Top tips to experience the Scottish Highlands this winter

There are endless reasons to book a week’s stay in a holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands this winter. Firstly, it is guaranteed to warm your soul. (And that’s without topping up the wood-burning stove with a healthy supply of logs.) A country Estate in the heart of the Highlands is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s Loch Ness. It really is the most peaceful and beautiful region. All the more when it comes complete with a private hire castle and four traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages.

We guide you to the best place to visit for a cup of hot chocolate, the finest whisky distilleries and the most bracing walks and breath-taking landscapes. Read on for some of the Highlands’ most favoured highlights in the most renowned locations.

The Isle of Skye - Scottish Highlands

Explore the Isle of Skye

As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland. So, before sinking into a deep hot bath or curling up on the sofa with Harry Potter, be sure to plan your short break itinerary. Make the most of local knowledge and put your time to good use. In your ‘top five’ places to see we suggest you include the tranquil and mesmerising Isle of Skye.

This remote part of Scotland is a perfect trip to experience the most spectacular views of the Highlands. Skye is easily accessible from the Aldourie holiday cottages, as long as you don’t mind an early morning start. It is widely appreciated for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages. Tip: jump in the car at day break to make the most of the three hour journey.

Sights to make memories

Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs. Don’t forget to stop occasionally to admire Skye’s dramatic mountainous backdrop and wild, cascading waterfalls. During winter you would expect to come across an abundance of Highland cattle congregated between snow-capped peaks. And on the clearest of days you’d be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Isle of Skye has fantastic colours that you can capture either with a camera and simply in memory. These sights may strike walkers, hikers and cyclists as ethereal and those of you driving may have to get out once in a while to let the air hit you and make you believe it. After embracing the magic of the highest points of Skye why not meander among the pastel-coloured houses of Portree where you can find a handful of traditional pubs full of Scottish character as well as a host of pretty clothes and gift boutiques.

Loch Lomond in Winter Scottish Highlands

Get up close to Loch Lomond

A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without taking the ‘low road’ to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. This other famous loch is famed for its folklore, castles and golf – there’s no getting away from it up here. It’s central spot crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sports, hiking and camping during winter short breaks in Scotland. Colder months showcase snow-capped peaks framing the famous lake which have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal. Its mysterious forests that weave through and cluster among the mountains have inspired many artists and songwriters over the years.

A must-see is Loch Lomond’s lively city life, which encapsulates a thriving food and drink scene. The famous Scottish landmark also features a variety of creative villages. We recommend a trip to Luss during a snowy winter; a traditional village whose steeple church and bridges would befit the front of a Christmas card.

A wintry setting

During winter, cloudless blue skies illuminate the pristine waters of Loch Lomond. Whether you’re on holiday for the challenging hikes or simply ambling along simple scenic trails there’s a winter walk perfect for you and your family or group of friends. There are a host of walks on the east or southern sides of the loch including Drymen and Balmaha. These have striking views and the promise of summer’s plentiful nature. Listen out for the characteristic call of the winter geese flying overhead in Trossachs National Park. Or take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. And, of course, don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

Luss scotland winter Scottish Highlands

Loch Ness

With such a scenic and adventure-filled itinerary for a cottage holiday in Scotland it may be easy to overlook your holiday location. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and so we invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness. Sail its vast open water and search for the legendary Monster. Or get up close and personal to the exclusive use property. Aldourie Castle, on the Loch Ness shoreline.

Its epic size and folklore sea creatures apart, Loch Ness has so much to offer the curious nature-loving tourist during winter. Some of the most famous whisky distilleries are based here – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness. There are also exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks on your doorstep. The heart of Scotland’s culture is within serious striking distance. Are you planning to visit the Highlands to relax during January or February? We at Aldourie can suggest an endless array of villages and towns, each accommodating and friendly and worthy of a postcard home. Enter Beatrix Potter-style tearooms, gourmet restaurants and beautiful interior shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.

Quaint tourist towns

Beauly means ‘beautiful place’ and that is just what you’ll find only 20 minutes from any of the Scottish holiday cottages on Aldourie Castle Estate. Encounter a real feel of Scotland with a traditional Highland pipe band and quaint row of touristy shops. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truly delicious sandwich and slice of homemade cake, then walk it off around the pretty Priory ruins.

Beauly Priory Scottish Highlands

Some of the best boat cruises on Loch Ness depart from Fort William. This quaint little place is itself an extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate. So do the most bewitching winter walks that lead higher and higher into utter wilderness. You will find your local area around Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate housing a couple of traditional pubs ideally located for holiday cottage guests visiting Loch Ness. There’s no excuse not to pop in for a quick drink in traditional Scottish surroundings. And especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands and a moonlit Loch Ness.


Yachting or boating on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

One of the best ways to truly experience the Scottish Highlands is to get out on a boat over the Caledonian Canal. The shimmering waters weave through these majestic hills and there’s so much to see and experience. The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles of fresh water just waiting to take you to sights you’ve only dreamed of. Twenty-two miles of this is a man made wide canal enabling inland sailing crossing the whole of Scotland. Four large lochs make up the remainder, one of which is Loch Ness. This memorable sightseeing ride is there for the taking. And if you already have yourself a yacht (or other means of water transport), so much the better…
boating on caledonian canal

We can give you a few ideas of what to see whilst yachting along the Caledonian Canal. And there is plenty to see and do both on and off the water.

Destination east

“A most enjoyable and life-changing experience during a holiday in Scotland”, according to many of our previous guests, is to take a trip to Moray Firth and visit the dolphins. Are you a yacht owner or have you hired a yacht whilst touring the Scottish Highlands? If so, you can easily head east from Inverness. Take in the striking and ethereal surroundings of the imposing wild hills as you go. Soon enough you will come across the peaceful scenery of Moray Firth. Here you can sail along beside the friendliest fish in the sea and the largest school of dolphins in the UK.

Destination south

If you decide to travel downwards from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands you will pass a host of cultural and scenic spots. These include the must-visit quaint village of Invergarry, home to Invergarry Castle amongst many other beautiful sights. Originally the seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry (another Castle – at which you can also enjoy a delightful lunch), the Castle has a fascinating history. Its gothic façade makes even the least interested sight-seers want to roam around its evocative grounds.Golfing Near the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Stop for a spot of food and drink at a deli or brasserie in this charming village. Later, venture forth and sail your yacht further down the Caledonian Canal. Veer off slightly to the west before stopping at the famous Fort William. Known as the gateway to Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak, this lovely town is full of outdoor sport and beautiful yet challenging walking trails.

Destination north

Dornoch is just one of the championship golf courses in close proximity to Aldourie Castle in Inverness. It provides an opportunity to hone your golfing skills whilst holidaying in Scotland. Maybe you’re an experienced golfer and touring the Scottish Highlands by yacht to break up a golfing holiday. In this case, Royal Dornoch is definitely somewhere you want to stop off – or tee off!

Destination west

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Not until you reach Muir of Ord. This is again just one of many of its kind in Scotland; a whisky distillery with a name of prestigious heritage. Close by, and after a tasting of course, you may stumble upon Beauly. Enter a typical Highlands town complete with abbey ruins, quaint coffee shop-delis and stores with old-fashioned Highland quality and values. One such place is called Campbell’s, an outfitters which combines the tradition and warmth of a local shop with the quality of a high fashion befitting the Scottish gentry. It also offers a bespoke tailoring service – why not get fitted with gear for a shoot on one of the local Highland Estates?
Boating on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Take a break from the water

As you can see, there is more to the Scottish Highlands than simply taking – or trekking – the high road. From picture perfect villages with friendly locals to ancient ruins with their own ghosts of the past, a journey by yacht can expertly combine a luxurious five star holiday. Along the way enjoy random adventures at every turn culminating in memories to treasure. Here’s a thought: moor up your yacht at Aldourie’s private marina on Loch Ness and hire out this enchanting Castle for a couple of nights. Then set off to explore more of the famously impressive and innovative Caledonian Canal.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

On 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest while most of the world will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. But the importance the Scottish people place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar. It’s bigger even than Christmas Day – and it’s certainly worth waiting for. You thought the Highland Games was a cultural signifier; think again, and consider spending New Year in a castle at Aldourie Estate.

hogmanay-edinburgh

Definition of Hogmanay and its origins

Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to their celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Where did the word originate? History suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north”. This occurred in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. The Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule highly influenced these parties. The Scots labelled these celebrations ‘daft days’. Hogmanay culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences now that has been established for a few centuries it. The best celebrations always do!

How do Hogmanay celebrations differ from New Year’s Eve?

The length of celebratory activities mainly differentiates Hogmanay from traditional New Year’s Eve parties. The former begins on 31st December but continues throughout New Year’s Day and into 2nd January (itself a public holiday in Scotland). This then divides the two celebrations culturally too. The streets in Scotland remain deserted while the rest of the UK is generally easing back into business.hogmanay scotland

How the big Scottish cities do it

Hogmanay is celebrated throughout Scotland in varying degrees from the intimate yet ‘daft’ gatherings to the elaborate, eccentric festivals. The big cities fall into the latter category and Edinburgh leads the way with a huge 30th December torch-lit parade. This comprises an enviable fireworks display and various performances from up-and-coming acts to full blown rock stars. Everything is performed wholeheartedly to (always) enthusiastic, (sometimes) bemused crowds from more than 60 different countries. Either way, people feel privileged to be part of the throng and tradition that is Hogmanay.

The Scottish capital’s largest crowd totalled 400,000 in 1996 and since then safety restrictions mean fewer people though the numbers are still high. Glasgow is another city that doesn’t disappoint. The Glaswegians can be seen singing, dancing, eating steak pie and stew, drinking by the gallon and storytelling till the sun rises on New Year’s Day.

The importance of Hogmanay to the Scottish people

Scotland began to celebrate Christmas only in recent years. The festive holiday was abolished by the Protestant Reformation for 400 years and it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was accepted as a public holiday in Scotland. Then, in 1974 the Scots announced Boxing Day as a public holiday. Scotland instead had to work through Christmas and wait until Hogmanay to celebrate with family and friends. Is it any wonder now that this traditional get-together has become an exciting explosion of freedom and fun!hogmanay scotland

Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year

It has to be said, there is no hiding it; the Scots love a good party. And that is usually the main focus of Hogmanay. But, if you’re lucky enough to witness this special celebratory period in Scotland you may observe, though you might not know them to be at first, a number of traditions as well.

‘First-footing’, where the first person to enter the house after midnight brings gifts such as food or coal, is the most popular tradition. It is regarded as affecting the fortune of the household for the coming year. This is dependent on the appearance of the visitor; the ideal guest is a tall, dark man. So, if you spend New Year in a castle and open the door to a flat-coat retriever called Lizzie wearing a Santa hat…well, you can guess the rest.

There are other traditions. Watching abominable and cheesy TV programmes (ones you would never ordinarily choose to watch, of course) before the bells chime, and linking arms whilst singing with all the clan, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famous poem written by Robert Burns.

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Castle

Speaking of which, why not spend New Year in a castle by celebrating at Aldourie Castle on Lochaldourie-castle-loch-nes-tea-and-champagne-020 Ness? It’s unique, luxurious and scenic; the perfect backdrop to a house party style that’s seen a lot more of Scotland’s history than anyone alive today. While there’s no rules to celebrating Hogmanay, maybe your first attempt could be kept quite simple with the core elements of Scottish culture at its heart. Many Scottish families this year will be sitting down to a delicious meal with family and friends with the drink flowing – oh, please don’t forget the whisky – to help bring in the new year followed by a steak pie dinner the next day. Should your head be a little sore ask any one of our dedicated hospitality team for a glass of Irn Bru (or a bottle). We’re almost certain this bright orange fizzy drink has been curing hangovers for centuries too.

We really can’t think of a better way to celebrate and immerse yourself in full Hogmanay spirit than by spending New Year in a castle on the shores of Loch Ness.


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

Why not make this Christmas the year you decide to do something different? But don’t wait until the New Year to make your resolutions! Set a date now, hire a castle for Christmas and start looking forward…

The beautiful, unassuming yet captivating Scottish Highlands does not ask anything of anyone. It looks down from above at all its worth. The majesty of its hills, the uniqueness of its landmarks and the intensity of its history. The vast wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is always there, like any other landscape. It continues as usual underneath these huge ever-changing skies.

Imagine entering a world like no other; a freeing endless space just waiting to be discovered by someone new. Whether your Christmas family holidays are usually land based with cycling routes and long country walks or water based with loch cruises, dolphin watching or canoeing, there is everything in the Highlands to keep your boredom at bay and your imagination running wild.

So, where do you stay in order to appreciate and experience a really traditional Scottish Christmas and New Year? Here at Aldourie we have the best of both worlds. Hire a castle for Christmas by booking a luxurious exclusive use stay or a self-catered stay in the heart of the Highlands countryside. Both are tempting, we agree, and also offer instant access to the famous waters of Loch Ness.

A cottage Christmas

Children and adults alike can enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all. Simply book a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage. They are both the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties. But it’s also a time for intimate family time exploring landscapes, unearthing history and tasting fabulous food together. Couples can escape to the Highlands of Scotland to experience the romance of its magical landscape. So much of this can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.

There are cities for the vibrant souls who are looking for a festive party atmosphere and there are quieter destinations like the quaint towns and villages of Dornoch, Fort William and Glencoe. In the latter you will find deliciously festive food and drink, picture perfect snow-topped views and a variety of frosty walks and cycle paths. Further up out of the towns there are even some well coursed mountain biking routes. These are ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.

Hire a Castle for Christmas

Fancy gliding along Loch Ness through the darkness and spotting beautiful Aldourie illuminated through the trees on New Years’ Eve? We can organise a cruise or speedboat ride so that you can experience just that. In fact, just about anything is possible when you hire a castle for Christmas and New Year.

Some firm family favourites of previous exclusive use New Year’s house parties are archery in front of the Castle, falconry days and walking on water (or zorbing) – a great one for the kids as the minimum age is five years old. For those who want to explore the nature-filled Highlands independently during the festive season Aldourie can recommend the best walks and cycling routes but if you prefer a guide we can organise that instead.

After so much fun and activity to help celebrate Christmas and New Year you can relax back at the Castle with a spa treatment or two; our favoured supplies can offer a personal service during your stay – a hot stone massage or an Indian head massage would go down a treat after a day hiking the hills of the Black Isle or taking in the rich culture of the city of Inverness. Later, whisky or wine tasting in the Library or Drawing Room could perfectly end well-rounded New Year’s Day at Aldourie Castle.

 


Daily flights from London to Inverness benefit Scottish tourism

This year has seen a tidal wave of new business come to Inverness through both leisure and corporate tourism. Since May 2016 Inverness airport has welcomed travellers from London Heathrow on a daily basis. The direct flight is a great benefit to corporate travellers who wish to commute to Scotland. This applies to travelers from London and from overseas. Aldourie Castle has been host to many American guests as a result of the convenient new flight. Guests see the advantage of a little longer airtime in order to experience the beautiful and wild Scottish Highlands and mesmerising Loch Ness.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Scottish Tourism at its Best.

British Airways decided to resume the daily flight to Inverness Airport, which is just outside of Aldourie Castle Estate. The journey originally stopped in 1997. Aldourie, for one, was extremely confident of the benefits to corporate travelers. They would have instant easy access to a location that is both versatile and spectacular; the Scottish Highlands. Ideal for corporate events and important business meetings, the Highlands is home to a few exclusive use country Estates. The benefits of such Estates include peaceful settings, striking backdrops, impressive facades,

Since May this year the direct flight linking London tourism to Scotland has operated as a year-round service. Its first flight of the day departs from Heathrow just before 10am with an afternoon flight from Inverness back to London.

This remains an exciting opportunity for Inverness, the Highlands’ capital, which already has a strong link to economy. The tourism offering in the Highlands can capitalise further from travelers flying in from overseas and London who previously may not have considered travelling up to Scotland before. Now they can hold their multi-generational family holiday, luxury Scottish holiday, annual corporate event or board of directors meeting up here.luxury bedroom Aldourie Loch Ness - Scottish Tourism

This new option available to both the leisure and business tourism markets diversifies the British hospitality scene in general. It also makes a location once considered unusual and possibly logistically complicated, on par with the more conventional locations. Move over popular high end, but predictable, venues in the UK.

What can a country estate offer overseas corporate clients?

Places like Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness can offer guests who have traveled by plane a change in scenery and culture. This, as we already know, can work wonders for holidaymakers. A conducive environment can help guests to relax, focus and put things in perspective. A business would benefit from this type of support from a corporate hospitality location or property.aldourie castle loch ness Scottish Tourism

Aldourie has spent time and effort in enticing London and overseas businesses to take advantage of the direct flight from Heathrow to Inverness. Both to encourage a more affluent hospitality business in the Highlands and a varied approach to luxury corporate travel. Meetings, events and client incentive stays are just some of the ways in which corporate guests can enjoy exclusive use stays in places like Aldourie. We have already seen an increase in interest from corporate clients. They are themselves interested in using the private hire Castle as a multi-functional business venue.


The history and meaning behind the four-poster bed

When you think of luxury in the bedroom what are your first thoughts? Fluffy white towels. Polished bronze taps in a huge en-suite. A fleece robe with matching slippers. Silk sheets? Now, take yourself back a few hundred years and think what luxury would have meant then. Possibly something of simple design but large and robust enough to make a visual and physical impact.

The four-poster bed has a long history and was built with function in mind. But it was also undeniably very symbolic of status. So, who had them? It was customary for royalty and noblemen to own a four-poster bed and any merchant who had one was seen as being very successful indeed.luxury bedroom Aldourie Castle four-poster bed

Where did it come from?

The origins of the four-poster bed are unknown. This is surprising for such a bold-looking piece of furniture known worldwide for its distinguishable structure. It is, however, thought to have derived in Austria before arriving in England where it captured the hearts of the British aristocracy. Their members naturally fell for its uniqueness and stately style.

Records show that the four-poster bed was in existence in the late C14th and early C15th. The four-poster bed started very simply in its design, like any idea that has the longevity to remain throughout the centuries. Originally, beds themselves were literally no more than hard boards covered in fur or quilts. What came next is interesting: the canopy part of the structure, added to the bed in the C13th. This was suspended from the ceiling and not attached to the bed in any way. Then side curtains were added, supported by beams that were built into the bed frame. Can you picture this? The four-poster bed was born.luxury bedroom Aldourie Loch Ness four-poster bed

Function and style

We mentioned that practicality played a large part in the creation of the four-poster bed. Ironically, it’s the parts that were added out of pure function which make them most attractive. As well as having given them historical charm. Bedrooms – or bedchambers – in the C13th had a chill about them and were often draughty. So the curtains that you would think were added to draw around the beds to give them more style were in fact to keep the sleeper warm during the night. Another reason for the drapes was to afford the lords and ladies of the time some privacy as their servants would often sleep in their rooms with them overnight.

Design began to play a huge part in differentiating it for both class and country once the structure of the four-poster was fully established. The beds of nobility were ornately carved, painted and decorated in coats of arms of the family to which they belonged. Lavish fabrics such as silk adorned the beds and the bed frame itself would increase in size and weight. The larger and heavier the bed, the more status the sleeper held in society. The four-poster became lighter and narrower, As the French adopted the style, to give a sleeker, more elegant look. And, generally, as the years went by iron would replace the traditional English wooden frame of walnut or oak.luxury bedroom Aldourie Castle four-poster bed

Why do Aldourie bedrooms have four-poster beds?

Aldourie features a range of four-poster beds in various styles. We are style conscious as an exclusive use property should be but also concern for the comfort of the Castle’s guests is paramount. Notice how the rooms bring out each bed as a statement piece of furniture paying tribute to the historical style and its place in a stately property.

Open the door of an Aldourie Castle bedroom to reveal a four-poster and you are immediately transported back a hundred years or more, to a time of enchantment (think Disney – Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella), magic (think specifically Bedknobs and Broomsticks; a small, (flying) four-poster but it had four posts nonetheless) and luxury. By luxury we mean comfort, contentment, security; all the things you feel once you are wrapped up safely within these four posts. Once the curtains fall around you in an Aldourie Castle four-poster bed you need nothing else in order to escape into a happy slumber.


Halloween House Party in a castle; get spooked in Scotland

If you’re planning a holiday or family short break over Halloween why not go overboard and book a private castle in the wild Scottish Highlands? Even better, a Castle that looks out across the eerily silent yet constantly moving Loch Ness. And of that variety, there is only one: Aldourie. OK, so it doesn’t possess the spookiest name (in fact it’s quite magical) but with a little help from your hosts and some imagination we can convert your Halloween stay into a spooky holiday to remember.

Here are three excellent ideas for making the most out of a Halloween stay in the Scottish Highlands.

Old fashioned Halloween activities – for the traditionalist

Stick with the tried and tested route during your exclusive use group stay in a private castle.  Start your Halloween adventure early by getting up early with the children to go out and buy some pumpkins to celebrate the famous night. Also look out for little trick or treat and fancy dress items, Halloween chocolates and bits of material in blacks, oranges, silvers and reds.  Later, carve pumpkins by scooping out the flesh and creating scary faces with a sharp knife – why not set up a competition for the scariest face!pumpkins Halloween

Your countdown to Halloween Night can also be made up of creating your lucky dip box. Fill a large cardboard box with polystyrene or shredded paper (usually the Estate Office or hospitality team would be able to provide you with these or something similar) and then carefully add your trick or treat items into the mix. This will add a fun spin to your trick or treating later on.

It’s nearly time for Trick or Treat. Set one of the downstairs rooms up as the fancy dress space and encourage everyone to dress up as their chosen ghoul or character ready to sit down for an Addams Family style dinner. Afterwards, enjoy Halloween buns that you’ve baked with the kids during the afternoon. Ask the youngsters to decorate the Castle with pumpkins, adding them on every other windowsill as well as outside the house or castle door, therefore transforming your exclusive use holiday property into ‘a haunted house in the middle of nowhere’.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Halloween

Theme your night ‘Halloween’ – for the brave

Playing make-believe in a turreted castle in vast, private grounds is easy to convince children to do but Halloween themed hen parties, for example, can also have a ball with more adults and humorous characters from, say, The Rocky Horror Show. A Halloween house party would not be complete without a soundtrack of well-chosen spooky songs and theme tunes. During the day download some music from the Internet and create a Halloween song list on Spotify to play once the sun goes down.

Light candles in the centre of your pumpkin faces, turn off all the main lights and tell ghost stories in the library into the evening. Watch horror movies in the Castle whilst drinking spiced cider or hot chocolate. For those too scared to go to bed afterwards, don’t worry, most of the bedrooms in an exclusive use property have space for a huddle of people and you can also double up if you have one of the single rooms. Just remember, of course, to check under the bed.15-aldourie-estate-graveyard-entrance Halloween

Use the Estate after dark – for the bravest

At Aldourie you can tour the grounds – visit the ancient family graveyard, go on a frightening storytelling walk through the woodland followed by a torch-lit boat trip on the loch. The bravest among you can play Hide and Seek. At Aldourie your seeker can count up in the tree house whilst those of you hiding can use the deepest depths of the exclusive use property and Estate. Remember, there’s always a wine cellar and secret servant corridors, as well as the woods – but only if you dare.

And for those who appreciate an excuse to do something different but shudder at the thought of booking their short break or holiday over the 31st October, you can always take the calmer approach. Exclusive use gusts of Aldourie can sit with their pumpkin friends around a fire on Dores Beach and watch the sun go down whilst happily toasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate. Because, honestly now, not everything has to be so spooky over Halloween.


How a castle and cottages create the perfect combined holiday

Last time we described how they couldn’t be more different as holiday hot spots on their own. This week, we explain how Aldourie Castle and Cottages, booked together, create the holiday of a lifetime…

The beauty of a private Highlands country Estate

It’s not every year you get to explore at leisure a centuries-old country estate in the heart of Scotland. So, when you get the chance to stay in an exclusive use property that is surrounded by 500 acres of grounds – some wild and rogue made up of woods, forest floor and hidden treasures; some neatly trimmed gardens and hedgerows – it’s best to take it…
aldourie castle loch ness

Fitting for larger parties

Say you are looking for somewhere private and exclusive to host your large family get-together. But the problem is that you have family dotted around the world. You need a place that is easily accessible (an airport nearby and direct flights from major cities a must). You also need a location that is not only beautiful but peaceful and extremely homely too.

Now, say your family is larger than a group of 30 people and you’re struggling to tick all the above boxes. You are also struggling to allocate everybody a room for the night. Many exclusive use properties or luxury destinations in Scotland are converted stately homes or mansion houses. The trouble is they have a small number of bedrooms (usually the original bedrooms of the house). So the property itself is too small for your family stay. A hotel, although it has plenty of space and many guest rooms, does not have the exclusivity ultimately required.

Choosing an historic Estate is the best option because there are usually other properties within the grounds that guests can stay in. For instance, the four traditional holiday cottages on the Aldourie Estate. You can spread your family group out across the entire grounds, where each cottage is within easy walking distance of the Castle. As a result, your bigger party (up to 50 guests at Aldourie) can be accommodated.
Garden Cottage Loch Ness

Another benefit of stay in the Castle and cottages: you have more settings and window views to experience.  Although Aldourie Castle is a luxury in itself, its captivating aura and interior beauty can sometimes be all-consuming. (Be prepared to enter another world when going on an Aldourie holiday). Many private stay guests say they want to explore more of the grounds next time. Therefore, having your family of guests spread out across the parkland means ample reason to roam around.

Best of both worlds

From romantic lie-ins in wooden beamed bedrooms overlooking Loch Ness to showering in a turret and wandering through formal gardens like a Downton Abby character, your experience of ‘Castle’ and ‘Cottage’ could not be more different. Guests don’t have to decide which of these holiday types they prefer when taking over the whole Estate. Both are there for the taking to enjoy whenever they please.

Some mornings you might want a complete five star service at your disposal. And also a large Scottish cooked breakfast on tap. Other days you could want to light the fire yourselves, cook your own eggs and bacon and wash up your dishes whilst admiring the woodland view through the window. At Aldourie, two types of holiday can coexist just minutes apart.

Pier Cottage Loch Ness

Roam down the back garden of Pier Cottage to the shoreline to watch the boats bobbing on the marina. Later, take the family dogs for a walk in the woods (all four cottages are pet-friendly).

Later, sit out on the Castle terrace facing Loch Ness and take afternoon tea. In the evening everybody can reconvene in the Castle to eat banquet style on long tables in the Main Hall. A multi-itinerary for a multi-generational holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

Historic living in the 21st Century

Some just wish to take a short break or luxury stay for the moments it brings and the memories it generates. Others look for something with more meaning and like to know the history of the place they are occupying. Stay on an historic Highland estate making use of both the quaint cottages and the large house and see just how life used to be for the wealthy and fortunate Scots.

Adventure through the ample grounds, which change from season to season and look at the archives in the library to read up on the Scottish clan history. Realise the proximity of the cottages to the castle, and get a feel for how an estate would run. Taking over a Highland retreat of today is not only a luxury family holiday but a learning curve for children and adults alike.library books Aldourie Castle Scotland

The variety of outdoor sports and activities groups and families can take part in together are also another pull for making good use of your exclusive use property and grounds.

Fresh air combined with majestic views across wild scenery make for longer days no matter the time of year and give you more energy to enjoy your stay.


What to do on a rainy day at Aldourie Castle

It may seem a little absurd to print a blog post so focussed on rainy weather during a week on Loch Ness when there has been so much sun. But you must never take a sunny day in the Scottish Highlands for granted and always prepare for the best things to do in the rain. We don’t mean to dampen your spirits, however, so read on for Aldourie’s top tips on how best to enjoy a castle holiday when the weather turns…tree house aldourie castle estate scotland

Early morning

Wake up to a warming Scottish breakfast enjoyed in front of the burning fireside of the Lairds Room. There’s no better way to prepare for the chill of a rainy day than with a heart-warming plate of good traditional food.

Exclusive use holidays are best enjoyed when the whole family gets together for breakfast, still in their pyjamas and slippers with sleep in their eyes. After all, what use is a private hire property if you are not as relaxed as you would be in your own home? Finish off with a steaming cup of coffee before dressing for the outdoors – layers of clothing (because walking can make you warm) and preferably waterproofs.

Mid-morning

Pick out some Hunters from the Castle’s welly room, grab Loch Ness Lizzie from the Aldourie office and head out into the parkland with a large golf brolly. Walking is the best way to see Aldourie Estate, in fact any Highlands estate, in anything from a meek little drizzle to a full on downpour.welly room aldourie castle

The arboretum just next to the Castle which groups of guests can literally tumble into is where you will find the treehouse hidden amongst the treetops as you walk along the Loch Ness shoreline. The Aldourie family graveyard is a sight to behold in the rain, if a little spooky, and multigenerational family house party stays at Aldourie during Halloween usually squeeze in a visit or two. The tombstones and original triptych engravings are enough to get you into the spirit of the setting. Be warned: if Loch Ness Lizzie is still with you by this point she may try to find a comfy spot in the long grass so it could be best to let her catch you up.

Our beautiful newly renovated greenhouses provide scenic relief from the rain and let you enjoy the raindrop sounds up above as you absorb some heat as well as the scents of fresh salads and vegetables.

Lunchtime

Come lunch time on the Estate we recommend that you and your private party of guests savour some of Aldourie Castle’s delicious Scottish cuisine once again. Our fresh scallops from Applecross have been known to bring sunshine to the wettest of days in the Castle, whilst our roasted loin of Speyside lamb or fillet of Highland beef lets you succumb to the most treacherous weather and indulge in the sheer cosiness a traditional hearty dish can bring.Aldourie Castle, Fine Dining Scotland

Afterwards a variety of fresh fruit juices, if the rainy weather and full tummy have made you weary, are just the thing to pep you up for another jaunt around Aldourie’s 500 acre grounds.

Mid-afternoon

Burn off your lunch with a walk through the woodland or even a spot of cycling if the ground isn’t too muddy. Go to the very edge of the Castle’s private pier for some magnificent views as you gaze across to the Highland hills over Loch Ness.

Do you fancy water sports in the rain? No, neither do we. But a boat ride when you’re covered from top to toe in waterproofs and protected well from the unflappable Scottish elements can be a real thrill. Let us book you an hour with Cruise Loch Ness on the Nessie Hunter and experience adventure whilst distracting the kids from the rainy weather.

All that water will have you yearning for a hot pot of tea and some cream cakes – Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room with the fire and a good book, anyone?cruise loch ness boat aldourie castle scotland

Dinnertime

One of the best ways to warm up after a rainy day is to have a long soak in a roll top bath with a hot chocolate on the side. Take your time getting ready in your luxury bedroom and re-join your party in front of the Aldourie Library’s real wood fire for a pre-dinner catch up on the day’s events.

Afterwards, sit for dinner around the long table in the atmospheric Dining Room to enjoy chef’s choice of Scottish cuisine accompanied by a glass of the finest red wine from the Castle cellar.

Evening

Spend a while in the Games Room for a spot of billiards or a couple of traditional board games or let Aldourie’s hospitality manager organise a whisky or wine tasting in the Red Drawing Room. Either of these are such cosy, indulgent indoor holiday activities for when a storm hits Loch Ness.view loch ness aldourie castle window

Help yourself to your favourite drink – sherry or port will keep the chill away – and take a moment to gaze out of the large windows of Aldourie. Why not take in the portraits in the Main Hall, stop midway up a spiral staircase or relax on a window seat along the luxurious corridor upstairs to watch and listen to the rain pitter patter against the glass and drop into the Loch. You could even take a journey up to a turreted balcony and feel the refreshing rain on your skin – after all, if you can’t sing and dance in the rain during a stay in a stately Scottish castle, when can you?


Top 5 places of interest around Inverness and Aldourie

The Scottish Highlands is swarming with things to do at any time of year. With so many day trips and activities available to you and your group or family stay on Loch Ness we understand it can be difficult to decide what to arrange to do or visit during your weekend or week at Aldourie. We think that packing your suitcase is the most you should have to work at when taking a luxury holiday to Scotland and so, if you were our guests staying for a while, we’d be suggesting you experience all or some of the below to get a real taste of the Highlands. And we can arrange every last detail.cawdor Inverness

Cawdor Castle

Located in Nairn (so around a 30 minute drive from Inverness) and a fun, cultural day out, Cawdor Castle is a beautiful place and one of the many historical delights of Scotland. The 14th Century Castle is open to the public and hosts a number of public events throughout the year including the Living Food Weekend on the 17th and 18th of September combining local food and drink stalls with art and craft. The Estate has a magical ambiance with a Hogwarts appeal. Its formal gardens, including a maze and walled garden, are a stunning array of wild and traditional flora where keen gardeners will find both enjoyment and inspiration.

Home to the Cawdor family to this day, the Castle is not unlike Aldourie with its neat little turrets and lush green backdrop, within; its homeliness and attention to detail. Wander through its beautifully ordained and decadent bedrooms admiring family portraits and heirlooms and look out for the family dogs lazing together in a cosy spot. Pause for a moment on the steps on your way to the Great Hall surrounded by high stone walls, arched doorways and original glassless windows to really feel the history of this Scottish Castle home.Jacobite memorial Inverness

Culloden Battlefield

You have not visited Inverness without a trip to Culloden Battlefield. Let yourself be transported back 250 years when the European War hit Scotland for a one hour battle that changed the fate of the Highlands forever. Culloden is a short break or holiday must-see attraction where infamous Scottish clans fought to reclaim the British throne; where much blood was shed and many stories over the years have been derived.

The location is unique and beholds an immense amount of history; both in its atmosphere and its artefacts. The land you will walk over features ‘graves of the clans’ and ‘the well of the dead’ so be sure to head home to Aldourie before midnight so as not to let Culloden interfere with your fairytale dreams. Roam from the original farmhouse that survived the battle – Old Leanach Cottage – to the contemporary Visitor Centre with exhibitions including immersion theatre and audio visual, which re-enact elements of the famous battle before your very eyes.

The above are just two of the great sights of the Scottish Highlands, all within shooting distance of Aldourie Castle. And where better to head back to than an exclusive use historic Castle to enjoy all to yourself after visiting such dramatic, significant and luxurious locations. Fancy a night cap? …because you haven’t truly appreciated the wild Highlands of Scotland until you’ve sipped a dram or two of Highland whisky. Here are a few of Aldourie’s favourite distilleries so, by all means, take your pick…dram of whisky Aldourie Castle Inverness

Visiting a whisky distillery in Scotland, whether you’re just dropping in on the way back from a famous Scottish landmark or have booked in advance, is an experience to savour. Walking through the shop door you’re greeted like an old friend and there is a scent of nostalgia as you are enveloped by warmth; both from the air and the welcome. The reason? Maybe it’s the love and patriarchy that goes into the whisky making process. Or it could be the endless competition…

Step inside most distilleries open to the public for tastings and tours and you’ll find a cosy and beautifully displayed shop; a shrine to their brand. Neatly presented staff in matching uniform and numerous gift items related to the product – perfect for a grandparent present if you haven’t yet come across a decent magnet – greet each and every guest.  There are so many small and independent traditional distilleries that there’s no room for complacency – you could literally go from door to door on a cold winter’s day in the Highlands and experience something heartwarmingly different at each one.

Tomatin Whisky Distillery

Let’s start off with Tomatin – a single malt Scotch whisky distillery established in 1897. This one is great for the kids as their tour guides keep the information clear and informative. Efficiently run and ideal for the whisky novice this distillery just a short drive from Aldourie Castle offers a succinct and easy to understand introduction to Scotch whisky. Likewise, there is enough knowledge thrown in for the experienced whisky lover.whisky distillery Inverness

Muir of Ord Distillery

With a remarkable family history dating back to 1263 and a distillery that helped ensure work for the local men throughout the 19th Century, Glen Ord Distillery is tradition at its best. Educational and helpful the whisky tours cover a wealth of information and knowledge, and are delivered with a passion for the brand and a dedication to its past. Weave through the working machinery to really feel involved in this historical malt.

Dalmore Distillery

Situated 20 miles north of Inverness Dalmore combines a legendary past with a most picturesque landscape from a beautiful original stone built property. Is it any wonder Aldourie recommends this whisky distillery to guests? A creation of one man’s dream the whisky’s unique taste is owed to its unique natural setting. During your visit enjoy views over the Black Isle meadows whilst learning of the regal history of The Dalmore and tasting its characterful collections.

From mashing to fermenting to distilling, all our recommended whisky tasting tours offer something unique and entirely Scottish. These makers are proud of their distinct product, their handmade single malts, state of the art machinery and in-depth processes, culminating in the purest dram.Loch Ness Inverness

Now that you know Aldourie has all bases covered (not least your fine Scottish drink sampling) for a Castle retreat on Loch Ness, you’ve little else to do but pack your suitcase and book that culture-filled holiday of your dreams. Why not make yours a Christmas or New Years’ 2016 holiday in the atmospheric Scottish Highlands.