next chapter in the Aldourie blog will focus on the various romantic activities available in the Scottish Highlands for a couples holiday on Loch Ness. We we give you ideas for day trips off the Estate where you can explore what the Highlands has to offer. Then at the end of a day of sights and culture come home to your peaceful place.


Best Loch Ness tours for exclusive use holidays

When you decide to book an exclusive use stay in Aldourie Castle on the southern shores of Loch Ness, there is no need to venture much further beyond the Estate’s walls with so much to see and do on Loch Ness and in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness.

Exclusive Use Holidays - Applecross Peninsula Scotland

Two types of tours we are concentrating on for this blog post are nature and wildlife tours and boat tours on Loch Ness. The Highlands are famous for their lochs as well as their impressive landscapes and unique wildlife, so what better way to make you, our a private house party of guests, feel at home than by telling you all about what helps make the Scottish Highlands so welcoming and wonderful. The whimsical mountainous peaks and the fascinating natural world are what keeps people coming back to Aldourie year after year.

Nature and Wildlife tours

Take the Applecross Peninsula Day Trip from Inverness, a nine-hour day trip on a luxury tour that takes you to the less-visited part of Scotland, the windswept Applecross Peninsula. You will spot an abundance of wildlife native to the region and be transported to a dreamland as you soak up the dramatic views of wild Highlands’s scenery. A visit to the the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Britain’s oldest in fact, will supply you with enough knowledge to understand and appreciate the history of the area as well as the nature that thrives there. Look out for golden eagles soaring overhead. You will be eager to explore the many easy trails giving you and your private house party groups the chance to discover the true wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.

As you arrive in the village of Arndarroch, admire views of Loch Kishorn, then attempt the steep Bealach nam Ba (Pass of the Cattle). At the top (2,000 feet high), an extraordinary natural view will spill out before you; possibly your first sight of the Isle of Skye. From here, take the scenic drive along the shoreline of Loch Torridon, stopping part-way to explore the town of Shieldaig.

Dolphin spotting near Loch Ness

Another wonderful way to complement your exclusive use holiday in a luxury Scottish Castle is to venture out onto the wild waters of the Moray Firth, a triangular inlet of the North Sea with a stunning coastline, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the even wilder dolphin.  One of the best places to spot this beautiful and intelligent aquatic mammal is at Chanonry Point near Inverness. The dolphin-spotting area lays between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle and the best time to see them is during a rising tide. See moraydolphins.co.uk for details on tide times.Exclusive Use Holidays - Toward Beinn Eighe

For the ultimate dolphin spotting experience, Aldourie Castle recommends the boat tours that depart from inverness. The Dolphin Spirit encapsulates many aspects in one; you will be able to admire the natural landscape of Moray Firth as well as observe the wildlife in the area including herons and otters.

The thing to remember with dolphin spotting trips is how wild the animal is. That is part of its beauty; the fact that they are highly intelligent with a captivating sense of fun only adds to the delight of witnessing a dolphin in its own habitat. So, if you are lucky enough to see the dolphins that truly is a wonderful experience to hold onto. However, they are not there to perform or entertain, although their balletic dives may appear to have been rehearsed, so try not to be disappointed if you don’t catch a glimpse. And just hope they will grace you with their presence next time.


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time. For example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness. Therefore, we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness. We also made sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

It’s easy to take advantage of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. This is mainly because there are so many reputable tour operators providing an variety of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. They operate only a few miles away in Inverness and this guide comprises a few carefully selected favourites.pier cottage Aldourie Estate best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first things our guests request is information on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to do it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. However, others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views. If you are searching for the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness, be sure to include a cycling trip.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own. This varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland.

Experience the utter joy of viewing spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines two famous distilleries in an area that houses over half the distilleries in Scotland. And both are situated in entirely different settings so you get a feel for their uniqueness. To experience some of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness you must book at least one trip to a whisky distillery.

The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.whisky tasting seet up Macallan Distillery best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is. From the moment you enter the door you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop.

The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one. Whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, you will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.

We look forward to posting our second installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.