Darling buds of May on a Scottish Estate

The gardening team at Aldourie were delighted to get to work on the Estate during the Spring. As the team tirelessly planted and mulched their way through truckloads of plants, the energy was rampant. Tom Stuart-Smith, the landscape gardener, designed our new garden layouts, and Duncan Hall, Aldourie’s head gardener, helped with implementation. (If you want to recap we link back to this previous blog post towards the bottom of this page).

More mulching and larger plant deliveries

During Spring, our work on the Castle garden had been a big undertaking with lots of soil to fill. The prepared beds, lovingly tended during the colder months in preparation for the final showcase, were an impressive expanse of plants and topiary trees. After this was completed, the green-fingered team then went on to work on the walled garden. Duncan describes the initial process:

‘Firstly, we rotorvated and raked the new beds to level them and remove the larger stones. The plants were then delivered – about 20,000 of them this time! The same process as before continued; Tom (Stuart-Smith and Ed (his colleague) came up to set out the plants, which the garden team helped with again. We then started planting and mulching.’

The National Trust lends a helping hand

Because of the quantity of plants to get in, Duncan made the decision to get more hands on deck.

‘I called upon the help of the National Trust for Scotland’s gardening students. During my time training as a gardener I spent some time training with the NTS at their School of Heritage Gardening – Threave Garden. I got in touch with them and they agreed to send up five students with two supervisors to help with the planting and gain some valuable experience.’The Scottish Estate Gardens at Aldourie Castle

The team spent three days planting and mulching in the walled garden, which was both extremely productive and fulfilling. Duncan admits they were brilliant to work with. He hopes to establish a working relationship with NTS School of Heritage Gardening for future projects.

Walled garden can reap what it sows

Meanwhile, amongst all the ground work taking place, the long-awaited fruit cages in the walled garden have finally started to appear. This will become an additional element of the ‘exclusive use experience’ for the Castle’s private guests. As well as being able to select fresh produce from the glasshouses, guests can wander through the fruit tunnels outside to add to their pickings.

More variations of vegetables are starting to take root too. Some of the veg has been planted directly into the ground such as the perennial crops, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes. Aldourie will have to wait for three years before the asparagus is ready for harvest; so it important to get it in this year. Crops such as carrots and beetroot were directly sown into the beds while others were sowed into pots in the glasshouse to get them started.

‘We have also been chitting potatoes’ says Duncan; an intriguing term we asked him to explain further: ‘This is when you lay potatoes out somewhere cool and light to encourage the tubers to sprout before planting.’

Farm to table cooking and dining

The Castle kitchen and our dedicated chef will use all of this delicious veg and transform it into nutritious, fresh dishes. Now Aldourie can really and truly consider itself a ‘farm to table’ working estate. We have bigger plans afoot for contributing further to conservation in the Highlands but this is a great starting point.

The farm to table movement is becoming increasingly popular up and down the UK’s hospitality sector, and local produce is being used in new and imaginative ways. Take a look at our sister property Killiehuntley’s farm to table dining style.

Home grown flowers to fill the Castle

In and amongst the rigorous gardening the Aldourie team has begun to plant cut flowers for displays in the Castle and cottages. This is yet another example of the property depending on the Estate for its day to day function. Aldourie can easily become self-sufficient in many ways; an ethos long forgotten in these modern times.

Whereas hotel chains like large businesses buy in flowers weekly to display in communal spaces, our hospitality team can just nip down to the gardens and pick the freshest florals with no manufactured scent. Which is your preference to stay in?

Aldourie’s cut flower garden will be a wonderful asset to the private property. We anticipate having fun matching colour schemes to spaces and choosing the best fragrances. We will fill the exclusive group accommodation bathrooms and bedrooms with traditional, bold florals and choose the wilder meadow flowers for the cottages.

Gardeners section in blog

Look out for our new gardens and grounds section of the website. Head Gardener, Duncan, will also appear more regularly in the Aldourie blog, showcasing recent project work in the Castle grounds. He also hands out seasonal tips for your own garden and plants throughout 2018 – read his advice for March in our recent gardens and grounds post. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.


Cranachan: taste of springtime during a castle stay in Scotland

The nights are lighter for longer. The days are warmer. We’re feeling more optimistic by the day. It’s the start of spring. And what better way to celebrate than by tasting the delights of the season during your castle stay in Scotland? One of the most favoured desserts is an old-fashioned pudding known as cranachan. It combines freshness and creaminess with whisky comfort and is very light making it so easy to devour.

Aldourie’s chef loves the Castle and grounds during spring. The colours on the Scottish Highlands’ Estate change from golds, coppers, oranges and reds to crisp greens and bright yellows almost overnight. The lift in the weather makes everything appear clearer too. And the appetites of our exclusive use guests change also. Gone are the preferences for succulent meats, rich sauces, toe-warming soups and puddings. Our guests are now craving fresher, lighter and more colourful desserts. Because Aldourie Estate now features its own kitchen garden our exclusive use house parties are keen to sample some of the fruit grown within those stone walls. And Chef is only too happy to oblige creating some old and new berry-based puddings.

Cranachan: a fresh, fruity spring recipe

Below is a recipe loved for its creamy texture, sweetness and fruity tang as well as the unmistakeable Scottish ingredient: whisky. Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert and a delicious alternative to trifle. It is both pleasingly colourful and cooling on a warm spring day.

During the months of April, May and June, private house parties at Aldourie request this dessert time and time again. The Castle’s private chef would like to share one of his favourite and most popular spring puddings with you to make at home during the warmer and lighter months ahead.Cranachan - A Taste Of Springtime

570ml/1 pint double cream
85g/3oz porridge oats
7 tbsp whisky
3 tbsp honey
450g/1lb raspberries

Toast the oats in a frying pan (be careful not to burn them). Lightly whip the cream until it creates soft peaks. Fold in the whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. Serve in dessert glasses with a scoop of berry sorbet and garnished with a few raspberries.

Other traditional Scottish berry and fruit desserts to try:

There are few people who can resist a pudding even after they are considered ‘full’ from their main course. If you are one of these people, we salute you, because it’s a rare thing indeed for an exclusive use guests to forego something sweet during a castle stay in Scotland. Favourite finishes at Aldourie include:

Cranachan - A Taste Of Springtime

Raspberry Coulis
White Chocolate Mousse with summer berries
Blackberry Sorbet
Scottish Berry Brulee
Apple Shortbread Pie
Glazed Strawberry Galette Black Bun
Scottish Shortbread served with strawberries
Empire Biscuit
Dundee Cake

Where is best to enjoy cranachan in Aldourie Castle?

Exclusive use Castle stay house parties dine in various rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning treat of cranachan would be best enjoyed from the cosy yet light Lairds Room. On a sunny spring day cranachan after a salad lunch is best tasted outside in the Castle garden admiring views onto Loch Ness. The imposing Main Hall would be the chosen space to eat cranachan as part of a Scottish feast. Here exclusive use house parties frequently gather around the large long oak table for celebration supper in true clan-like fashion.

Last but not least, the beautiful Dining Room is the ideal for dining alongside family and friends. Come dinner time at the Castle we light the candles as the conversation and wine start to flow. Stunning parkland views will accompany your cranachan; your fourth delicious course cooked by Aldourie Castle’s personal chef.Our dining room is perfect for Castle stay house parties

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy a glass of fresh, sweet and cooling cranachan in the comfort of your own home this spring. And don’t forget to post us a photo on Aldourie’s Facebook or Twitter page saying which room you enjoyed eating it in.


6 Highlands plants to spot holidaying on Loch Ness

Holidaying in Loch Ness is full of rich horticulture thanks to its tended parks and gardens, wild woodland and landscaped Highland estates. Locals, tourists and conservationists treasure every inch of soil.

Through conservation and a thriving habitat the wild hills of the Scottish Highlands continue to bloom. The landscape is a huge part of tourism and people come to see its formal garden displays and its majestic wild terrain what ever the weather. From sprays of daffodils on forest floors to beautiful rose gardens that surround old castles to cascading heather billowing off coastal cliff sides, Scotland is a country of colour. Of course, when Spring comes it can seem that there are way more flowers and colours then any other time of year.

Here, we look at the flowers that create the most splendid, colourful and delicate displays right through to the gritty heart of Scotland’s natural landscape. The variety is vast and the effects are spectacular. Continue reading for some visionary wonders that will really get you in the mood for spring.Holidaying in Loch Ness

Gorse – spectacular hillside hedge-like flower

Widely seen in sandy, coastal soils, Gorse begins flowering occasionally during the late autumn season and continues to bloom throughout winter until flowering fully in spring. It’s hillside appearance is different when viewed close up. All together, gorse has a real shrubbery effect as if covering everything in its vicinity. However, if you look at this flower up close, it really is the most delicate and feminine looking flower. Evergreen gorse is tough, thorny and an excellent windbreak against the cold Scottish sea spray. However, its pretty buttercup yellow petals also makes it the prettiest countryside backdrop.

In Scotland, farmers traditionally use gorse as a winter feed for cows, ponies and other livestock. And its party trick? It exudes a scent similar to that of a coconut when in full flower.

Heather- Ling and Bell have different needs

Looking for that world famous purple spray across wild highland hills? Then you’re best searching out heather ling, also known as the native Scottish heather. This billowing and resilient evergreen mountain plant provides a comforting and nostalgic scene. Despite its tough appearance, the heather ling must be planted in a water-retentive soil and given an annual trim in order to thrive in all weathers. Heather Ling flowers from July to September making it a Scottish Highlands summer holiday postcard favourite.Holidaying in Loch Ness

The Bell heather has brighter purple/magenta blooms, and is normally found in high and rocky places. It’s more at home planted in thin, gritty soil with high drainage. The Bell Heather normally blooms slightly earlier than the ling variety. In the wild, they often co-exist, with ling lining the damp hollows of rocks, and the bell inhabiting the drier areas. Should your holiday be in the Highlands during winter, rest assured you will be able to find hardier heather varieties that bloom during the cold season.

Cross-Leaved Heath – pretty blooms brighten boggy Scotland soil

Heath is a rarely found relation of heather, yet also thrives in wet soil landscapes. In its ideal setting of soggy and muddy areas, heath produces mid-pink blooms at the tip of the stems. It offers a generous flowering period between June and October. A historic thought? Charles Darwin theorised that this specie might be partly-carnivorous, due to it possessing glands. However, later research suggests that these flowers were more likely to help the heath cling to its exposed surroundings in high winds.

Scottish Bluebell thrives most of the year

The name even sounds beautiful, however, in Scotland the Bluebell is more formally known as the Harebell, and is not to be mistaken for the English bluebell. Aesthetically, it is generally bushier and features delicate, branching stems and larger, bluish-purple bell-shaped blooms. Unlike its English cousin, (which flowers in woodland shaded areas), the Harebell is adapted to poor, moorland soil. It is mostly seen mainly in the dry upland areas as opposed to hidden trails.

Holidaying in Loch Ness

Thankfully, the English bluebell is very common in Scottish woodlands. This benefits those holidaying in Loch Ness who want to appreciate both plants, which are accessible in various tourist spots, including formal Scottish gardens. The bluebell flowers continuously from late spring into autumn.

Interestingly, the harebell is under threat from the introduction of the new Spanish bluebell. The Spanish bluebell is much more aggressive in its reproduction. The native British Bluebell is now protected by law thanks to conservationists.

Scottish Flame Flower

This spectacular climbing flower came to to Scotland in the 19th century. The Scottish Flame flower has roots that go all the way to Peru. This plant is so loved here in Scotland that ‘Scottish’ has been added to the name. This romantic flame flower can be found cascading down the walls of old Highlands gardens.

This striking plant can grow up to three metres tall and its extravagant scarlet petals bloom in the late summer season. You can expect this plant to flower from July to September, and during autumn you can expect to see the arrival of  luscious blueberries. A cooler summer is the ideal environment for this Scottish plant and it thrives in shaded, moist, peaty soils. The flame flower is edible and would be the ideal addition to Aldourie Castle Estate’s walled garden. Our Chef would love to pick this for his artisan style fruit or green salads.Holidaying in Loch Ness

The Scotch Thistle

Where England has the rose, Scotland’s national flower is the thistle. However less beautiful by far, there’s no denying its resilient and unique nature. It’s a true symbol of Scotland and we are proud to feature it as part of the design on our  website.  The Scottish thistle grows tall, and strong as well as growing up to five feet in height. Once upon a time the thistle was regarded as a weed, but most gardeners recognise it now as a flower.

The thistle would be perfectly placed in the Aldourie Estate’s arboretum or woodland, for a wild, fairytale look. The thistle is naturally happiest in poorer soils, waste ground and roadsides. Despite its name, is quite rare in Scotland! The Melancholy Thistle is also found throughout the Scottish Highlands. This plant elegantly overlaps purple-edged sepals, with reddish-purple florets. Keep an eye out for these flowers along your Highland country walks.


4 very different ways to boat ride on Loch Ness

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.boat ride on Loch Ness

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.boat ride on Loch Ness

Kids will love watching the water ripple and foam as the boat skims through Loch Ness with its impressive force. This is a memorable boat trip for house parties of different generations to enjoy, and talk about over dinner later at the Castle. If you want to make your arrival at Aldourie Castle truly amazing, why not approach it from Loch Ness itself. Your party of guests can board a boat at Fort Augustus or just over the way at Dores, then sail across the deep waters and let the Castle slowly come into view. This is the icing on the cake after a spectacular cruise boat ride on Loch Ness.

Nessie Hunter RIB rides around Aldourie Castle

If you’ve brought heaps of imagination on your stay at Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness then you won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to see one of the most talked about mythical creatures in history. This boat ride on Loch Ness explores the very essence of these deep waters.  You don’t exactly submarine to its 200 metres depth, but you do learn a lot about the myths associated with the famous Scottish landmark and by the end you feel as though you really know the water and its history.boat ride on Loch Ness
The Nessie Hunter is a great boat ride for groups of friends who’ve booked an exclusive use stay in a private castle on Loch Ness. What other outdoor activity could complement it more. It’s also ideal for small wedding parties or hen parties; get everyone together the day before your wedding at Aldourie and search en masse. A bracing RIB ride on a mission is sure to be full of surprises, giggles, and most of all create wonderful memories.

Canoe or kayak on Loch Ness

Last but certainly not least is the canoe or kayak ride out on Loch Ness. This can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you wish. It’s possibly the most varied type of boat ride on Loch Ness you can experience simply because it suits any age and any level of expertise, from complete novice to experienced water sport enthusiast. Entire parties of exclusive use guests staying at Aldourie have been known to book a whole afternoon canoeing on Loch Ness. Children can stay more inland and be taught the basics. Others are free to explore the surrounding Highlands landscape or simply float off into the near distance to bask under a sunny summer’s sky with only the gentle lapping of water for company.boat ride on Loch Ness

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.


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 tranquility come hand-in-hand, making it easy to nurture friendships or spend quality time. There is no need to lift a finger as the lodge has a private chef. Here we sourc only fresh, local produce. There is also a hospitality team as well as a head keeper to help organise any outdoor experiences.

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

The unspoiled landscape of Sutherland

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


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

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 enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

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. Therefore, we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness. We also made sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

It’s easy to take advantage of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. This is mainly because there are so many reputable tour operators providing an variety of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. They operate only a few miles away in Inverness and this guide comprises a few carefully selected favourites.pier cottage Aldourie Estate best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first things our guests request is information on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to do it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. However, others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views. If you are searching for the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness, be sure to include a cycling trip.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, 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. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued 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.

Experience the utter joy of viewing 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, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot 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. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. 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.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines two famous distilleries in an area that houses over half the distilleries in Scotland. And both are situated in entirely different settings so you get a feel for their uniqueness. To experience some of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness you must book at least one trip to a whisky distillery.

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.whisky tasting seet up Macallan Distillery best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

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 you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in 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 to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, 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 installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.


Top 10 family attractions in Inverness

At Aldourie Estate in Scotland we welcome guests to stay in its beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Our holiday cottage guests stay for different types of short breaks. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm. 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 after all, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it? In this blog we have listed for your perusal the top 10 family attractions in Inverness.

Couples holidaying in Scotland tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. With this in mind, we have produced a list for the those holidaymakers who wish to stay more local to their Aldourie holiday cottage. Inverness, the most local city only six miles away from Aldourie, is great for enjoying family attractions. In fact, it boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside of the Scottish Highlands.fort george from above family attractions in Inverness

River Ness

If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of the perfect day out then do visit River Ness. It’s one of the most walked family attractions in Inverness. 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 topped 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. You’ll find them in the middle of the river and you can stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.

Fort George

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. Fort George is cleverly laid out for visitors to experience it fully. Tourists can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. The fort is possibly the most historically relevant family attractions in Inverness. Be prepared to be transported back to the year 1727 crossing the drawbridge and wandering around the ancient fort. Then watch out for the intense sudden winds as you cross over the wide killing ground.  Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.Inverness Botanic Gardens family attractions in Inverness

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. You will find it 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. Inverness Botanic Gardens is a lovely day out for families seeking outdoor family attractions in Inverness; the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses. It is a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.

Ship Space

Another family attractions in Inverness 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 the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships. Exhibits include fascinating film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imaginations whirring so it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of the 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.

ship space family attractions in Inverness

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.

highlanders museum family attractions in Inverness

Eden Court Theatre

Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub. It’s one of the most contemporary family attractions in Inverness. It features light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Break up your action-packed holiday in Scotland with an evening out to enjoy dinner and a music concert. Loch Ness cottage holidaymakers travelling over winter can see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!

Greig Street Bridge

It’s been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, so wouldn’t you want to give it a go? Greig Street Bridge is a footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness. It crosses over the River Ness and provides ample opportunity to stop and sight-see. 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. On a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing. Gazing down watch the rippling water and up high the richly–coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.eden court theatre family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Cathedral

Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. It is stuated on the riverbank and makes a captivating postcard picture of your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained-glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches over mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls.  Once outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas. You’ll be pleased to have spent time in one of the most notable family attractions in Inverness.

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. The Kiltmaker Visitor Centre is great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. The friendly store sells everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness. It specialises in making kilts although will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small intimate wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. This is yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.inverness cathedral family attractions in Inverness

Old High St Stephen’s Church

Aesthetically different from the cathedral the ancient stonework and bonny pointed turrets make this church a favoured tourist attraction. One of the oldest family attractions in Inverness, Old High has been in use since Celtic times.  Inside, leaflets provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. The church is a convenient cultural add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness. 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. 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.


8 reasons to visit the Scottish Highlands in spring

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?Aldourie Castle Loch Ness Scottish Highlands

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.

Outdoor activities

Spring is an ideal time for enjoying a range of outdoor activities such as walking or hiking the West Highland Way, cycling the Great Glen Cycleway, golfing at Castle Stuart and kayaking on Loch Ness. While holidaymakers have to look for enjoyment in other forms during the winter months the majority of sports and activities are in full swing again come the lighter, dryer days and longer hours. Make the most of what is on your doorstep or do something totally unlike what you would try at home – water-skiing on Loch Ness, pony trekking through the rugged Highlands or a falconry experience on a Highland Estate during an exclusive use stay in a Castle.falconry aldourie castle Scottish Highlands

Spring showers         

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?walking scottish highlands

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.