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 worshippers 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. Or you could hire an entire castle; 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, and as you hire an entire castle you take 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…
Hire an entire castle with delicious food and drink
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 email@example.com or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.
READ PART 2 of our SUMMER GARDEN PARTY blog post here for more outdoor party inspiration when you hire an entire castle.
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.
Here at the Aldourie Castle estate, we’d like to introduce you to our new Head Gardner – Duncan Hall. Duncan is taking the exclusive use castle gardens and grounds to new heights; literally. So much thought and hard work has been put into the design of the restored Victorian landscape. It now features four considerably different garden areas. Each is enchanting to the eye, featuring various levels, from tall ancient trees to our ankle-grazing kitchen garden. Moreover, each has its own particular purpose.
You can read about them in our previous ‘Revitalised Gardens and Grounds’ blog post. But for now, we’re focusing on Duncan and his story. Along with ‘leadership of landscape’ architect Tom Stuart-Smith, Duncan and his team recently improved important parts of Aldourie’s 500-acre grounds.
The history of a Castle gardener
Duncan’s passion for gardening grew as he worked as a landscape gardener where he grew up in Dumfries and Galloway. He felt at home working outdoors surrounded by nature and as a result studied for a “HND in Horticulture with Plantsmanship” at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. It was here that he developed his passion for horticulture and researched the huge range of plants at the RBGE. After finishing his HND, Duncan spent a year as a student gardener for the National Trust of Scotland and was based at both Threave Gardens and Branklyn Garden. Threave is a teaching garden for the NTS and Branklyn is a small collectors garden full of interesting woodland and alpine plants.
Duncan was then offered the role of Assistant Head Gardener at Cambo Garden, Fife, where he spent three interesting years. At Cambo he developed a passion for contemporary naturalistic planting and learned a great deal in this area. His guru was the inspirational Head Gardener Elliott Forsyth. Furthermore, he was also involved in teaching students about naturalistic herbaceous planting and design, as well as other general horticultural skills.
Tom Stuart-Smith designs exclusive use castle gardens
Whilst working at Cambo, Duncan studied the work of Tom Stuart-Smith as well as visiting various gardens that he has designed. So, when the opportunity arose to work with him, revising the exclusive-use castle gardens at Aldourie Castle, he jumped at it. Duncan says: “This is a fantastic time to be involved with a project like this and it is very exciting to be able to contribute to the creation of the garden.”
The project to date has been challenging and rewarding, however the process has allowed Duncan to learn a lot about the construction of an exclusive-use castle garden, Duncan comments, “As a plantsman, I particularly enjoyed seeing the first of the trees and topiaries planted, which started to bring the garden to life. We have also carried out extensive clearance works in the arboretum, which were completely overgrown with the invasive Rhododendron ponticum. It is now wonderful to see and feel the potential of this space. We can now start the process of replanting with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.”
Duncan says, “it has been very interesting and enjoyable working with Tom and his team. He has learned first-hand about Tom’s style and how he works”. Tom has produced some wonderful planting plans for the castle gardens. The gardening team at Aldourie are now preparing to implement these in spring, something which Duncan is really looking forward to.
Gardeners’ section in blog
Look out for our new exclusive use castle gardens and grounds section of the website coming in 2018. This will complement the existing grounds pages. Duncan will also be popping up more frequently in the Aldourie Blog. He will showcase recent project work in the Castle grounds as well as offering handy tips for your own garden and what to plant at different times of the year. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.
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.
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 will 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. The Nessie Hunter is a great boat ride for groups who’ve booked an exclusive use stay in a private castle on Loch Ness. It’s also ideal for small wedding parties or hen parties; get everyone together the day before 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The next leg of your journey will take you to Caithness; a hive of history, nature and landscapes. Its dramatic flat lands and skyline give it an otherworldly feel. The district itself has an adventurous soul being home to the village of John O’Groats, the starting point to the UK’s famous end-to-end journey to Land’s End. Once you arrive here you are well established into your North Coast 500 Road Trip. So, take some quality time to relax and discover, and devour some dramatic scenery on the very edge of Europe.
Caithness is an escapist’s dream. A fascinating heritage will enthral curious minds that want to learn as they travel whilst a breath-taking coastline will capture imaginations. If you’re interested in royal connections visit the Castle of Mey, the official holiday home of the late Queen Mother. On a clear day nature lovers may like to take the nice stretch of 71 miles in one go – Cape Wrath to Duncansby Head. Make sure you get off your bike/out of your car to witness the magnificent Dunnet Head, the northern tip of the UK.
This region makes up a significant portion of your North Coast 500 Road Trip and is full of beautiful jaw-dropping scenery. Northwest Sutherland boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and world famous beaches. Particularly seek out Achmelvich and Clachtoll for some scenic strolling. You can not the spectacular mountain ranges of this part of Sutherland.
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.
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?