When you decide to book an exclusive use stay in Aldourie Castle on the southern shores of Loch Ness, there is no need to venture much further beyond the Estate’s walls with so much to see and do on Loch Ness and in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness.
Two types of tours we are concentrating on for this blog post are nature and wildlife tours and boat tours on Loch Ness. The Highlands are famous for their lochs as well as their impressive landscapes and unique wildlife, so what better way to make you, our a private house party of guests, feel at home than by telling you all about what helps make the Scottish Highlands so welcoming and wonderful. The whimsical mountainous peaks and the fascinating natural world are what keeps people coming back to Aldourie year after year.
Nature and Wildlife tours
Take the Applecross Peninsula Day Trip from Inverness, a nine-hour day trip on a luxury tour that takes you to the less-visited part of Scotland, the windswept Applecross Peninsula. You will spot an abundance of wildlife native to the region and be transported to a dreamland as you soak up the dramatic views of wild Highlands’s scenery. A visit to the the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Britain’s oldest in fact, will supply you with enough knowledge to understand and appreciate the history of the area as well as the nature that thrives there. Look out for golden eagles soaring overhead. You will be eager to explore the many easy trails giving you and your private house party groups the chance to discover the true wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.
As you arrive in the village of Arndarroch, admire views of Loch Kishorn, then attempt the steep Bealach nam Ba (Pass of the Cattle). At the top (2,000 feet high), an extraordinary natural view will spill out before you; possibly your first sight of the Isle of Skye. From here, take the scenic drive along the shoreline of Loch Torridon, stopping part-way to explore the town of Shieldaig.
Dolphin spotting near Loch Ness
Another wonderful way to complement your exclusive use holiday in a luxury Scottish Castle is to venture out onto the wild waters of the Moray Firth, a triangular inlet of the North Sea with a stunning coastline, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the even wilder dolphin. One of the best places to spot this beautiful and intelligent aquatic mammal is at Chanonry Point near Inverness. The dolphin-spotting area lays between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle and the best time to see them is during a rising tide. See moraydolphins.co.uk for details on tide times.
For the ultimate dolphin spotting experience, Aldourie Castle recommends the boat tours that depart from inverness. The Dolphin Spirit encapsulates many aspects in one; you will be able to admire the natural landscape of Moray Firth as well as observe the wildlife in the area including herons and otters.
The thing to remember with dolphin spotting trips is how wild the animal is. That is part of its beauty; the fact that they are highly intelligent with a captivating sense of fun only adds to the delight of witnessing a dolphin in its own habitat. So, if you are lucky enough to see the dolphins that truly is a wonderful experience to hold onto. However, they are not there to perform or entertain, although their balletic dives may appear to have been rehearsed, so try not to be disappointed if you don’t catch a glimpse. And just hope they will grace you with their presence next time.
Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for exclusive use stays and cottage holidays.
The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time, for example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness so we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness, making sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.
With so many fantastic tour operators providing an excellent array of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness, and operating from the convenient location just a few miles down the road in Inverness, this guide consists of a select few Aldourie favourites.
Walking or cycling tours
One of the very first requests from guests we usually have is for details on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to go it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. Others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views.
Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and ethereal Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape rising and falling in gentle waves, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. From romantic glens and shimmering waterfalls to wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own, this varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views, including the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.
For a real sense of freedom and a chance to use your own bike – great if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness – opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time having received a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland where you will experience the utter joy of speeding passed spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.
Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, which is just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn, and simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline and realise just how lucky you are to be able to both cycle and holiday on Loch Ness at the same time. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.
Whisky (tours and tastings) tours
There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines over a full day two of the famous distilleries in an area that is host to over half the distilleries in Scotland, each in entirely different settings. The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.
Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.
Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is: from the moment you enter the door and are greeted by genuinely friendly staff to the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes; their endless knowledge and palpable pride to the peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses and the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop. The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one; whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported, abundantly impressed, a whisky convert (if not already a lover). You will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.
If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.
We look forward to posting our second instalment of Tours in Inverness which will feature the best wildlife and nature, boating and cultural tours in and around Inverness and Loch Ness.
On the Aldourie Estate in Scotland we are lucky to welcome a variety of guests to stay in its four beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm whilst others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another because, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it?
The latter type of holidaymakers tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. So, we have produced a list for the those who wish to explore the local area of Inverness for family attractions because it in fact boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside that is the Scottish Highlands.
If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of a day well spent then a trip along River Ness is a must. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains top with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands in the middle of the river and stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.
Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Cleverly laid out for visitors to experience Fort George in its full glory, you can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. As you cross the drawbridge you are taken back to the year 1727, bracing the sudden winds to cross over a wide killing ground. Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.
Inverness Botanic Gardens
Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. A lovely day out for families, the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses, a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.
Again, another family attraction must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as its main attraction, the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships, including film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imagination whirring and it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of this unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels so, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.
The Highlanders’ Museum
Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.
Eden Court Theatre
Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema for the latest flick or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub featuring light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Couples and group stays can break up their action-packed adventure holiday in Scotland with a sophisticated evening out with drinks, dinner and a music concert. Or families who book their Loch Ness cottage holiday over winter can go to see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!
Greig Street Bridge
Having been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, wouldn’t you want to give it a go? A footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness, Greig Street Bridge crosses over the River Ness and so provides ample opportunity to stop not only to admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks or on a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing as you watch the rippling water below and the richly –coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.
Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. Situated on the riverbank it makes a captivating postcard picture for your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches framing beautiful mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls whilst outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas.
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre
It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break, great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. With everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness, this friendly store specialises in making kilts and will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. Yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.
Old High St Stephen’s Church
Aesthetically very different from the cathedral the ancient stone work and bonny pointed turrets make this church a tourist attraction in its own right. Old High is a fascinating building that has been in use since Celtic times and, inside, leaflets will provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. This a brilliant add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness as the church is only a stone’s throw from the centre. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.
As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye and it’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities – although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.
Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.
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 complete with a castle available for private hire and a few traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages, is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s most peaceful and beautiful region.
From top places to visit for a cup of hot chocolate to 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.
Explore the Isle of Skye
As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland and not without reason. 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, making the most of local knowledge, in order to put your time to good use. We suggest up there on your list should be the isolated and mesmerising Isle of Skye.
This remote part of Scotland is a perfect trip to allow you to experience the most spectacular views of the Highlands and Skye is easily accessible from the Aldourie holiday cottages, as long as you don’t mind an early morning start. Widely appreciated for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages, we advise jumping in the car at day break to make the most of the three hour journey.
Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs, not forgetting 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 be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Skye’s colours you will capture both with a camera and simply by being in the moment 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.
Get up close to Loch Lomond
A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without taking the ‘low road’ out to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Famed for its folklore, castles and golf – there’s no getting away from it up here – its central spot crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sports, hiking and camping during winter short breaks in Scotland. The colder months showcase snow-capped peaks which frame the famous lake and have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal. Its mysterious forests that weave through and cluster among the mountains have inspired many creatives including artists and songwriters over the years.
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 which 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 and take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. Don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.
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.
With such a scenic and adventure-filled itinerary for a cottage holiday in Scotland it may be easy to oversee the location you are actually staying at. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness, from its vast open water and the legendary Monster to getting up close and personal to 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. From some of the most famous whisky distilleries – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness – to exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks, the heart of Scotland’s culture is within reaching distance. If you’ve come to the Highlands to relax during January or Februray, we at Aldourie can suggest and 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 home shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.
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. With a traditional Scottish Highland pipe band and quaint row of central shops you will encounter a real feel of Scotland here. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truely delicious sandwich and slice of homemade cake then walk it off around the pretty Priory ruins.
Some of the best boat cruises on Loch Ness depart from Fort William, itself a extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate as 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 to house 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, especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands of Scotland and a moonlit Loch Ness.
While most of the world will be celebrating ‘just another’ New Year’s Eve on 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest but the importance they place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar – bigger even than Christmas Day – and it’s certainly worth waiting for. You thought the Highland Games was a cultural signifier; think again…
Definition of Hogmanay and its origins
Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to their celebrations on New Year’s Eve. It is unclear where the actual word originated from though history suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north” – in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. Such parties eventually began to feature elements from the Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule, and these celebrations were labelled ‘daft days’ by the Scots. Now that Hogmanay has been established for a few centuries it culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences. The best celebrations always do!
How do Hogmanay celebrations differ from New Year’s Eve?
One of the major differences between Hogmanay and the traditional New Year’s Eve parties is the length; 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 as while the rest of the UK is generally easing back and business recommences, the streets in Scotland remain deserted.
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, 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 and 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
It is only in recent years that Scotland began to celebrate Christmas. 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 Boxing Day was announced 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!
Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year
It has to be said, there is no hiding it; the Scots love a good party. Therefore 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.
The most popular tradition is ‘first-footing’ where the first person to enter the house after midnight brings gifts such as food or coal. First-footing is regarded as affecting the fortune of the household for the coming year and this is dependent on the appearance of the visitor; the ideal guest is a tall, dark man…if you open the door to a flat-coat retriever called Lizzie wearing a Santa hat…well, you can guess the rest.
Other traditions can include 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 book your New Year’s celebrations at Aldourie Castle on Loch 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.
Why not make Christmas 2016 the year you decide to do something different? But why wait until the New Year to make your resolutions? Set a date now 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, continuing 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: catered exclusive use stays with lashings of luxury or self-catered stays 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 will enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all, through a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage, the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties as well as 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 which can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.
Scotland has so much to offer. 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 to name but a few. In the latter you will find delicious 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, ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.
New Year in a Castle
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 with an exclusive use stay at Aldourie.
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 bring in the 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.
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, both from London and from overseas. Aldourie Castle has been host to many American guests as a result of this convenient new flight, who see the advantage of a little longer airtime in order to experience the beautiful and wild Scottish Highlands and mesmerising Loch Ness.
British Airways decided to resume the daily flight to Inverness Airport, which is just outside of Aldourie Castle Estate, a journey that stopped in 1997. Aldourie, for one, was extremely confident of the benefits to corporate travellers who would be opened up to a more accessible 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 whose benefits include a whole manner of things including peaceful settings, striking backdrops, impressive facades, luxury bedrooms and first class, five star hospitality.
Since May this year the direct flight linking London tourism to Scotland has operated as a year-round service with its first flight of the day departing 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, for example through oil business in Aberdeen. The tourism offering in the Highlands can capitalise further from travellers flying in from overseas and London who previously may not have considered travelling up to Scotland to hold their multi-generational family holiday, luxury Scottish holiday, annual corporate event or board of directors meeting.
The fact that this is another attainable 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 formats offered by popular high end venues in the UK.
What can a country estate offer overseas corporate clients?
A change in scenery and culture is something that places like Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness can offer guests who have travelled by plane from overseas or London, which as we already know can work wonders for holidaymakers. A conducive environment can help guests to relax, focus and put things in perspective; all attributes a business would hope for in a corporate hospitality location or property.
Aldourie has spent time and effort in enticing London and overseas businesses to take advantage of the direct flight from Heathrow to Inverness to both encourage a more affluent hospitality business in the Scottish Highlands and a varied approach in what is considered to be luxury in 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 who are interested in using the private hire Castle as a multi-functional business venue.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Sometimes the prospect of booking a holiday can cause more stress than satisfaction especially when the holiday is as specific as a group golfing break in the Scottish Highlands. Because this type of holiday is booked so often by groups of golfing buddies and corporate groups looking for client incentive stays in Scotland there is so much on offer in terms of golfing accommodation and golf courses not to mention golf packages that include everything in one place. With everything covered by the endless Scottish travel and tourism platforms you would think this would be an easy feat but more often than not, with so much to choose from, it can make booking a short break a hassle and a complicated chore.
You decide on one five star group accommodation and then realise your favourite golf course is miles away. Or the competition for hotels is so rife that it’s difficult to decide which would offer you the better experience. Not to mention the fact that you’ve waited ages to get everyone in your golfing group’s availability for the same five days that you then need a long break to recover from booking the short one. Phew! So, how can we help? We simplify your choices and make your decisions easy.
Tip 1: Decide which is the most important: golf course or holiday base?
Is it all in the name of sport or is breakfast in bed a must? If your surroundings and the location of your golfing holiday base is going to be very important in the booking of your Scottish holiday it is better to research your group accommodation options in the areas you like before finding a golf course or courses you love only to find there is not the type of property to suit your short break in the near vicinity. The Scottish Highlands, in particular Loch Ness, offers an abundance of scenic landscape and walks as well as endless water and land based recreational things to do.
If you were to choose Aldourie Castle – literally on the shores of southern Loch Ness – as your luxury golfing holiday property we can recommend a few golf courses of prestige within a very reasonable distance from the 500 acre Estate. Follow each link below to find out what each golf course entails:
Unfortunately our knowledge of yurts and any other form of glamping is pretty limited but if you do go down the route of luxury castle accommodation in the Scottish Highlands here is a little hint of what you can expect for an exclusive use week on Loch Ness.
What to expect from the castle:
Luxury bedrooms of all shapes and sizes but all offering spacious and private settings with stunning window views either on to Loch Ness itself or across the lush parkland of the Scottish Highlands private hire Estate.
Five star hospitality is guaranteed at Aldourie, from the warm welcome to the homely atmosphere presiding throughout the Castle; from the log burning fires frequently tended to the comfy four poster beds and luxurious roll top baths.
Exceptional Scottish food and drink is overflowing when your stay in a privately owned Scottish castle. Be prepared for real Scottish cuisine and decadent desserts – and full Scottish breakfast is a must. From fresh fish and salad dishes to warming roasts and game pies our chef can cater for pre-golfing and post-golfing appetites.
An informal atmosphere and everything at your fingertips all rolls into one in this exclusive use property by the loch. Let our staff be as visible or as discreet as you wish in order to make Aldourie feel like your own home.
Tip 3: Property ethos; the DIY approach or the all-inclusive?
Say you’ve opted for the exclusive use type of stay, there are still more decisions you have to make to ensure you book the best golfing holiday in Scotland for you and your group. Some guests like to feel free from the moment they step foot through the door and be left to their own devices for the duration of their stay. At Aldourie Castle our hospitality team can be as much or as little involved in your group stay in Scotland as you wish.
Some exclusive use properties will want to be at your beck and call from a butler service to ringing the dinner gong at 6pm. Others, despite their origins as hosts of royal celebrations and celebrity parties back in the day, take a more laid back approach when it comes to luxury holidays in the 21st Century. In essence, make sure you get a feel for the ethos of the private hire property to ensure you get the most out of your exclusive use experience.
The ethos of Aldourie Castle is its dedication to make our guests feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Take this Castle over as your own home and respect it as you would your own home and it will become yours for the length of your stay. We offer unrestricted access to Aldourie Estate; grounds with enough variety and scenery to entertain and interest all guests. The added luxury of Aldourie is its location – in a place like Loch Ness you will never be bored.
We can organise activities to vary your golfing stay. Whilst you are not golfing off the Estate why not take a stroll along Dores Beach or catch a boat from Aldourie’s private pier and marina? Explore the 500 acre Aldourie Estate on foot, stopping at the pretty gardens, or take a Segway ride across the parkland.
The dedicated hospitality team at this exclusive use Castle can even arrange transport to your chosen golf resorts or clubs at any time of the day or evening. Should you prefer to make your own way to the golf courses during your golfing break in Scotland you are entirely at liberty to arrange this and anything else. That is the beauty of a private hire property in Scotland; you really are as free as the wildest Highland hills.
What’s so special about Loch Ness? The lure of water itself, the freedom of its restless current? Or could it be its transient beauty? It’s a place where not one moment will ever be the same. Loch Ness is always on the move ready to embrace its next adventure, yet it retains a stillness that can calm troubled or wandering minds. Holiday on Loch Ness and feel your stresses float away. If you read on you will find out that there are many ways to achieve this other than meditating on a raft. Though, we could definitely arrange that for you.
You could be part of a family reunion, a multi-generational holiday party, or a group of friends sharing the same interests such as golf, cycling or walking. Or simply wanting to go it alone and hire a Castle on Loch Ness for the inspiration to write your novel, complete your portfolio of landscape paintings or take some time out from a hectic work schedule. Whatever your reasons for coming to stay here in a beautiful Castle on the shoreline of the majestic Loch Ness, the great Scottish outdoors beholds something for everyone.
Take a look; it’s a simple picture and yet the opportunities for fun, experience and adventure are endless. We just advise that you pack your imagination when coming to stay at Aldourie but should there simply not be enough room in your suitcase our creative hospitality team will always be on hand to recommend a host of activities.
Families: ensure your exclusive use holiday includes quality time
There are many reasons why a family would choose to visit the famous Loch Ness with all its diversions and areas of interest, its history and mesmerising beauty. Not to mention the excitement for children visiting the home of folklore celebrity, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. After a leisurely morning taking breakfast at the Castle during your exclusive use stay with us let Aldourie’s team book you a cruise on Loch Ness that will take you up close to some of the Scottish Highlands most historic, cultural and wondrous landmarks.
Venture forth and stop off at the Moray Firth, one of the most important places on the U.K. coast for observing dolphins and whales. Given a nod to its scenic brilliance the coastline has been voted one of the most picturesque by National Geographic. With direct tours available from Inverness just a few miles down the road from Aldourie Castle, don’t miss out on a family experience in Scotland that will leave you speechless and clutching the camera in order to capture the next incredible sighting. The most common species are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Harbour Porpoise with occasional sightings of Common dolphin and Minke Whale.
Friends: do something different for years of reminiscing
When groups of friends come to stay at Aldourie in the stunning Scottish Highland landscape they not only marvel at the views from their luxurious bedrooms and get swept away by the fresh air taking tea on the terrace. Friends holidaying in Scotland want to get involved in their surroundings and experience something together that will make for lasting memories. The Nessie Hunter is definitely a trip on Loch Ness we highly recommend to any group stay at the private Scottish Castle. Be led astray by the expert hunters on your personal speed boat and follow the lure of the waves to try to catch a glimpse of the iconic Monster. Be part of Aldourie’s fairytale and let your imagination take you into the heart of Loch Ness.
If during the week your group is hoping for something a little more relaxed, you can take a rowing boat from the Aldourie marina (the hospitality team at the Castle will be happy to arrange this for you) and wade out in smaller groups from the private pier on the Highland Estate. Experience Loch Ness and its many scenes from the comfort and joy or your own personal space and take in the hilly surroundings in your own good time.
We’ll let all this information on Loch Ness sink in whilst you take time to plan your next family holiday or group stay with friends in the Scottish Highlands until Aldourie’s next blog post. This second instalment will feature even more fun activities to experience on the most famous stretch of water in the world.