When you decide to book an exclusive use stay in Aldourie Castle on the southern shores of Loch Ness, there is no need to venture much further beyond the Estate’s walls with so much to see and do on Loch Ness and in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness.
Two types of tours we are concentrating on for this blog post are nature and wildlife tours and boat tours on Loch Ness. The Highlands are famous for their lochs as well as their impressive landscapes and unique wildlife, so what better way to make you, our a private house party of guests, feel at home than by telling you all about what helps make the Scottish Highlands so welcoming and wonderful. The whimsical mountainous peaks and the fascinating natural world are what keeps people coming back to Aldourie year after year.
Nature and Wildlife tours
Take the Applecross Peninsula Day Trip from Inverness, a nine-hour day trip on a luxury tour that takes you to the less-visited part of Scotland, the windswept Applecross Peninsula. You will spot an abundance of wildlife native to the region and be transported to a dreamland as you soak up the dramatic views of wild Highlands’s scenery. A visit to the the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Britain’s oldest in fact, will supply you with enough knowledge to understand and appreciate the history of the area as well as the nature that thrives there. Look out for golden eagles soaring overhead. You will be eager to explore the many easy trails giving you and your private house party groups the chance to discover the true wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.
As you arrive in the village of Arndarroch, admire views of Loch Kishorn, then attempt the steep Bealach nam Ba (Pass of the Cattle). At the top (2,000 feet high), an extraordinary natural view will spill out before you; possibly your first sight of the Isle of Skye. From here, take the scenic drive along the shoreline of Loch Torridon, stopping part-way to explore the town of Shieldaig.
Dolphin spotting near Loch Ness
Another wonderful way to complement your exclusive use holiday in a luxury Scottish Castle is to venture out onto the wild waters of the Moray Firth, a triangular inlet of the North Sea with a stunning coastline, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the even wilder dolphin. One of the best places to spot this beautiful and intelligent aquatic mammal is at Chanonry Point near Inverness. The dolphin-spotting area lays between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle and the best time to see them is during a rising tide. See moraydolphins.co.uk for details on tide times.
For the ultimate dolphin spotting experience, Aldourie Castle recommends the boat tours that depart from inverness. The Dolphin Spirit encapsulates many aspects in one; you will be able to admire the natural landscape of Moray Firth as well as observe the wildlife in the area including herons and otters.
The thing to remember with dolphin spotting trips is how wild the animal is. That is part of its beauty; the fact that they are highly intelligent with a captivating sense of fun only adds to the delight of witnessing a dolphin in its own habitat. So, if you are lucky enough to see the dolphins that truly is a wonderful experience to hold onto. However, they are not there to perform or entertain, although their balletic dives may appear to have been rehearsed, so try not to be disappointed if you don’t catch a glimpse. And just hope they will grace you with their presence next time.
Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for exclusive use stays and cottage holidays.
The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time, for example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness so we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness, making sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.
With so many fantastic tour operators providing an excellent array of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness, and operating from the convenient location just a few miles down the road in Inverness, this guide consists of a select few Aldourie favourites.
Walking or cycling tours
One of the very first requests from guests we usually have is for details on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to go it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. Others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views.
Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and ethereal Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape rising and falling in gentle waves, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. From romantic glens and shimmering waterfalls to wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own, this varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views, including the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.
For a real sense of freedom and a chance to use your own bike – great if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness – opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time having received a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland where you will experience the utter joy of speeding passed spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.
Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, which is just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn, and simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline and realise just how lucky you are to be able to both cycle and holiday on Loch Ness at the same time. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.
Whisky (tours and tastings) tours
There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines over a full day two of the famous distilleries in an area that is host to over half the distilleries in Scotland, each in entirely different settings. The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.
Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.
Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is: from the moment you enter the door and are greeted by genuinely friendly staff to the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes; their endless knowledge and palpable pride to the peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses and the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop. The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one; whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported, abundantly impressed, a whisky convert (if not already a lover). You will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.
If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.
We look forward to posting our second instalment of Tours in Inverness which will feature the best wildlife and nature, boating and cultural tours in and around Inverness and Loch Ness.
On the Aldourie Estate in Scotland we are lucky to welcome a variety of guests to stay in its four beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm whilst others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another because, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it?
The latter type of holidaymakers tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. So, we have produced a list for the those who wish to explore the local area of Inverness for family attractions because it in fact boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside that is the Scottish Highlands.
If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of a day well spent then a trip along River Ness is a must. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains top with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands in the middle of the river and stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.
Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Cleverly laid out for visitors to experience Fort George in its full glory, you can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. As you cross the drawbridge you are taken back to the year 1727, bracing the sudden winds to cross over a wide killing ground. Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.
Inverness Botanic Gardens
Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. A lovely day out for families, the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses, a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.
Again, another family attraction must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as its main attraction, the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships, including film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imagination whirring and it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of this unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels so, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.
The Highlanders’ Museum
Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.
Eden Court Theatre
Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema for the latest flick or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub featuring light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Couples and group stays can break up their action-packed adventure holiday in Scotland with a sophisticated evening out with drinks, dinner and a music concert. Or families who book their Loch Ness cottage holiday over winter can go to see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!
Greig Street Bridge
Having been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, wouldn’t you want to give it a go? A footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness, Greig Street Bridge crosses over the River Ness and so provides ample opportunity to stop not only to admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks or on a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing as you watch the rippling water below and the richly –coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.
Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. Situated on the riverbank it makes a captivating postcard picture for your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches framing beautiful mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls whilst outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas.
The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre
It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break, great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. With everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness, this friendly store specialises in making kilts and will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. Yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.
Old High St Stephen’s Church
Aesthetically very different from the cathedral the ancient stone work and bonny pointed turrets make this church a tourist attraction in its own right. Old High is a fascinating building that has been in use since Celtic times and, inside, leaflets will provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. This a brilliant add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness as the church is only a stone’s throw from the centre. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.
As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye and it’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities – although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.
Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.
Imagine a spring break or half term holiday where your kids will never once be bored. Imagine an exclusive use Castle on the shores of famous Loch Ness. Here we host exclusive luxury family stays and endless things to do for young and older guests; from toddlers to great-grandparents there are endless things to do in a Castle with acres of flat Highland grounds.
An exclusive use stay at a large Estate such as Aldourie Castle means not only living in the private property as your own home for a weekend or longer, it also offers opportunities you may not come across with other types of holiday rentals in Scotland. One such opportunity to take advantage of here is the vast choice of activities available for both adults and children, within and off the Castle grounds, helping to vary your house party experience and make the decision to choose to book a multi-generational holiday an easy one.
Aldourie Castle has links with some of the finest distilleries in the Scottish Highlands and can arrange tours to close by favourites or offer personal whisky tasting here in the distinct and authentic environment of the Castle. Pass an evening sipping the favoured Scottish tipple in the Library whilst other members of your family enjoy a game of Billiards or take a walk to the marina.
Loch Ness is not just a pretty picture seen from dozens of windows at Aldourie; it’s also an opportunity for kids and adults alike to experience endless adventure. From romantic boat rides to whizzing past the Castle in a speedboat to cruises with the whole family taking in the surrounding sights. The adventurous among you might wish to book the Nessie Hunter for a day trip on Loch Ness to go down in family history. Children also have the vast loch at their disposal for endless water sports, with canoe trips and zorbing ever more popular ways to enjoy Loch Ness.
Children can enjoy the Estate as their own playground, making their own fun with adventures through private woodland, clambering around the recently revamped Aldourie tree house and playing hide and seek in the old family graveyard.
Adults- fear not: there is so much for you to do here on an idyllic and peaceful historic Estate in the Scottish Highlands besides daydreaming from your four-poster bedroom window and admiring the view…
Ever wanted to host your own Highland Games day? Maybe it’s never occurred to you before but once you make your way through these large Castle gates you will suddenly want to try it; believe us. Highland Games activities in front of the Castle and on the loch banks make for a perfect family day outside in Scotland and an opportunity to get involved in the Scottish culture right on your doorstep.
If you’ve never attempted archery on a hen or stag party weekend or even for a corporate activity teambuilding day, during your exclusive luxury stay in this private Castle is the ideal time to experience the Scottish sport. Archery in the parkland at Aldourie has been tried and tested for years by many a party of guests and corporate clients. Why not make it a light-hearted competition between family members – grown-ups V kids! With a striking Highland backdrop to boot and lots of fresh Scottish air this fun-packed activity on our Loch Ness Estate is a brilliant opportunity to spend time outdoors during a family holiday in Scotland.
If you truly want to experience the Highlands of Scotland then there is no other outdoor sport more countrified than clay pigeon shooting. You can shoot anywhere on the Aldourie Estate with clays making this a really independent sport with the bonus of a stunning countryside backdrop.
Get the country sports lovers of the family together for a spot of shooting on the Scottish Estate; take a wicker hamper filled with champagne and sandwiches and a couple of dogs to complete the look. Aldourie Castle’s very own Loch Ness Lizzie is always happy to lend a hand – any excuse for a run around the 500 acre grounds in a Harris Tweed flat cap!
The real benefit of taking over an exclusive use castle or other property in Scotland as your own home is the fact that the grounds surrounding the private hire accommodation are at the disposal of you and your family during private house party stays or celebrations. No imagination is too wild, no demand too extreme. One of the best ways to experience Aldourie is through its wildlife which exclusive use guests and cottage guests alike will find throughout the Highlands Estate; from arboretum to the woods and of course, the beautiful formal gardens.
Why not let us bring in some outside wildlife from the Scottish Highlands and have a falconry day with the kids? The birds of prey feel so at home in the Castle grounds that they can be incredibly well-behaved during this unusual pre-arranged luxury holiday activity creating endless photo opportunities you wouldn’t get anywhere else in Scotland. If that isn’t reason enough to try a multi-generational family holiday in the Scottish Highlands, we don’t know what is…
Look out for our next blog post which includes more outdoor activities to be enjoyed by all the family in the private grounds of the only habitable Castle on Loch Ness.
Are you thinking of taking the family on a short break or a week long holiday in the Scottish Highlands this year? 2016 could be the year you take your loved ones or a group of friends to one of the world’s most naturally beautiful countries to witness the great outdoors in all its glory and embrace simple living. What better time of year to holiday in Scotland than in the spring when the skies are as blue as the sea and the forests and woodland trees are starting to breathe once again…And, if you’re wondering where to stay in the Highlands why not book one of our idyllic holiday cottages on Loch Ness?
Here are just eight of the many reasons to take a trip to the atmospheric Highlands during some of the prettiest months of the year.
Fresh air and scenic splendour
Spring is a truly beautiful time of the year to visit the Highlands of Scotland for the clean, fresh air, and to see the many lochs of the Great Glen, the never-ending countryside and the mountain peaks at their best. Try a few of the long or short walks through the Highlands or even book a cycling holiday in Scotland. Whether you are staying in a loch-side holiday cottage or camping up on the hills there’s no excuse not to venture far and wide on these long, light days and breathe in that Highland air whilst taking in the panoramic views over a flask of steaming coffee.
Scotland is well known for its rain but don’t let that put you off experiencing all the Highlands have to offer. Shake off those winter blues with refreshing downpour as you journey through the countryside in spring – you may be able to avoid a complete soaking in the dryer months but during April and May the possibility of showers can make a walk in the Highlands a real adventure. One minute you may be walking under a blue sky down a quiet wooded lane, the next heading to the nearest village to dry off in a cosy tea room. Just wait till the April showers have cleared and everything is glistening in the spring sun.
Weather as good as summer
Having said that about the occasional spring showers, the temperature in spring is very similar to that of summer with the added benefit that generally touristy places aren’t as packed out with people. Though it’s lovely to be in the throng of the summer action when the weather is on form it can be equally pleasant to acknowledge the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands and wander around cute little hamlets and towns surrounded by a calmer atmosphere. The festivals and events are less busy and there is a sense of peace presiding in places that can get swarmed meaning you can recognise the beauty of the Highlands at your own pace and usually in bright, warm weather. What’s not to love?
And that’s not all; our next blog post will bring you four more reasons to enjoy the Highlands in spring. Best start planning your spring holiday or short stay in Scotland for 2016.