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.


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

Caithness

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.

Sutherland

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 tranquillity 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: info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.


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 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.


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

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

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

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

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

A cottage Christmas

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

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

Hire a Castle for Christmas

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

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

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

 


Halloween House Party in a castle; get spooked in Scotland

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

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

Old fashioned Halloween activities – for the traditionalist

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

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

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

Theme your night ‘Halloween’ – for the brave

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

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

Use the Estate after dark – for the bravest

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

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


What to do on a rainy day at Aldourie Castle

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

Early morning

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

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

Mid-morning

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

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

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

Lunchtime

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

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

Mid-afternoon

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

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

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

Dinnertime

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

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

Evening

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

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


Top 5 places of interest around Inverness and Aldourie

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

Cawdor Castle

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

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

Culloden Battlefield

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

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

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

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

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

Tomatin Whisky Distillery

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

Muir of Ord Distillery

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

Dalmore Distillery

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

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

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


Activities on Loch Ness Part 1: From family fun to some alone time

What’s so special about Loch Ness? The lure of water itself, the freedom of its restless current? Or could it be its transient beauty? It’s a place where not one moment will ever be the same. Loch Ness is always on the move yet it retains a stillness that calms troubled or wandering minds. Holiday on Loch Ness and feel your stresses float away. If you read on you will discover many more ways to achieve this other than meditating on a raft. Though, we could definitely arrange that for you.Aldourie Castle estate view over Loch Ness Activities on Loch Ness

You could be part of a family reunion or a multi-generational holiday party. Maybe your group of friends share the same interests such as golf, cycling or walking. Or simply want to go it alone and hire a Castle on Loch Ness for the inspiration to write your novel, complete your portfolio of landscape paintings or take some time out from a hectic work schedule. Whatever your reasons for coming to stay here in a beautiful Castle on the shoreline of the majestic Loch Ness, the great Scottish outdoors beholds something for everyone.

Take a look; it’s a simple picture and yet the opportunities for fun, experience and adventure are endless. We just advise that you pack your imagination when coming to stay at Aldourie. Should you run out, our creative hospitality team will always be on hand to recommend a host of activities.

Families: ensure your exclusive use holiday includes quality time

There are many reasons why a family would choose to visit the famous Loch Ness with all its diversions and areas of interest, its history and mesmerising beauty. Not to mention the excitement for children visiting the home of folklore celebrity, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. After a leisurely morning taking breakfast at the Castle during your exclusive use stay with us let Aldourie’s team book you a cruise on Loch Ness. This will take you up close to some of the Scottish Highlands most historic, cultural and wondrous landmarks.Jacobite cruises loch ness-1 Activities on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle is a must-see during your family trip on Loch Ness. Take your boat for up to 12 people from the private Aldourie pier on the exclusive Highlands Estate. Spend a couple of hours admiring the views, learning Scotland’s most fascinating history and enjoy a spot of lunch en route.

Venture forth and stop off at the Moray Firth, one of the most important places on the U.K. coast for observing dolphins and whales. Given a nod to its scenic brilliance the coastline has been voted one of the most picturesque by National Geographic. With direct tours available from nearby Inverness, don’t miss out on a one of a kind family experience. The most common species are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Harbour Porpoise. There have also been occasional sightings of Common dolphin and Minke Whale.

Friends: do something different for years of reminiscing

Friends holidaying in Scotland want to get involved in their surroundings and experience something together that will make for lasting memories. The Nessie Hunter is definitely a trip on Loch Ness we highly recommend to any group stay at the private Scottish Castle. Be led astray by the expert hunters on your personal speed boat and follow the lure of the waves to try to catch a glimpse of the iconic Monster. Be part of Aldourie’s fairytale and let your imagination take you into the heart of Loch Ness.The Deborah Leah Cruise Activities on Loch Ness

If during the week your group is hoping for something a little more relaxed, you can take a rowing boat from the Aldourie marina. This can be arranged by the hospitality team at Aldourie Castle.

Experience Loch Ness and its many scenes from the comfort and joy or your own personal space. Feel free to take in the hilly surroundings in your own good time.

We’ll let all this information on Loch Ness sink in until Aldourie’s next blog post. This second instalment will feature even more fun activities to experience on the most famous loch in the world.


A dog’s role on a Scottish Castle Estate

It really is ‘a dog’s life’ when home is a Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s find out what this Castle dog’s daily routine is really like. After all, all play and no work makes Loch Ness Lizzie a restless pooch – and we wouldn’t want that…

Watching for guests’ arrival
One of Lizzie’s very first jobs is to wait for the day’s guests to arrive. This could be an exclusive use family house party or some corporate guests coming to set up a business meeting. At the main gate Scottish Castle Estate

Meet and greet
Once she has clocked their arrival Lizzie is highly trained at directing the cars and bikes and helping Aldourie’s guests settle in. The experienced pooch tends to take the short cut whilst others stick to the main drive to make more of a grand entrance. They soon realise however that being met and greeted at the Castle or Aldourie cottages is a very informal process and that, despite the grandeur of this historic Highland Estate, guests are made to feel right at home at Aldourie straight away.

Fetching and carrying
It’s a busy life for a Castle Dog; no sooner has Lizzie shown our new arrivals to their lodgings on Loch Ness then it’s time to grab their luggage and take it inside. If the Castle guests are part of a group booking, Lizzie consults her trusty list and makes sure that each suitcase is dropped off in the correct bedroom. Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots Scottish Castle Estate

Making sure guests are settling in
So, you’ve arrived at your luxury holiday destination in beautiful Scotland and unpacked all your belongings. If you’re staying in one of the tranquil holiday cottages, feel free to sit in front of the fire with a warm coffee. Here is the ideal place to plan your break.

If you’re staying in the Castle overlooking the majestic Scottish Highlands you’ve likely requested a bottle of champagne and are currently enjoying the scenic outdoor views from your window. Then there’s a tap at the door. It’s only Lizzie to make sure you have settled in well enough and to check whether you need anything. Bless her furry paws.

In charge of ‘fun’ and games
Being responsible for organising the fun activities both on and off the Highland Estate, either inside or outside the Castle, is something Lizzie takes a great deal of pride in. Liaising with Aldourie’s trusted suppliers in order to arrange unique and exciting activities such as archery in the grounds or a boat ride on Loch Ness for guests to enjoy is no mean feat. (No, Lizzie, that’s ‘mean feat’ not ‘meat treat’ – you can have one of those later. When you finish all your jobs).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots n Paddles Scottish Castle Estate

Organising Highland walks
Borrow a pair of Hunters wellies from the Castle and take an adventure through the lush woodland. With 500 acres to explore no route you take will ever be the same in this unique place near Inverness. Some of our guests who take exclusive use of Aldourie Castle are happy to get lost in the arboretum. Stumble across the wooden Nessie and amble along to the private marina to gaze out across the mesmerising Loch. Other like to have a structured route and know exactly what time they are going to return for dinner. That’s when we ask Lizzie to act as tour guide showing people the short cuts and most scenic spots making sure to incorporate a trip to the tree house, family graveyard and pretty gardens.Near Pier cottage spotting wildlife Scottish Castle Estate

Maintaining the grounds and gardens
Speaking of the gardens at Aldourie, there is much to maintain that sometimes our gardeners need a bit of support to do the manual jobs whilst they concentrate on landscaping and making each area functional and pretty – or both.

Lizzie is always ready to jump on the lawnmower to keep the Aldourie grounds in good shape. She particularly likes this job because she tends to get a clear view of Aldourie Castle; her favourite place in the world…