In our last blog post Aldourie Castle gave its 10 top tips on how to host the perfect summer garden party. We focused on all the key elements to create the ultimate outdoor party. As always we came back to the guests’ experience. This is something Aldourie as an exclusive use castle on Loch Ness Scotland considers above everything else. Here we complete our list and wish you luck and fun in hosting your own outdoor (or indoor) perfect summer garden party.
Choose the ‘right’ music
The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.
Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party
A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event.
Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.
Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…
Set the mood with lighting
The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy.
Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.
Prioritise comfort for your guests
Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.
You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.
Have a back-up plan
You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.
Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms. We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.
As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.
Consider your guest list
When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.
Have a theme to focus on
The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.
Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.
Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting
Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…
Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party
You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience.
The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.
Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!
Create pretty flower displays
Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.
Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.
Keep your eyes peeled for our second installment of our 10 top tips to the perfect summer garden party. Why not book Aldourie if you’re looking to hold a milestone birthday in a castle or enjoy a family reunion castle stay. We specialise in exclusive family holidays on Loch Ness in this private use Castle and whilst you’re here why not let us host your perfect castle garden party over summer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.
This past month has all been about planting; well, what else is Aldourie Castle’s gardening team going to do with a delivery of 20,000 plants! Let’s take a more in depth look at what the dedicated green-fingered team got up to during March and April.
Planting in the woodland; a thorough process
The team has been busy for months clearing and preparing the woodland for planting. Good things come to those who wait – the gardeners have had to be patient to say the least. The Scottish Highlands, as with all the UK, have endured unusually cold weather. Coupled with heavy rainfall, this makes full gardening days difficult to maintain. Head gardener Duncan says:
‘We were waiting on the soil drying out properly to enable the team to complete the final preparation on the main beds.’
‘We have also started removing lots of daffodils so that we can plant different bulbs. The woodland is to be clear of yellow so that’s why we are removing yellow Azaleas and Daffodils.’
You may wonder at this choice to clear the woodland of such a symbolic springtime colour. The reason for this is simply a design choice. Much of the existing collection of Rhododendrons is in a range of cooler colours such as blues, purples and pinks. We don’t want it to clash with strong yellows. The 400 new Rhododendrons we planted recently in the woodland are again mainly cooler coloured, to complement the existing collection.
The gardening team’s overarching aim is still to recreate the Victorian elegance that permeated the estate gardens of the 1800s. With that comes the planting of specific plants in tune with the gardening style of that period. That doesn’t just happen overnight, however. The garden design team, headed by Tom Stuart-Smith, has worked hard to ensure that the look and feel of each of the four garden areas in the 500-acre grounds will eventually showcase a perfect portrayal of a Victorian Scottish estate.
Transforming the Castle garden
The Aldourie gardening team have had time to perfect the way they work together having planned the revitalised estate design for over the past year. It is no surprise therefore that when it came to physical planting of these highly anticipated flowers each member of the team had a specific role to play.
The recent delivery for the Castle garden alone, the enclosed area facing Loch Ness, totalled 10,000 herbaceous perennial plants. With such a large delivery and working to a tight timescal, preparation is key and eases the potential stress or problems that may occur. Duncan explains;
‘As the photos show, there are some of us setting out the plants and some of us planting and mulching. First, Tom Stuart-Smith and Ed Shackleton (from his office) came up and we all set out the plants according to Tom’s design. Then, after Tom and Ed left we planted them all.’
The gardening team then mulched the beds with a thick layer of composted bark, which helps to prevent weeds and keeps moisture in the soil. There are a few gaps that will be filled shortly when additional plants arrive.
‘It doesn’t look like much now but it will change a lot through the seasons and even more over the next few years. This was hard work but really exciting to get so many plants in the ground.’
The gardening team of four had some additional support during the Castle garden planting as spring arrived. ‘We also had a student, Louise, from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh with us for a week, which was a great help.’ We are sure that working in authentic Victorian walled garden has proved a learning curve for Louise and a credit to her gardening portfolio.
THE NEXT PHASE: new vegetable patches in our walled garden
Aldourie Estate has just received the next delivery of plants (approx. 20,000) and these are destined for the walled Victorian garden. Also, something to excite our ‘farm to table’ lovers: the outdoors crew will soon start work on filling the vegetable beds to complement the glasshouses and al fresco dining experience. This means that by the height of the season we should have a fully functioning walled garden just like in the Victorian times. Yet another way for the Castle’s private guests to appreciate exclusive use living on the Highlands Estate.
Elsie, the gardening team’s loyal and diligent canine friend, is excited to begin work on the walled garden beds. We’re sure those paws are just raring to go!
Duncan’s gardening tip for early spring
TIP: At this time of year it’s important to keep a really close eye on the weather. It can be really changeable and some late frosts may still appear, so take care when putting things like tomatoes into an unheated glasshouse. If anyone has potatoes beginning to show and a late frost is forecast it is worth putting a fleece covering over them to protect them. Conversely, this time last year we had a really dry spell so make sure seedlings and anything in pots are regularly watered as they begin growing.
What are the most popular chosen personal resolutions to inspire your year ahead? And how can you achieve these goals? We have listed last year’s top 10 New Year’s resolutions based on a campaign Twitter ran in 2017. We thought it would be fun to see how these most popular targets could be achieved during one of our exclusive Scottish castle vacations. What better place to inspire motivation to achieve your goals than in a sanctuary combining peace, tradition and beauty. Here’s the list of resolutions and some ideas from Aldourie about just how achievable they could be during a stay in a private luxury holiday destination.
No.1. Diet and exercise
To start with, the dieting is down to you alone – you’ll have to steer clear of those rich chocolate desserts! But there is plenty of healthy eating options here to help you on your way. Aldourie’s personal chef can create healthy recipes using fresh ingredients from the walled garden’s herb and fruit varieties. Even during the colder months there are plenty of nutritious treats meals and snacks to enjoy.
If you’re wanting to exercise during an exclusive use stay or holiday we can recommend a luxury bootcamp on the lawn for some immediate weight loss. Try some gentle yoga if you’re hoping to get into the mind-set of health and fitness. And, of course, Aldourie has endless outdoor activities for those wanting to add a lot of fun into the mix.
No. 2 – Read more
Losing yourself in a novel is easy in a private castle, especially with a library fit for the most avid reader. Find a cosy lamp-lit corner, stretch out on a chaise longue or curl up in front of the fire in in the enchanting Aldourie library. Choose from the bookshelves of every kind of book imaginable and settle down for the afternoon. The beautiful, serene views of the parkland can be your only company, if you so wish. Read more – we told you it was easy during an exclusive use stay in a castle.
No. 3 – Learn something new
Again, this can be very simple to achieve, with lots of activities indoor and out to attempt to versify your talents. Try something truly different such as an artisan course or something more popular that you’ve never thought to attempt before. During an exclusive use stay at Aldourie we can arrange artisans to set up in any of the public rooms. Furniture upholstery would be fitting to the history, tradition and arts and crafts style of the Castle, for instance. Or maybe simply sit with a friend on the window seat of your luxury bedroom and begin knitting to your heart’s content. Some of our New Year exclusive use guests may wish to test themselves with something more daring. Book an extreme sport like a skiing weekend in Aviemore (not too far from the Castle) or for something gentler, a canoe ride on Loch Ness.
No. 4 – Save money
So this isn’t the most practical of New Year’s resolutions to commit to during an exclusive use stay in a private castle. But it helps to look at the bigger picture here. If you (and your family and friends) save money throughout the year you can enjoy the holiday of your dreams the year after. If exclusive use is something you’ve thought was never in your reach, this is a way to make it happen. By the time the year is up, you’ve proven to yourself you can save money and there is a prize at the end of it. Plus, once you’re here with all those you love to spend your time with you may find you don’t need to spend as much – who needs designer shops and fancy meal out when you have everything you need in one exclusive use Highlands Castle?
No. 5 – Be nicer, kinder and more patient
Surely, if you want to improve yourself, this is everybody’s wish deep down. And the good news? During an exclusive use stay in a castle on Loch Ness, you don’t have to try too hard. And the qualities you can achieve in this particular paradise can be extended through the year ahead and the rest of your life, if you’re determined enough. Aldourie Estate features elements conducive to your wellbeing to help spark that longed for change in your personal attributes. There’s ample wildlife, stunning views and beautiful surroundings. Be in the moment more with fresh air, good exercise, scenic walks and a genuine appreciation of Mother Nature.
If you’re really stuck, get inspiration from others; spend an afternoon reading a book about someone you admire, consult the ‘top 5 inspirational people 2017’ online or browse your favourite magazines for some how-to articles. Your secret’s safe with us!
No. 6 – Get a new job
There’s nothing like an exclusive use holiday in the remote Highlands to spend some time with your thoughts and find your true self. Many guests who’ve stayed at Aldourie have booked the Castle simply for carrying out some soul searching. Here you have time to think about what you really want from life. Away from the daily grind you can view your world and work objectively, make pros and cons list of your qualities and traits and think afresh.
No. 7 – Volunteer and donate more to charity
This really is an easily achieved goal. Choose a charity and start giving today. ‘But there are so many to help’ we hear you say, so who to dedicate your time and money to? If the answer doesn’t come to you straight away it’s worth thinking carefully about what you feel most passionately about.
Aldourie is part of the Wildland Ltd group of properties that is focussed on conservation. If nature and wildlife are things that are close to heart why not think of charities you could support based around this idea? Conservation is a huge global issue covering many aspects and areas. ‘Wilderness is disappearing at an alarming rate’ activists will agree, so if the Scottish Highlands means more to you than a majestic backdrop for your exclusive use stay or celebration, you could embark on not just regular charity-giving or one-off volunteering, but a lifelong venture that becomes entirely more rewarding.
No. 8 – Drink less alcohol
OK, so this New Year’s resolution might just be a little extreme for an exclusive use stay in a Scottish castle. Within these walls, it’s hard not to imagine yourself with a traditional tipple in front of a roaring fire or accompanying a delicious four course meal with a glass or two of our finest vintage. If you’re celebrating something special at Aldourie, perhaps a wedding anniversary, it’s only polite to partake with a toast of champagne. You get the picture.
In the Scottish Highlands, whisky distilleries, wine tastings and breweries form a large part of a tourist’s itinerary. After all, the Scots know how to drink, right? However, all this aside, remember you’ve chosen to come to Scotland for its rich history, stunning scenery and loyal culture and warm hospitality. Your happiness may just increase simply by staying in the Highlands, so you are more likely to enjoy yourself in other ways.
No. 9 – Get more sleep an relax more
If you can’t start off the New Year with this resolution during an exclusive use stay in a castle on the calming waters of fabled Loch Ness, you’re not trying very hard. Aldourie’s luxury and spacious bedrooms are the epitome of utter indulgence and relaxation; perfect for a good night’s sleep. Each of our 13 bedrooms has a grand bed, many which are four-poster, where you can sit and enjoy the window view with a cup of tea or retire for the night. Each room is individually themed and comfort, style and easy living are paramount in their design.
No. 10 – Make new friends and be a better friend
Where better to make new friends than in the heart of the Scottish Highlands? Here, almost everyone you meet is friendly and exudes a warmth in tune with this unique, soulful holiday destination. You will naturally find yourself begin a better friend because of the influences surrounding you. Improve existing friendships at Aldourie where exclusive use group stays allow you to share memorable experiences with loved ones.
The Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness is a whole other world waiting to be realised by someone new. Don’t sit at home waiting for things to happen to you. Make your New Year’s resolutions and focus on achieving them, if only for yourself. There’s a big wilderness out there designed to make you appreciate life – so, get out there, and enjoy your 2018!
The moment you enter the large wrought iron gates at the top of the drive you have begun your Aldourie experience. Turn down the winding drive towards the Castle, relishing luscious view across the Estate and Loch Ness. Then, park up and appreciate a friendly and relaxing Scottish welcome at the Castle door. On the first day of your private use castle stay on Loch Ness over Christmas, you may simply want to stand back and take it all in. So, don’t hesitate. The Castle is your own for a weekend or longer. So once our attentive team has shown your exclusive party to their rooms, make yourself at home in your private luxury group accommodation.
Each bedroom has individual charm and character, beautiful décor and either a private bathroom or en suite. If your first desire is a glass of champagne and a steaming hot bubble bath, we’ll bring up our finest bottle. Alternatively, if you prefer a guided tour of the Castle artefacts and an introduction to every public room, we can arrange that as well.
Explore your surroundings: day 2
After a day of luxury and a good night’s sleep you may wish to see the Castle grounds. This is a treat for senses during a private use castle stay over Christmas. The wintry frost-topped trees, crisp woodland floors and festive pine scents will make you believe you’re walking in a winter wonderland. Your starting point is the welly room; grab yourself a pair to fit and head out through the back door. Start with the Castle garden and then up through the arboretum to the walled garden and beyond. There’s so much to delight at Aldourie out of doors with plenty of trails, walks and cycle routes to conquer and explore.
Feast on the delights of festive Scottish cuisine: day 3
Aldourie Estate has recently undergone some renovations including a revised walled garden and rebuild of the old glasshouses. We now offer a ‘farm to table’ experience for all exclusive use parties of guests. During your exclusive use castle stay take your pick from the fresh produce growing in the walled garden from ripe festive fruits to winter herbs. Then take them to Aldourie’s private chef who will rustle up a festive lunch or snack for your Scottish castle house party.
Now that you’ve settled in, make day 3 the day you sit down and truly devour some traditional Scottish food. Enjoy a full Scottish breakfast, a delicious lunch and an indulgent four courses at dinner time.
Appreciate a spectacular setting of Loch Ness: day 4
Continue your Scotland cuisine experience the following day with a helping of Aldourie’s Afternoon Tea out on the castle garden terrace. Winter berries from the walled garden make delicious cakes to enjoy during your private use castle stay over the Christmas holidays. Wrap up warm in a blanket and gloves and gather your party around you. Then sit listening to the gentle Loch Ness tide and smell the fresh Highlands breeze over a warming mug of hot chocolate. Opt for the chaise longues in the Drawing Room if outside is too chilly. The views of the Loch and hills are just a spectacular from there and the fire keeps everyone toasty.
Discover Scottish Highlands’ wildlife: day 5
Not every animal hibernates during the winter months. Take inspiration from Wildlife bathroom then go find these gems in your own private 500 acre garden. If you’re lucky you may spot roe deer, hares, foxes and red squirrels. Not to mention all the birds: waxwing, robins, snow bunting, osprey and other swooping birds of prey.
Have a warm and cosy day of play: day 6
Stay inside today and check out all the activities and games you can plays indoors during a private use castle stay. Cocoon yourselves in the Billiards Room for a few games looking out of the window over a frosted parkland. Afterwards, why not let the children play some board games whilst the adults go into the library for an afternoon drink and a game of chess or solitaire.
Set your New Year’s resolutions: day 7
Curl up on the sofa in the Drawing Room or take a long bath. Wander around the gardens or Loch Ness shoreline for time to yourself and inspiration. Think about what it is you’d like to change or work on for 2018 and let the resolutions simply come to you in a happy, peaceful place.
Celebrate Hogmanay during a private use castle stay: day 8
It’s New Year’s Eve, so make the most of staying in a Scottish castle such as Aldourie, with its tradition and character. We can lay out a Hogmanay feast for you and your clan in the Main Hall and you can play at first footer at the Castle door.
Exercise in the parkland: day 9
It’s New Year’s Day so what better start to the year than to get out in the great outdoors and let the fresh Scottish air into your lungs and your soul. You’ll feel better for it we promise you – especially if you had a few glasses of sherry too many the night before. The hospitality team can arrange any type of group exercise activity from luxury bootcamps or yoga on the lawn to cycling all around the parkland.
Experience Loch Ness: day 10
If you haven’t already ventured out onto the Loch, then now is the time. You’ve only a few days left and it would be great to say back home that you spent your January out on the most famous loch in the world appreciating the views of the majestic Scottish Highlands. We can arrange boat trips to see historic castle ruins on the shoreline, canoe lessons, zorbing fun for all ages, or a spot of fishing for those wanting to continue the peace and quiet that the initial New Year brings.
Make the most of your 500 acre parkland for all the family: day 11
The Aldourie Estate is full of secret paths, winter trees and spectacular viewpoints, all wonderful to witness during a private use castle stay in Scotland. Find the hidden treehouse in the arboretum or the family graveyard for a spot of Hide and Seek. Family fun and group activities are endless, from falconry, archery and clay pigeon shooting to Segway trips and 4×4 rides along the Loch Ness shoreline.
Whisky tasting day before your last sleep in a castle: day 12
It’s likely you’ve already had the odd sample during your stay with us, especially as all our local whisky just happens to be world renowned. But for a more formal lesson in this Scottish delicacy, we can arrange a private whisky tasting here in Aldourie Castle. You may prefer to take a drive to any of the local whisky distilleries, which we would highly recommend, but in addition we can offer an exclusive experience in any of our public rooms at any time of day. Something for the memory book.
A traditional Scottish Castle holiday can bring so much joy for you and a house party of close friends and family over Christmas. And you will have realised that in only 12 days you can sample a little bit of everything that the Scottish Highlands is best known for. All this in one grand Castle Estate on the banks of famous Loch Ness. Let one of your New Year’s resolutions be to book your 12 days of Christmas 2018 at Aldourie Castle. And start looking forward to your private use castle stay in Scotland.
Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!
Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie. Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.
Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?
Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!
The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.
When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?
You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.
Boat ride– during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.
Segway ride– the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.
Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.
Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.
What’s the best thing about a luxury golfing holiday? Is it the fact that you’re one of a kind, all holidaying together with the same sport in common? Or that you get to play your favourite sport all week long with no interruptions of family or working life? Or it is the restfulness and the peace, and the luxury it comes with? We have an inkling at Aldourie that it’s something to do with all the above.
Luxury golfing holiday
Aldourie Castle Estate on Loch Ness is situated only six miles from Inverness Airport. This makes it one of the most convenient luxury travel destinations in Scotland. During your golfing holiday in the Highlands your exclusive use party would use Aldourie Castle as your luxury base. From here you could experience unique, five-star hospitality including luxurious bedrooms and bathrooms. You’d also experience exquisite home-cooked food cooked by Aldourie’s private chef, and exclusive use of a privately owned Castle. All this is set within a 500 acre estate in the spectacular and tranquil Scottish Highlands.
As part of your exclusive luxury golfing holiday on Loch Ness you would also receive a private concierge throughout your stay. Aldourie’s hospitality team is renowned for being discreet. Our dedicated hospitality manager would also arrange, should you request it, daily transport to and from your golf course/s of choice. The combination of the beautiful exclusive castle and grounds alongside golfing at your favourite golf courses in the Scottish Highlands creates a perfect luxury golfing holiday. We’ve put together information about all the nearby award-winning or championship golf courses. This will hopefully make planning your golfing holiday at Aldourie as easy as possible.
Nairn Golf Club
Visiting golfers: The sophisticated-looking website makes it very easy for individual golfers or groups of golfers to book a tee time and any required equipment. The golf club features all the standard facilities, a selection of bars and a modern clubhouse.
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Described as ‘A beacon reaching out to golfers throughout the world’, Castle Stuart is evidently very dear to the Scottish Highlands. Like Nairn, this championship links course also looks out over the Moray Firth and is the closest professional course to Aldourie Castle Estate.
Links courses have many distinguishing features, Castle Stuart in particular. The main difference from other courses is the topography. This one features rumpled fairways and natural bunkers guaranteeing you a challenging day of golfing. Infinity edges serve to accentuate the spectacular Scottish Highlands landmarks along the Moray Firth skyline. Step forward Chanonry Lighthouse and Fort George. A ‘landscape mosaic’ refers to the varied texture and colours that form the course itself. The land at Castle Stuart changes with the seasons bringing a rich tapestry and a rugged beauty to the golf course. This heightens the experience for anyone privileged enough to play here during a luxury golfing holiday.
Special feature: The clubhouse at Castle Stuart is an architectural joy. It’s a circular drum sat in the midst of this wild terrain looking out over the waters. It was designed to showcase the panoramic spectacle of the surrounding landscape. What a dream for golfers and nature loves alike to sit here and appreciate the unmatchable beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
Visiting golfers: Castle Stuart’s link course is part of a large resort featuring a wide selection of eateries and other facilities. The excellent website provides a fully comprehensive guide to the links course. This includes a map, aerial flyover and a virtual tour of every hole. This is very handy for golfing enthusiasts meaning you can concentrate solely on your golfing experience as soon as you get to Castle Stuart.
Royal Dornoch Golf Club
The history of this Scottish Highlands’ golf course is nearly as impressive as the golfing itself. Royal Dornoch is a 400-year-old golf course. In 2016 it celebrated this incredible heritage with a year-long tribute to the sport. The celebration also touched on the course’s impact on the local community and town of Dornoch. It originally started as a 12-hole ladies course before becoming an 18-hole course in 1999.
Luxury exclusive group accommodation
After a long day of golf with your group, you’ll no doubt be harbouring a few aches and pains and ready for a good night’s sleep. Your first thought might be to retreat to your room with your drink of choice and indulge in a deep, hot bath. The 13 bedrooms at Aldourie, like in many exclusive use properties, are individually designed and finished with exquisite attention to detail. Your private bathroom will also be unique as well as spacious featuring either a free standing tub with shower or walk-in shower. The privacy you receive, as both a private group and an individual guest, at an exclusive use property such as Aldourie, is second to none. It’s truly worth looking for somewhere as unique and exclusive as our beautiful Castle on Loch Ness. That way you are guaranteed a luxury golfing holiday to remember for years to come.
What better way to compare the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings. Take a read of Aldourie’s personalised guide to the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.
What is the history of Urquhart Castle?
The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence during the 14th century. It was thereafter considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland today. As a result it resides in our list of Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?
It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Like any castle ruins Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The appeal to holidaymakers is the combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands. This alone makes it and Aldourie favourite and puts it in the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Special fact or feature of one of the castle
Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296, when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357.
Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.
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.
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.
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:
Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
There’s so much more to Scotland’s historic castle ruins than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to Aldourie’s highly recommended Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
You’ve booked the experience or holiday of a lifetime with an exclusive use house party with your favourite people. Not only that but the place you’re staying in a luxurious castle and it looks out onto the world famous Loch Ness; one of the most scenic and peaceful settings in Scotland. There’s plenty to do inside the Castle but one look through any of the south facing windows your adventurous streak starts to tug. It implores you experience a boat ride on Loch Ness, no matter what, to get out on that beautiful water and truly relish the Scottish Highlands. Let’s take a dip into Loch Ness, boat by boat.
Speed boat rides on Loch Ness
If you choose your holidays for the thrills as well as the chills, you must hire a speedboat on Loch Ness. The adrenaline rush of the fresh Highlands air on your face combined with viewing the spectacular natural beauty is indescribable. Who knew a boat ride could make you feel so free. A speedboat ride straight from Aldourie’s private marina is less of an adventure and more of an experience.
This type of boat ride also makes for a romantic trip for couples staying in the exclusive hire Castle. You get a lot of privacy speeding passed the Scottish wilderness with a loved one. And despite the pace of your ride it can be very relaxing, slowing down to appreciate particularly appealing spots. Don’t be deceived, however; this experience works up and appetite, what with all that fresh air coming at you at high speed. Thankfully, Aldourie’s private chef will have prepared something delicious for lunch back at the Castle.
Cruises on Loch Ness
If you like your natural landscapes peppered with historic ruins and fascinating facts, then a private chartered boat cruise on Loch Ness is for you. Depending on the weather you can choose to be indoors or up on the top deck. Outside you’ll be up high in the bracing air taking in mountainous backdrop of greens, purple and yellows for miles around. Don’t worry; if you forget your wind/waterproofs there’s plenty to go around. If it’s a bit nippy outdoors then take cover down below, order a hot chocolate and let the energy and history of Loch Ness sail you into a cosy but blissful state.
Kids will love watching the water ripple and foam as the boat skims through Loch Ness with its impressive force. This is a memorable boat trip for house parties of different generations to enjoy, and talk about over dinner later at the Castle. If you want to make your arrival at Aldourie Castle truly amazing, why not approach it from Loch Ness itself. Your party of guests can board a boat at Fort Augustus or just over the way at Dores, then sail across the deep waters and let the Castle slowly come into view. This is the icing on the cake after a spectacular cruise boat ride on Loch Ness.
Nessie Hunter RIB rides around Aldourie Castle
If you’ve brought heaps of imagination on your stay at Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness then you won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to see one of the most talked about mythical creatures in history. This boat ride on Loch Ness explores the very essence of these deep waters. You don’t exactly submarine to its 200 metres depth, but you do learn a lot about the myths associated with the famous Scottish landmark and by the end you feel as though you really know the water and its history. The Nessie Hunter is a great boat ride for groups of friends who’ve booked an exclusive use stay in a private castle on Loch Ness. What other outdoor activity could complement it more. It’s also ideal for small wedding parties or hen parties; get everyone together the day before your wedding at Aldourie and search en masse. A bracing RIB ride on a mission is sure to be full of surprises, giggles, and most of all create wonderful memories.
Canoe or kayak on Loch Ness
Last but certainly not least is the canoe or kayak ride out on Loch Ness. This can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you wish. It’s possibly the most varied type of boat ride on Loch Ness you can experience simply because it suits any age and any level of expertise, from complete novice to experienced water sport enthusiast. Entire parties of exclusive use guests staying at Aldourie have been known to book a whole afternoon canoeing on Loch Ness. Children can stay more inland and be taught the basics. Others are free to explore the surrounding Highlands landscape or simply float off into the near distance to bask under a sunny summer’s sky with only the gentle lapping of water for company.
Canoeing or kayaking on Loch Ness is an exhilarating way to explore the Highlands during an exclusive use stay in the private Castle. If you think about it ahead of time you can build yourself up to the experience, especially if you’re new to this type of boat ride. It’s really more a water sport and there’s an element of independence about it. So the experience itself can be quite freeing and you feel very close to nature. There’s basically just you riding the water – not much boat.
Experience your own boat ride on Loch Ness
There are so many ways to experience Loch Ness no matter your enthusiasm for being outdoors or ever off the shoreline. Exclusive use guests and house parties who have booked a stay at Aldourie will be given ample opportunity to experience the Loch. We have a host of suppliers for various boat ride activities and will be happy to organise your outdoor experiences in the Scottish Highlands for you. To enquire about exclusive use on the only private Castle accommodation on Loch Ness please complete and submit a contact form from the Aldourie website.
There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.
Hide and Seek in the arboretum
Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found. If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!
Play make –believe in the tree house
The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).
Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens
Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.
Get close to nature in the parkland
We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
Beach walks on Loch Ness
Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.
The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.