Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!
Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie. Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.
Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?
Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!
The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.
When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?
You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.
Boat ride– during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.
Segway ride– the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.
Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.
Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.
Here at the Aldourie Castle estate, we’d like to introduce you to our new Head Gardner – Duncan Hall. Duncan is taking the exclusive use castle gardens and grounds to new heights; literally. So much thought and hard work has been put into the design of the restored Victorian landscape. It now features four considerably different garden areas. Each is enchanting to the eye, featuring various levels, from tall ancient trees to our ankle-grazing kitchen garden. Moreover, each has its own particular purpose.
You can read about them in our previous ‘Revitalised Gardens and Grounds’ blog post. But for now, we’re focusing on Duncan and his story. Along with ‘leadership of landscape’ architect Tom Stuart-Smith, Duncan and his team recently improved important parts of Aldourie’s 500-acre grounds.
The history of a Castle gardener
Duncan’s passion for gardening grew as he worked as a landscape gardener where he grew up in Dumfries and Galloway. He felt at home working outdoors surrounded by nature and as a result studied for a “HND in Horticulture with Plantsmanship” at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. It was here that he developed his passion for horticulture and researched the huge range of plants at the RBGE. After finishing his HND, Duncan spent a year as a student gardener for the National Trust of Scotland and was based at both Threave Gardens and Branklyn Garden. Threave is a teaching garden for the NTS and Branklyn is a small collectors garden full of interesting woodland and alpine plants.
Duncan was then offered the role of Assistant Head Gardener at Cambo Garden, Fife, where he spent three interesting years. At Cambo he developed a passion for contemporary naturalistic planting and learned a great deal in this area. His guru was the inspirational Head Gardener Elliott Forsyth. Furthermore, he was also involved in teaching students about naturalistic herbaceous planting and design, as well as other general horticultural skills.
Tom Stuart-Smith designs exclusive use castle gardens
Whilst working at Cambo, Duncan studied the work of Tom Stuart-Smith as well as visiting various gardens that he has designed. So, when the opportunity arose to work with him, revising the exclusive-use castle gardens at Aldourie Castle, he jumped at it. Duncan says: “This is a fantastic time to be involved with a project like this and it is very exciting to be able to contribute to the creation of the garden.”
The project to date has been challenging and rewarding, however the process has allowed Duncan to learn a lot about the construction of an exclusive-use castle garden, Duncan comments, “As a plantsman, I particularly enjoyed seeing the first of the trees and topiaries planted, which started to bring the garden to life. We have also carried out extensive clearance works in the arboretum, which were completely overgrown with the invasive Rhododendron ponticum. It is now wonderful to see and feel the potential of this space. We can now start the process of replanting with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.”
Duncan says, “it has been very interesting and enjoyable working with Tom and his team. He has learned first-hand about Tom’s style and how he works”. Tom has produced some wonderful planting plans for the castle gardens. The gardening team at Aldourie are now preparing to implement these in spring, something which Duncan is really looking forward to.
Gardeners’ section in blog
Look out for our new exclusive use castle gardens and grounds section of the website coming in 2018. This will complement the existing grounds pages. Duncan will also be popping up more frequently in the Aldourie Blog. He will showcase recent project work in the Castle grounds as well as offering handy tips for your own garden and what to plant at different times of the year. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.
This past year has seen some major renovations on Aldourie both inside and outside. Our last blog post looked at the big updates that have been made to the estate itself. This week we are focussing on the ‘new look’ of the castle exterior. Having undergone a true transformation, the public rooms inside the castle have also had a beautiful make over. These rooms are perfect for all types of luxury occasions; for a relaxing week away with the whole family or stunning weddings or corporate events in an exclusive use castle.
Castle exterior re-harl
We coated the exterior with a limewash harl, giving a whole new look to the exclusive use Castle. In Scottish terms harling describes an exterior building surface technique favoured for historic buildings. Limewash gives a long-lasting weatherproof shield for a stone building and offers a beautiful decorative finish. It was the ideal choice for Aldourie, a property that has stood for hundreds of years and has a wealth of heritage to its name. The most exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland is located in the midst of a 500 acre Highlands Estate. Therefore, it needs to be able to battle the forceful Scottish elements whilst still retaining elegance and beauty. The Castle has a duty to continue to ‘wow’ guests as they first spot it along the winding drive. Locations offering good first impressions; a great reason to host your corporate events in an exclusive use castle.
Main Hall – the first public room
The main hall in Aldourie is a large, inviting space that is the central point to the downstairs of the Castle. Its main use is for meeting and greeting and a link between the main Castle doors and the rest of the public rooms. It’s a beautiful, light and airy space integral to the property with large glass doors leading out into the Castle Garden, now a stunning green landscaped area dotted with topiary trees. With a new view that only accentuates the further vista over Loch Ness’ southern shore, the happy room deserved a revamp. The main hall is the ideal space in which to welcome corporate events in an exclusive use castle.
The idea for the main hall was for a more natural, Highlands inspired look for a serene, welcoming space that still housed the essence of grandeur. The interior decorating team began by revitalising the walls, replacing the salmon hues with a blue-grey. The red tartan over-drapery was removed which fully showcased and lengthened the existing taupe coloured curtains making the windows appear even larger. A huge classical portrait was brought down from the corridor on the second floor and has been given a new perspective for the foreseeable future.
Hidden historical gem
We discovered a striking old fireplace with the engravings of the Castle’s family heritage name ‘Frazer-Tyler’ depicted in the stone work underneath the existing, newer fireplace. The present owner and Castle hospitality team are delighted at the find. The fireplace, now larger, is much more of a feature, both historically and aesthetically. A large basket of wood sits just below the mantel ready to top up the blazing fire.
Lairds Room – for an elegant Scottish breakfast
This was a brand new project which included removing the old dark wooden panelling from all the walls and letting taupe painted walls and fine cornice detail in ivory take its place. As a result, a calmer, more elegant looking room emerged, ideal for corporate events in an exclusive use castle. The new table and dozen chairs give the Lairds Room a more classical theme. A stunning theatrical gilded mirror framed by wall chandeliers highlights a Louis XVI-style fireplace below.
A huge tapestry hangs opposite and gives added texture to the cosy room. The Lairds room has always been a popular spot for guests, a smaller space than the dining room for entertaining. Since its renovation it has been mainly used as the breakfast room by exclusive use guests.
Library has a different focus
The warm, homely Library has fortunately not lost any of its rich decoration which still give it such depth and charm. The Aldourie Library has always been the go-to place for reading (of course), a game of cards with friends or a dram of whisky in the evening. With this in mind the large room is closed in slightly to make more of the existing space.
Seated furniture now faces inwards over a low coffee table and as a result encourages gentle conversation and relaxation. The green settee is now one of powder blue which varies the colour theme in the room and add warmth. The large space now has more clearly defined areas including the writing desk facing the bookshelves for privacy.
Drawing Room retains character with more colour
Originally the Red Drawing Room, this versatile open space now features less of the red and gold it was so famed for. By taking away some of the red fabric furniture, the ruby rich velvet walls framed by a gilded corniche are now a feature of its own. Now sit armchairs in greens and blues, lighter wooden furnishings and tall elegant candelabras atop the mantelpiece. A new large glistening chandelier also hangs over the central area.
The result is a more open, airy space that still retains an informal grace. Exclusive use guests have always known the Drawing Room to be the hub of the Castle. They love its ability to be both cosy and opulent as well as its breath-taking views. These subtle layout changes have revitalised this much-loved room and added to the title of Aldourie as “the” most exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland.
If you would like to book any of your company corporate events in an exclusive use Castle in Scotland then why not give us a call? Alternatively, leave a message on our easy to use online form where we will get back to you to discuss your needs.
Aldourie Castle and Estate underwent some renovations during 2017. We are always looking to add to the exclusive use experience of our private guests and beauty of the Castle and Estate. We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl (we’ll cover this more in the next post), revitalised the old walled gardens and carried out further landscaping around the Castle. However, behind reviving this 17th Century exclusive use Estate, there’s a lot more meaning than initially meets the eye.
The gardens design team
The plan was to develop the gardens to create a fitting, high quality setting for the Castle. We employed a head gardener Duncan Hall, who is passionate about innovative landscaping for historic settings. Duncan and his dedicated team have been thrilled to work alongside landscape architect, garden designer and writer Tom Stuart-Smith, an inspirational leader in his field. Aldourie Castle Estate feels privileged to have Tom designing the revised estate including the four main garden areas (detailed below).
Formal Garden: on the Castle’s doorstep
The main Castle Garden (to the west) creates a formal setting for Aldourie whilst hinting at playful associations with the property. The turret-inspired topiary trees and historic references like the planned fortress-inspired bastions are good examples of this. The already impressive space combines order with fun to heighten the exclusive use experience. The idea is for the garden to be used and enjoyed by private guests, despite its formal layout.
Walled Garden and Glasshouses: for ‘living off the Estate’
This garden has a rugged feel in comparison to the Castle garden and has been restored to a very high standard. It features attractive dry walls made with a local stone. As guests walk into it they definitely feel as though it belongs in the highlands. Its central area is primarily for vegetable and fruit production (including high value crops and soft fruit). These are used to supply the castle kitchen as well as the other Wildland properties. Do you remember the 18th century glasshouses being restored in 2016? Now they also grow fruit and veg and are open for exclusive use guests to wander through.
Arboretum: historic discoveries through hard work
This has been a major renovation. The gardening team unearthed a fine tree collection dating back to the 19th Century. The Castle is now committed to nurturing them all. All design elements have been carefully planned, for example, the winding paths and interweaving plant patches at the foot trees. These will, in effect, guide Castle guests from one garden to another allowing no aspect of the arboretum to go undiscovered. The burial ground is also a significant historical feature. Tidying this area has helped to preserve its ornamentation and archaeological relevance.
Parkland: keeping it green
There are further plans afoot to create a landscape of wild meadow and Highland cattle. But for now, the parkland starts to rejuvenate with new trees. Guests will notice that an Estate railing clearly separates the Castle setting from the wider park.
Head Gardener, Duncan, comments on the parkland design; “The new trees have breathed some life into the park, which is the first part of the Estate that guests will experience as they enter the main drive. Enticing views of different parts of the estate are revealed encouraging guests to explore, as well as stunning views across the wider landscape of Loch Ness.”
Focus is on the exclusive use experience
The landscape of Aldourie Castle and Estate is of outstanding scenic value. It’s therefore vital that the design and gardening work serves to enhance its beauty. It forms an archetypal Scottish Baronial scene highly visible from the northern shores of Loch Ness. One of the key reasons for revitalising the Castle and grounds was to compound the feeling, during an exclusive use experience, of staying in such a historically valued, spectacular location.
The initial warm welcome at the Castle now extends to the entirety of the 500 acre Estate. Guests are now encouraged to really discover the gardens, to explore and play, and feel the heritage beneath their feet. Regular pruning of tree branches in the walled garden will offer glimpses of the estate and wider landscape. This will entice exclusive use guests to wander further afield.
The ‘farm to table’ aspect of this particular garden will also transcend to the guests’ experience. This will allow them the opportunity to pick their own fruit and veg for the Castle’s chef to cook that day. The idea is to reinforce the exclusive use experience at every opportunity. As a result, exploring the beauty and history of Aldourie Estate becomes an integral part of their stay.
Look out for our next instalment of the Revitalisation of Aldourie Castle & Estate. For more information on exclusive use of Aldourie please visit our Private Hire pages or contact the main office through our online contact form.
What do people want from an exclusive use holiday? Why would a group of guests choose to stay in a property that’s there just for their enjoyment? Why is it more exciting to celebrate with your own family and friends without having strangers celebrating around you? Isn’t the answer obvious? Not exactly, because exclusivity might mean something different to each person. Here we explore a few of the reasons why guests opt for exclusive use stays in a property, the reasons they might not even know themselves. We also throw in a few examples of where Aldourie Castle estate has placed the utmost importance on exclusive use.
Intimate surroundings encourage important family time
The world is changing and with it so are people’s perceptions and priorities. Mental health awareness, placing importance on more family time and being ‘in the moment’ are all ways in which individuals in society are striving for the ultimate wellbeing. Why is it so important we find that elusive work-life balance? To be truly happy we need to be around those we love and cherish. But in order to enjoy the company of loved ones doesn’t there have to be a degree of ‘luxury’, of comfort, that only money can buy? And if that intimacy can be found inside a world of natural beauty and fresh air combined with regal splendour and relaxation, then that surely will make anyone feel good.
Exclusive use stays guarantee privacy and space
Everyone enjoys the privacy of being at home. Although the whole point of going on holiday is to be away from home, when you choose an exclusive use holiday it’s likely because you want the ‘home from home’ feeling. Aldourie Castle Estate is continually striving to make your exclusive experience even more exclusive. Take, for example, our brand new private bathroom for Nursery Bedroom that has taken the place of a shared kitchen for exclusive use guests staying in the Nursery suite. There are already numerous public rooms in the Castle perfect for idle conversation, dining, drinking and relaxing with your clan. However, as individuals, we need to always be able to retreat to our own personal sanctuary. During exclusive use stays at Aldourie Castle you can be confident of the right balance of shared and private space.
We all like to feel special sometimes
Who doesn’t want to feel special from time to time? When you know you’re getting a pretty unique experience in a one-of-a-kind property with its own personal heritage, it will undoubtedly make you feel special. For instance, exclusive use stays in a private castle are perfect for anniversaries. For a one-off celebration with your loved one it makes sense for the location to be just as unique.
So, what makes our exclusive use guests feel special? At Aldourie, for some it’s waking up to a view over Loch Ness every morning, indulging in a home-cooked Scottish breakfast then taking a steaming mug of coffee down to the treehouse for half an hour with a ‘classic’ from the Castle library. For others it’s grabbing a perfect-fit pair of Hunters wellies from the cloakroom and wandering the peaceful woodland alone for a sense of well-being. Or bathing next to a huge Georgian window overlooking the parkland with no other person in sight. It might be a game of football with the children before dinner in a never-ending parkland meant for nobody but you. Exclusivity; yes it’s indulgent, but it’s also an opportunity for self-preservation.
Exclusive use stays are comforting in every sense
Have you ever been on holiday and things went wrong? You suitcase doesn’t appear on the conveyor belt. Your luxury villa you booked online resembles nothing of its description and photographs; not so luxury at all. Your credit card won’t work abroad or your bag gets stolen en- route to the hotel. Your nerves start to jangle; things aren’t as they should be, and you’re in a place you don’t know.
Exclusivity gives you an instant peace of mind; at Aldourie, in our private Castle, should you have any problems, each member of staff is there to help you and only you at any time. You can start to relax because you don’t have to get anyone on your side or wait until someone is available to assist you. With exclusive use an entourage, if you like, can be at your side to assist you from the moment you arrive until the moment you depart. And there’s definitely comfort in that.
Keeping up with the Joneses is a bygone era
Remember curtain twitching? You don’t tend to get much of that these days. The idea of uniqueness is so much more appealing. Who wants to have the same, but better, these days? When it comes to experiences, whether for yourself alone or with family and friends, the more ‘out of this world’ it is, the more in touch with reality you feel. There’s so much to see and do in life so why not go for something different.
When you and your clan arrive at Aldourie, one of the most charming and welcoming exclusive use properties in Scotland, you truly feel as though you’re the only ones to have ever stepped through the door. Wouldn’t you prefer to make incredible memories in a place that feels bound in history over a modern hotel with characterless facilities and a simple seasonal menu. At Aldourie you can taste the earth on which the Castle sits, pick your own fruit and veg and ask Chef to rustle up something tasty for dinner. You make your own experiences here rather than sharing in a tried and tested package that seems to suit most people.
Exclusive use stays in the Scottish Highlands
The combination of a private holiday property in the spectacular Scottish Highlands might just send you into wellbeing overload. With hundreds of miles of beautiful natural landscapes so wild and otherworldly looking you have nowhere to be but in the moment. Here, inside Aldourie, you can experience the joys of a luxury home offering you privacy, absolute comfort and everything you could possibly need at your fingertips. Outside, on the Castle’s doorstep, not only is there a private 500 acre wilderness for you to enjoy, but the wider Highlands boasting some of the most peaceful scenery known to man. A day of walking or cycling in the Cairngorms National Park could very well leave you speechless. Hopefully, however, it will leave you with enough breath to reminisce over your shared exclusive use experience with family and friends for years to come.
What’s the best thing about a luxury golfing holiday? Is it the fact that you’re one of a kind, all holidaying together with the same sport in common? Or that you get to play your favourite sport all week long with no interruptions of family or working life? Or it is the restfulness and the peace, and the luxury it comes with? We have an inkling at Aldourie that it’s something to do with all the above.
Luxury golfing holiday
Aldourie Castle Estate on Loch Ness is situated only six miles from Inverness Airport. This makes it one of the most convenient luxury travel destinations in Scotland. During your golfing holiday in the Highlands your exclusive use party would use Aldourie Castle as your luxury base. From here you could experience unique, five-star hospitality including luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms. You’d also experience exquisite home-cooked food cooked by Aldourie’s private chef, and exclusive use of a privately owned Castle. All this is set within a 500 acre estate in the spectacular and tranquil Scottish Highlands.
As part of your exclusive luxury golfing holiday on Loch Ness you would also receive a private concierge throughout your stay. Aldourie’s hospitality team is renowned for being discreet. Our dedicated hospitality manager would also arrange, should you request it, daily transport to and from your golf course/s of choice. The combination of the beautiful exclusive castle and grounds alongside golfing at your favourite golf courses in the Scottish Highlands creates a perfect luxury golfing holiday. We’ve put together information about all the nearby award-winning or championship golf courses. This will hopefully make planning your golfing holiday at Aldourie as easy as possible.
Nairn Golf Club
Visiting golfers: The sophisticated-looking website makes it very easy for individual golfers or groups of golfers to book a tee time and any required equipment. The golf club features all the standard facilities, a selection of bars and a modern clubhouse.
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Described as ‘A beacon reaching out to golfers throughout the world’, Castle Stuart is evidently very dear to the Scottish Highlands. Like Nairn, this championship links course also looks out over the Moray Firth and is the closest professional course to Aldourie Castle Estate.
Links courses have many distinguishing features, Castle Stuart in particular. The main difference from other courses is the topography. This one features rumpled fairways and natural bunkers guaranteeing you a challenging day of golfing. Infinity edges serve to accentuate the spectacular Scottish Highlands landmarks along the Moray Firth skyline. Step forward Chanonry Lighthouse and Fort George. A ‘landscape mosaic’ refers to the varied texture and colours that form the course itself. The land at Castle Stuart changes with the seasons bringing a rich tapestry and a rugged beauty to the golf course. This heightens the experience for anyone privileged enough to play here during a luxury golfing holiday.
Special feature: The clubhouse at Castle Stuart is an architectural joy. It’s a circular drum sat in the midst of this wild terrain looking out over the waters. It was designed to showcase the panoramic spectacle of the surrounding landscape. What a dream for golfers and nature loves alike to sit here and appreciate the unmatchable beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
Visiting golfers: Castle Stuart’s link course is part of a large resort featuring a wide selection of eateries and other facilities. The excellent website provides a fully comprehensive guide to the links course. This includes a map, aerial flyover and a virtual tour of every hole. This is very handy for golfing enthusiasts meaning you can concentrate solely on your golfing experience as soon as you get to Castle Stuart.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
The history of this Scottish Highlands’ golf course is nearly as impressive as the golfing itself. Royal Dornoch is a 400-year-old golf course. In 2016 it celebrated this incredible heritage with a year-long tribute to the sport. The celebration also touched on the course’s impact on the local community and town of Dornoch. It originally started as a 12-hole ladies course before becoming an 18-hole course in 1999.
Luxury exclusive group accommodation
After a long day of golf with your group, you’ll no doubt be harbouring a few aches and pains and ready for a good night’s sleep. Your first thought might be to retreat to your room with your drink of choice and indulge in a deep, hot bath. The 13 bedrooms at Aldourie, like in many exclusive use properties, are individually designed and finished with exquisite attention to detail. Your private bathroom will also be unique as well as spacious featuring either a free standing tub with shower or walk-in shower. The privacy you receive, as both a private group and an individual guest, at an exclusive use property such as Aldourie, is second to none. It’s truly worth looking for somewhere as unique and exclusive as our beautiful Castle on Loch Ness. That way you are guaranteed a luxury golfing holiday to remember for years to come.
What better way to compare the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings. Take a read of Aldourie’s personalised guide to the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.
What is the history of Urquhart Castle?
The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence during the 14th century. It was thereafter considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland today. As a result it resides in our list of Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?
It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Like any castle ruins Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The appeal to holidaymakers is the combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands. This alone makes it and Aldourie favourite and puts it in the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Special fact or feature of one of the castle
Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296 when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357.
Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.
A main attraction for guests is Aldourie’s location on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker. This is why Aldourie Castle rates Urquhart as one of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles
Eilean Donan – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands
This attractively named landmark is one of the most recognised castles in the whole of Scotland. You may have seen it one shortbread tins, tea towels and scenic calendars if you have ever before visited a gift shop in the Highlands. Eilean Donan itself is a small island in the western Highlands and the meeting point of three sea lochs. The castle was restored in the early 20th century. A footbridge now connects the castle to the mainland, thereby granting easy access to a somewhat untouchable Scottish landmark.
What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?
Eilean Donan was named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint in around 617. The castle itself was founded in the 1200s, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and the Clan Macrae. The castle was destroyed in 1719 because of the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. What you see is the castle in its reconstructed form in the twentieth-century.
Interestingly, in the thirteenth century during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain wall enclosed most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.
Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?
Eilean Donan is a picturesque castle which has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark to pose a selfie against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio! No wonder it’s on Aldourie’s list of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Special fact or feature of the castle
Records suggest that there was a small Christian church on the island of Eilean Donan in the 6th or 7th century. Although no actual remains survive to this day fragments of stone do suggest an Iron Age or medieval history. The astonishing castle ruins have been redeveloped and reconstructed around six times; no wonder it looks tired now.
Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder despite the nearly three hour journey that many of Aldourie’s exclusive use guests like to pay a visit.
Dunnottar Castle – castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands on ancient ground
Elevated from the mainland sits Dunnottar Castle, the ruins of a medieval fortress. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. Steep cliffs that drop to the North sea 50 metres below surround the ruins of the Castle. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.
What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?
The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort and place of worship was built nearby in the 3rd and 4th century. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and William Wallace captured it in the year 1276. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle, (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. Dunnottar Castle was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.
Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. Because of its sheer perseverance through history we have named it one our the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?
Dunnottar Castle is an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. The rock that the castle sits on formed some 440 million years ago; that’s enough to bring anyone to an historic landmark in Scotland. Tourists visit Dunnottar Castle for their own unforgettable experience as there is so much to see and do here. Try walking or cycling to the Castle from the nearby town of Stonehaven, itself a tourist attraction. The route to the castle is very picturesque.
Special fact or feature of the castle
When you visit this special historic landmark you will soon discover the importance of Dunnottar. It is in simple form an invincible fortress that holds important secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland- the Scottish crown jewels- were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army, which invaded in the 17th century.
Why is this considered one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the castle walls including:
Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
There’s so much more to Scotland’s historic castle ruins than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to Aldourie’s highly recommended Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
You’ve booked the experience or holiday of a lifetime with an exclusive use house party with your favourite people. Not only that but the place you’re staying in a luxurious castle and it looks out onto the world famous Loch Ness; one of the most scenic and peaceful settings in Scotland. There’s plenty to do inside the Castle but one look through any of the south facing windows your adventurous streak starts to tug. It implores you experience a boat ride on Loch Ness, no matter what, to get out on that beautiful water and truly relish the Scottish Highlands. Let’s take a dip into Loch Ness, boat by boat.
Speed boat rides on Loch Ness
If you choose your holidays for the thrills as well as the chills, you must hire a speedboat on Loch Ness. The adrenaline rush of the fresh Highlands air on your face combined with viewing the spectacular natural beauty is indescribable. Who knew a boat ride could make you feel so free. A speedboat ride straight from Aldourie’s private marina is less of an adventure and more of an experience.
This type of boat ride also makes for a romantic trip for couples staying in the exclusive hire Castle. You get a lot of privacy speeding passed the Scottish wilderness with a loved one. And despite the pace of your ride it can be very relaxing, slowing down to appreciate particularly appealing spots. Don’t be deceived, however; this experience works up and appetite, what with all that fresh air coming at you at high speed. Thankfully, Aldourie’s private chef will have prepared something delicious for lunch back at the Castle.
Cruises on Loch Ness
If you like your natural landscapes peppered with historic ruins and fascinating facts, then a private chartered boat cruise on Loch Ness is for you. Depending on the weather you can choose to be indoors or up on the top deck. Outside you’ll be up high in the bracing air taking in mountainous backdrop of greens, purple and yellows for miles around. Don’t worry; if you forget your wind/waterproofs there’s plenty to go around. If it’s a bit nippy outdoors then take cover down below, order a hot chocolate and let the energy and history of Loch Ness sail you into a cosy but blissful state.
Kids will love watching the water ripple and foam as the boat skims through Loch Ness with its impressive force. This is a memorable boat trip for house parties of different generations to enjoy, and talk about over dinner later at the Castle. If you want to make your arrival at Aldourie Castle truly amazing, why not approach it from Loch Ness itself. Your party of guests can board a boat at Fort Augustus or just over the way at Dores, then sail across the deep waters and let the Castle slowly come into view. This is the icing on the cake after a spectacular cruise boat ride on Loch Ness.
Nessie Hunter RIB rides around Aldourie Castle
If you’ve brought heaps of imagination on your stay at Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness then you won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to see one of the most talked about mythical creatures in history. This boat ride on Loch Ness explores the very essence of these deep waters. You will learn a lot about the myths associated with the famous Scottish landmark and by the end you feel as though you really know the water. The Nessie Hunter is a great boat ride for groups who’ve booked an exclusive use stay in a private castle on Loch Ness. It’s also ideal for small wedding parties or hen parties; get everyone together the day before at Aldourie and search en masse. A bracing RIB ride on a mission is sure to be full of surprises, giggles, and most of all create wonderful memories.
Canoe or kayak on Loch Ness
Last but certainly not least is the canoe or kayak ride out on Loch Ness. This can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you wish. It’s possibly the most varied type of boat ride on Loch Ness you can experience simply because it suits any age and any level of expertise, from complete novice to experienced water sport enthusiast. Entire parties of exclusive use guests staying at Aldourie have been known to book a whole afternoon canoeing on Loch Ness. Children can stay more inland and be taught the basics. Others are free to explore the surrounding Highlands landscape or simply float off into the near distance to bask under a sunny summer’s sky with only the gentle lapping of water for company.
Canoeing or kayaking on Loch Ness is an exhilarating way to explore the Highlands during an exclusive use stay in the private Castle. If you think about it ahead of time you can build yourself up to the experience, especially if you’re new to this type of boat ride. It’s really more a water sport and there’s an element of independence about it. So the experience itself can be quite freeing and you feel very close to nature. There’s basically just you riding the water – not much boat.
Experience your own boat ride on Loch Ness
There are so many ways to experience Loch Ness no matter your enthusiasm for being outdoors or ever off the shoreline. Exclusive use guests and house parties who have booked a stay at Aldourie will be given ample opportunity to experience the Loch. We have a host of suppliers for various boat ride activities and will be happy to organise your outdoor experiences in the Scottish Highlands for you. To enquire about exclusive use on the only private Castle accommodation on Loch Ness please complete and submit a contact form from the Aldourie website.
There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.
Hide and Seek in the arboretum
Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found. If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!
Play make –believe in the tree house
The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).
Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens
Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.
Get close to nature in the parkland
We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
Beach walks on Loch Ness
Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.