Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit

What better way to compare the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings. Take a read of Aldourie’s personalised guide to the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

What is the history of Urquhart Castle?

The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence during the 14th century. It was thereafter considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland today. As a result it resides in our list of Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?

It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Like any castle ruins Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The appeal to holidaymakers is the combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands. This alone makes it and Aldourie favourite and puts it in the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Special fact or feature of one of the castle

Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296, when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357.
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.

Another pull for guests staying at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is that it is also located on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker. This is why Aldourie Castle rates Urquhart as one of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles

Eilean Donan  – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

This attractively named landmark is one of the most recognised castles in the whole of Scotland. You may have seen it one shortbread tins, tea towels and scenic calendars if you have ever before visited a gift shop in the Highlands.  Eilean Donan itself is a small island in the western Highlands and the meeting point of three sea lochs. The castle was restored in the early 20th century and now a footbridge connects the island to the mainland granting easy access to a somewhat untouchable Scottish landmark.

What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan was named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint around in 617. The castle itself was founded in the 1200s, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and the Clan Macrae. The castle was destroyed in 1719 because of the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. What you see is the castle in its reconstructed form in the twentieth-century.

Interestingly, in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain-wall castle was constructed enclosing most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?

Eilean Donan is a picturesque castle which has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark to pose a selfie against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio! No wonder it’s on Aldourie’s list of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Special fact or feature of the castle

Records suggest that there was a small Christian church on the island of Eilean Donan in the 6th or 7th century. Although no actual remains survive to this day fragments of stone do suggest an Iron Age or medieval history. This astonishing castle ruins has been redeveloped and reconstructed around six times; no wonder it looks tired now.

Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century, all of which is well documented. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder despite the nearly three hour journey that many of Aldourie’s exclusive use guests like to pay a visit.

Dunnottar Castle – castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands on ancient ground

Dunnottar Castle is the ruins of a medieval fortress situated on scenic rocky peninsula, elevated from the mainland. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?

The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort was built nearby in the 3rd century and in the following century a place of worship. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and it was captured by William Wallace in the year 1276. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle, (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. It was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.

Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. Because of its sheer perseverance  through history we have named it one our the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?

Dunnottar Castle is an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. The rock that the castle sits on formed some 440 million years ago; that’s enough to bring anyone to an historic landmark in Scotland. Tourists visit Dunnottar Castle for their own unforgettable experience; there is so much to see and do here. Try walking or cycling to the Castle from the nearby town of Stonehaven, itself a tourist attraction. The route to the castle is very picturesque.

Special fact or feature of the castle

When you visit this special historic landmark you will soon discover the importance of Dunnottar. It is in simple form an invincible fortress that holds important secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland- the Scottish crown jewels- were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army, which invaded in the 17th century.

Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the castle walls including:
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
Tower house
Waterton’s Lodging
Postern gate
Whigs’ Vault
Bowling green
Sentry box

There’s so much more to Scotland’s historic castle ruins than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to Aldourie’s highly recommended Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

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

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

Caber toss – great to start off your Games:

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

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

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

Stone put – a traditional sport:

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

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

Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:

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

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

Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:

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

Highland Games in castle grounds

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

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

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

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

Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds

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

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

Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds

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

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

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

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

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

48 hours in an exclusive use executive retreat

Arrive to an exclusive concierge

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

5-star 4-course dinner

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

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

Rest in private group accommodation

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

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

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

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

Multi-functional luxury meeting spaces

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

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

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

Midday food designed to spur you on

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

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

Pre-dinner drinks

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

Corporate activities to beat all outdoor experiences

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

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

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

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

Take the high road with a North Coast 500 Road Trip

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

We want to tell you about a new driving route through the western Highlands of Scotland. One that is full of adventure and scenic views. It’s called the North Coast 500 a 516-mile (830.4 km) route, and takes you around the north coast of Scotland. The route both starts and ends at Inverness Castle and in this blog we suggest how best to enjoy Scotland’s very own Route 66. For instance why not start your journey with a luxury stay at the resplendent Aldourie Castle. It is the perfect opportunity to stop partway through your drive and relax and recharge. Both Aldourie and Kinloch estates are part of the Wildland group of property and what’s more, each is available all year round for private hire as luxury group accommodation.

When you take this trip you really do experience 500 miles of the best scenery that the North Highlands has to offer. The route itself runs from and to Inverness, and takes you through the heart of the Highlands heading up to the west coast and back via the rugged north coast.

How many miles is do-able in a day on the North Coast 500 Road Trip

Well it’s all about personal preference really and it depends on what kind of experience you want to have. For the sightseers amongst you, you may prefer to stop every 50 miles to appreciate the various famous landmarks. Whereas, if you are a keen motorcyclist or driver you might be interested in just racking up those miles in either your vintage car or your Harley!North Coast 500 Road Trip

Stay in your own castle on Loch Ness

Whatever mode of transport you’ve chosen to travel in along the North Coast 500 Road Trip, there’s plenty of outdoor space at Aldourie Castle to park up your vehicles. Ideally situated just six miles from Inverness, why not make Aldourie Castle your starting point for this epic adventure? After all, the 500 acre Highlands Estate is accessed off the main road into Inverness.

A warm welcome will greet you here at the castle with our dedicated hospitality team helping you settle in. They will take your luggage whilst you can then sit and enjoy a drink in the drawing room. Or, if it’s nice weather you might wish to sit out on the terrace. Aldourie is designed for exclusive use rentals only, so the property and immediate grounds are solely yours for the duration of your stay. Enjoy these first few days of your North Coast 500 Road Trip in your own luxurious holiday setting on Loch Ness. The Castle can accommodate up to 30 guests in 13 bedrooms. However, larger groups can spill into the four holiday cottages on the estate where necessary.

House party before road trip

Off site at Aldourie Castle Estate there are various ways to spend your days before you begin travelling up to the Highlands. For instance, there are the ruins of Urquhart castle, which can be easily reached by boat. Then there’s the numerous famous whisky distilleries where you can taste a wee dram of the good stuff. If you would rather head out in the car or on bike, you could visit Fort Augustus for its winding walks and hikes. At Dores Beach on Loch Ness and nearby, you’ll find quaint market towns and villages a short drive away – visit Beauly for a spot of local culture and shopping.North Coast 500 Road Trip

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

The Black Isle

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

Wester Ross

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

Ullapool is the main town of Wester Ross, a lively and friendly spot with a varied music scene. If you like your music festivals it’s well worth stopping here. Another great pit stop is the picturesque village of Aultbea located on the shoreline of Loch Ewe. Adrenaline junkies will revel in Wester Ross; take advantage of the varied outdoor activities strewn across the region.North Coast 500 Road Trip


The next leg of your journey will take you to Caithness; a hive of history, nature and landscapes. Its dramatic flat lands and skyline give it an otherworldly feel. The district itself has an adventurous soul being home to the village of John O’Groats, the starting point to the UK’s famous end-to-end journey to Land’s End.  Once you arrive here you are well established into your North Coast 500 Road Trip. So, take some quality time to relax and discover, and devour some dramatic scenery on the very edge of Europe.

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


This region makes up a significant portion of your North Coast 500 Road Trip and is full of beautiful jaw-dropping scenery. Northwest Sutherland boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and world famous beaches. Particularly seek out Achmelvich and Clachtoll for some scenic strolling. You can not the spectacular mountain ranges of this part of Sutherland.North Coast 500 Road Trip

The east coast is a real treat for golfers and here is home to the 18-hole championship Royal Dornoch golf course. Luxury lovers will meanwhile enjoy visiting the fairytale castle Dunrobin, the seat of the Earl and Clan of Scotland. Spend a few hours if you wish admiring the stunning formal gardens and experiencing falconry up close. If nature is one of the reasons for your luxury North Coast 500 Road Tripwildlife can be found at the RSPB Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, which serves to exhibit and preserve the peatlands of Scotland.

Kinloch Lodge, Sutherland – group catered stays

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

Kinloch was originally the private lodge of the Duke of Sutherland. It’s a classic sporting property that has been newly refurbished in a Scandi-Scot style. The interior has been inspired by its outdoor setting with lots of wooden furnishings, natural colour schemes and open stone fireplaces. Generous, light living spaces allow for time alone with a good book whilst cosy corners invite fireside chats over a glass of wine. You can also, admire the rugged open landscape of Ben Loyal during dinner in the conservatory. Then again you can make yourself at home in beautifully decorated spacious bedrooms as well.North Coast 500 Road Trip

The unspoiled landscape of Sutherland

This hideaway from the real world is ideal for your second exclusive use stay during your memorable North Coast 500 road trip. You are surrounded by miles of land to roam and explore. So, whilst you’re on foot make the most of your idyllic setting. This area is vast and full of landmarks and attractions, history, shopping and culture. Before you take the last leg of your NC500 road trip why not spend some quality time in Sutherland and enjoy the remoteness of Kinloch Lodge?

5 amazing reasons to stay in a castle

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

They’re in fairytales

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

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

Holiday and history in one

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

old photo Aldourie Castle Estate exterior stay in a castle

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

They make a perfect ‘spooky’ Halloween retreat

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

Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness Graveyard stay in a castle

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

You can make good use of the moat

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

speedboat loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate stay in a castle

Castles unleash children’s imaginations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore another loch

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

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

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

Into the wild

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

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

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

Romantic bike rides for two

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

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

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

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