New look exclusive use Castle rooms to ‘wow’ guests

“The” exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland

This past year has seen some major renovations on Aldourie both inside and outside. Our last blog post looked at the big updates that have been made to the estate itself including the new four garden areas. This week we are focussing on the ‘new look’ of the castle exterior, which has undergone a true transformation, and the public rooms inside the castle which have had a beautiful make over.

Castle exterior reharl

We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl, giving a whole new look to the exclusive use Castle. In Scottish terms harling describes an exterior building surface technique favoured for historic buildings. Limewash is both useful, giving a long-lasting weatherproof shield for a stone building, and offers a beautiful decorative finish. It was the ideal choice for Aldourie, a property that has stood for hundreds of years and has a wealth of heritage to its name. The most exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland is located in the midst of a 500 acre Highlands Estate. Therefore, it needs to be able to battle the forceful Scottish elements whilst still retaining elegance and beauty. The Castle has a duty to continue to ‘wow’ guests as they first spot it along the winding drive.Exclusive Scottish Castle in Scotland

Main Hall – the first public room

The main hall in Aldourie is a large, inviting space that is the central point to the downstairs of the Castle. Its main use is for meeting and greeting and a link between the main Castle doors and the rest of the public rooms. It’s a beautiful, light and airy space integral to the property with large glass doors leading out into the Castle Garden, now a stunning green landscaped area dotted with topiary trees. With a new view that only accentuates the further vista over Loch Ness’ southern shore, the happy room deserved a revamp.

The idea for the main hall was for a more natural, Highlands inspired look for a serene, welcoming space that still housed the essence of grandeur. The interior decorating team began by revitalising the walls with a lick of paint replacing the salmon hues with a blue-grey. The red tartan over-drapery was removed which fully showcased and lengthened the existing taupe coloured curtains making the windows appear even larger. A huge classical portrait was brought down from the corridor on the second floor and given a new perspective for the foreseeable future.Exclusive Scottish Castle in Scotland

Hidden historical gem

We discovered an striking old fireplace with the engravings of the Castle’s family heritage name ‘Frazer-Tyler’ depicted in the stone work underneath the existing, newer fireplace. The present owner and Castle hospitality team were delighted at the find. The fireplace, now larger, is much more of a feature, both historically and aesthetically. A large basket of wood sits just below the mantel ready and waiting to top up the blazing fire throughout the day.

Lairds Room  – for an elegant Scottish breakfast

This was a brand new project which included removing the old dark wooden panelling from all the walls and letting taupe painted walls and fine cornice detail in ivory take its place. The result: a calmer, more elegant looking room. The main furniture has been replaced and the new table and dozen chairs give the Lairds Room a more classical theme. A stunning theatrical gilded mirror framed by wall chandeliers highlights a Louis XVI-style fireplace below.

Exclusive Scottish Castle in Scotland

A huge tapestry hangs opposite and gives added texture to the cosy room. The Lairds room has always been a popular spot for guests, a smaller space than the dining room for entertaining. Since its renovation it has been mainly used as the breakfast room with exclusive use guests delighting over its new, brighter look as they start their day taking in enviable views of Loch Ness.

Library has a different focus

The warm, homely Library has fortunately not lost any of its richly coloured and patterned decoration – wall coverings, drapes and rugs – which still give it such depth and charm. The Aldourie Library has always been the go-to place for reading (of course), a game of cards with friends or a dram of whisky in the evening. With this in mind we wanted to make more of the existing space so decided to close the large room in slightly.Exclusive Scottish Castle in Scotland

Seated furniture now faces inwards over a low coffee table, still keeping the large fireplace the focal point of the room, to encourage gentle conversation and relaxation. The green settee has been replaced with one of powder blue and matching upholstered chairs to vary the colour theme in the room and add warmth. The large space now has more clearly defined areas including the writing desk facing the bookshelves for privacy.

Drawing Room retains character with more colour

Originally the Red Drawing Room, this versatile open space of many corners now features less of the red and gold it was so famed for.  We thought that by taking away some of the red fabric furniture would help to accentuate the ruby rich velvet walls framed by a gilded cornice that enclose the room, and make it a feature of its own. Now sit arm chairs in greens and blues, lighter wooden furnishings, tall elegant candelabras atop the mantelpiece and a new large glistening chandelier that hangs over the central area.Exclusive Scottish Castle in Scotland

The result is a more open, airy space that still retains an informal grace. Exclusive use guests have always known the Drawing Room to be the hub of the Castle and loved its ability to be both cosy and opulent as well as its breath-taking views over the parkland and Loch.  These subtle layout changes have revitalised this much-loved room and added to the title of Aldourie as “the” most exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland.

If you would like to book a weekend or a week’s stay in the number one exclusive Scottish castle in Scotland then why not give us a call, or leave a message on our easy to use online form where we will get back to you, to discuss your needs.


Revitalised gardens and grounds heighten exclusive use experience

In Early 2017, Aldourie Castle and Estate underwent some renovations, always looking to add to the exclusive use experience of our private guests and beauty of the Castle and Estate. We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl (we’ll cover this more in the next post), revitalised the old walled gardens and carried out further landscaping around the Castle. But there’s a lot more meaning behind reviving this 17th Century exclusive use Estate than initially meets the eye.

The gardens design team

The plan was to develop the gardens to create a fitting, high quality setting for the Castle. We employed a head gardener Duncan Hall, who is passionate about innovative landscaping for historic settings. Duncan and his dedicated team have been thrilled to work alongside landscape architect, garden designer and writer Tom Stuart-Smith, an inspirational leader in his field. Aldourie Castle Estate feels privileged to have Tom designing the revised estate including the four main garden areas (detailed below).exclusive use experience

Formal Garden: on the Castle’s doorstep

The main Castle Garden (to the west) creates a formal setting for Aldourie whilst hinting at playful associations with the property such as the turret-inspired topiary trees, and historic references like the planned fortress-inspired bastions. This is an already impressive space combining order with fun to heighten the exclusive use experience; we want the garden, though formal, to be used and enjoyed by private guests.

Walled Garden and Glasshouses: for ‘living off the Estate’

Restored to a very high standard, this by comparison to the Castle garden has a rugged feel and features attractive dry walls made with a local stone. Walking into it you definitely feel as though it belongs in the highlands. Its central area is primarily for vegetable and fruit production (including high value crops and soft fruit) to supply the castle kitchen as well as the other Wildland properties. You may remember the glasshouses being restored in 2016. These stunning creations, originally dating from the mid-18th Century, are also growing fruit and veg and open for exclusive use guests to wander through.

exclusive use experience

Arboretum: historic discoveries through hard work

This has been a major renovation job and along the way was the discovery of a fine tree collection dating back to the 19th Century which Aldourie is committed to nurturing. Any added design element has been carefully planned; for example the winding paths and interweaving patches of plants at the foot of the trees will in effect guide Castle guests from one garden to another and be designed so that not one part of the arboretum goes undiscovered. The burial ground is also a significant historical feature and so work was carried out to tidy this area and preserve its ornamentation and archaeological relevance.

Parkland: keeping it green

There are further plans afoot to create a landscape of wild meadow and Highland cattle but for now the parkland starts to rejuvenate with new trees whilst an Estate railing has clearly separated the Castle setting from the wider park.exclusive use experience

Head Gardener, Duncan, comments on the parkland design; “The new trees have breathed some life into the park, which is the first part of the estate that guests will experience as they enter the main drive. Enticing views of different parts of the estate are revealed encouraging guests to explore, as well as stunning views across the wider landscape of Loch Ness.”

Focus is on the exclusive use experience

The landscape of Aldourie Castle and Estate is of outstanding scenic value so it is vital that the design and gardening work serves to enhance its beauty. It forms an archetypal Scottish Baronial scene highly visible from the northern shores of Loch Ness. One of the key reasons for revitalising the Castle and grounds was to compound the feeling, during an exclusive use experience, of staying in such a historically valued, spectacular location.

The initial warm welcome at the Castle now extends to the entirety of the 500 acre Estate. Guests are now encouraged to really discover the gardens, to explore and play, and feel the heritage beneath their feet. Regular pruning of tree branches in the walled garden will offer glimpses of the estate and wider landscape enticing them to go further afield.exclusive use experience

The ‘farm to table’ aspect of this particular garden will also transcend to the guests’ experience with the opportunity for them to pick their own fruit and veg for the Castle’s chef to cook that day. The idea is to reinforce the exclusive use experience at every opportunity so that exploring the beauty and history of Aldourie Estate becomes an integral part of their stay.

Look out for our next instalment of the Revitalisation of Aldourie Castle & Estate. For more information on exclusive use of Aldourie please visit our Private Hire pages or contact the main office through our online contact form.


Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.

There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.Highland Games in castle grounds

Caber toss – great to start off your Games:

How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!

How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.

Stone put – a traditional sport:

How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds.  Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.

Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:

How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.

Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:

How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.

Highland Games in castle grounds

How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.

Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):

How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.

Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.Highland Games in castle grounds

Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds

For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?

It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.

Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds

You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following: Highland Games in castle grounds

Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.

Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.

Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.

For more information on exclusive use house parties and holidays please complete the contact form on our website found here.


Best Loch Ness tours for exclusive use holidays

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.

Exclusive Use Holidays - Applecross Peninsula Scotland

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.Exclusive Use Holidays - Toward Beinn Eighe

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.


Private anniversary celebrations with family and friends – in a Castle far, far away

Keep the romance alive whilst throwing the party you’ve always dreamed of. Aldourie Castle is brimming with secret stairways and cosy corners for the perfect anniversary retreat, with a twist…

Your Ruby wedding anniversary was a different story; a quiet country hotel with just a few rooms, each taken by different couples most likely away on their own anniversaries. Anonymous yet intimate, but sort of passé, don’t you think? So, now that it’s your Golden anniversary, instead of staying in a beautiful setting full of strangers, why not create your unique paradise in an exclusive use property with those closest to you. After all, this is a very personal time in your life and it’s your time to shine.

spiral staircase Aldourie Scottish Castle

Romance at its heart

As you wind down the drive to Aldourie you realise one thing; that you have never arrived at anywhere quite like it. And you never will again. What better thought to start off your anniversary celebrations? With an imposing castle door, stately rooms and beautiful castle grounds, the scene is set for a romantic getaway.

Magnificent setting​ easily accessible

But let’s not forget the reason you’re here – to celebrate! Aldourie oozes enough charm, ambiance and style to rival any regal place. So, spoil your guests with luxurious surroundings, bedrooms fit for royalty and food of the highest order. Here, you’re all left to enjoy the Castle and Estate in your own way and in your own time.

With just the sounds of wildlife at your door you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re miles away from anywhere. In fact, the main road to Inverness is just outside the Castle walls and direct flights go from London Heathrow to Inverness airport daily. This means a private hire Castle in the Scottish Highlands is a lot more accessible than you would at first think.

Anniversary Celebrations Aldourie Castle ScotlandCelebrate in your own style

Anniversary celebrations come in all shapes and sizes. So there’s no reason to stick to something tried and tested just because it works. Trust us; everything works and anything goes at Aldourie. But by all means be led by recommendation. What would we suggest? Drinks and canapes in the Drawing Room, an elegant feast in the Dining Room featuring the best of Scottish cuisine, followed by a party in the Main Hall. If a summer anniversary celebration, your guests can overspill onto the lawn that reaches down to Loch Ness.

Note: Ceilidhs certainly vamp up any party especially if you hoped to accompany your traditional Scottish Castle with traditional dance and music. And night caps are best enjoyed in the library against the backdrop of bookshelves and dark wood. But don’t be surprised if the wanderers amongst your party decide to stray and find themselves stargazing from an inviting-looking window seat or roaming portrait-laden passageways looking for a wardrobe that leads to a whimsical wintry world. The beauty of a great inner hall Aldourie Scottish Castlecelebration at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is the possibilities it creates.

Party atmosphere

Whether you stay for a weekend or two weeks for your special celebration, rest assured your every whim can be catered for. You may wish to have one main party evening to celebrate your anniversary with a host of activities strewn throughout your stay. We can organise any activity, from Charades around the fireplace to a full blown Nessie hunt on Loch Ness.

An exclusive Highland Castle such as Aldourie can inspire a traditional Anniversary Party Celebration to exceed itself. And the beauty of that? It’s likely to become one of your best memories of all because it includes all your favourite people.

 


Yachting or boating on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

One of the best ways to truly experience the Scottish Highlands is to get out on a boat over the Caledonian Canal. The shimmering waters weave through these majestic hills and there’s so much to see and experience. The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles of fresh water just waiting to take you to sights you’ve only dreamed of. Twenty-two miles of this is a man made wide canal enabling inland sailing crossing the whole of Scotland. Four large lochs make up the remainder, one of which is Loch Ness. This memorable sightseeing ride is there for the taking. And if you already have yourself a yacht (or other means of water transport), so much the better…
boating on caledonian canal

We can give you a few ideas of what to see whilst yachting along the Caledonian Canal. And there is plenty to see and do both on and off the water.

Destination east

“A most enjoyable and life-changing experience during a holiday in Scotland”, according to many of our previous guests, is to take a trip to Moray Firth and visit the dolphins. Are you a yacht owner or have you hired a yacht whilst touring the Scottish Highlands? If so, you can easily head east from Inverness. Take in the striking and ethereal surroundings of the imposing wild hills as you go. Soon enough you will come across the peaceful scenery of Moray Firth. Here you can sail along beside the friendliest fish in the sea and the largest school of dolphins in the UK.

Destination south

If you decide to travel downwards from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands you will pass a host of cultural and scenic spots. These include the must-visit quaint village of Invergarry, home to Invergarry Castle amongst many other beautiful sights. Originally the seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry (another Castle – at which you can also enjoy a delightful lunch), the Castle has a fascinating history. Its gothic façade makes even the least interested sight-seers want to roam around its evocative grounds.Golfing Near the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Stop for a spot of food and drink at a deli or brasserie in this charming village. Later, venture forth and sail your yacht further down the Caledonian Canal. Veer off slightly to the west before stopping at the famous Fort William. Known as the gateway to Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak, this lovely town is full of outdoor sport and beautiful yet challenging walking trails.

Destination north

Dornoch is just one of the championship golf courses in close proximity to Aldourie Castle in Inverness. It provides an opportunity to hone your golfing skills whilst holidaying in Scotland. Maybe you’re an experienced golfer and touring the Scottish Highlands by yacht to break up a golfing holiday. In this case, Royal Dornoch is definitely somewhere you want to stop off – or tee off!

Destination west

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Not until you reach Muir of Ord. This is again just one of many of its kind in Scotland; a whisky distillery with a name of prestigious heritage. Close by, and after a tasting of course, you may stumble upon Beauly. Enter a typical Highlands town complete with abbey ruins, quaint coffee shop-delis and stores with old-fashioned Highland quality and values. One such place is called Campbell’s, an outfitters which combines the tradition and warmth of a local shop with the quality of a high fashion befitting the Scottish gentry. It also offers a bespoke tailoring service – why not get fitted with gear for a shoot on one of the local Highland Estates?
Boatin on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Take a break from the water

As you can see, there is more to the Scottish Highlands than simply taking – or trekking – the high road. From picture perfect villages with friendly locals to ancient ruins with their own ghosts of the past, a journey by yacht can expertly combine a luxurious five star holiday. Along the way enjoy random adventures at every turn culminating in memories to treasure. Here’s a thought: moor up your yacht at Aldourie’s private marina on Loch Ness and hire out this enchanting Castle for a couple of nights. Then set off to explore more of the famously impressive and innovative Caledonian Canal.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

On 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest while most of the world will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. But the importance the Scottish people place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar. It’s bigger even than Christmas Day – and it’s certainly worth waiting for. You thought the Highland Games was a cultural signifier; think again…

hogmanay-edinburgh

Definition of Hogmanay and its origins

Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to their celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Where did the word originate? History suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north”. This ocurred in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. The Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule highly influenced these parties. The Scots labelled these celebrations ‘daft days’. Hogmanay culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences now that has been established for a few centuries it. The best celebrations always do!

How do Hogmanay celebrations differ from New Year’s Eve?

The length of celebratory activitiesmainly differentiates Hogmanay from traditional New Year’s Eve parties. The former begins on 31st December but continues throughout New Year’s Day and into 2nd January (itself a public holiday in Scotland). This then divides the two celebrations culturally too. The streets in Scotland remain deserted while the rest of the UK is generally easing back into business.hogmanay scotland

How the big Scottish cities do it

Hogmanay is celebrated throughout Scotland in varying degrees from the intimate yet ‘daft’ gatherings to the elaborate, eccentric festivals. The big cities fall into the latter category and Edinburgh leads the way with a huge 30th December torch-lit parade. This comprises an enviable fireworks display and various performances from up-and-coming acts to full blown rock stars. Everything is performed wholeheartedly to (always) enthusiastic, (sometimes) bemused crowds from more than 60 different countries. Either way, people feel privileged to be part of the throng and tradition that is Hogmanay.

The Scottish capital’s largest crowd totalled 400,000 in 1996 and since then safety restrictions mean fewer people though the numbers are still high. Glasgow is another city that doesn’t disappoint. The Glaswegians can be seen singing, dancing, eating steak pie and stew, drinking by the gallon and storytelling till the sun rises on New Year’s Day.

The importance of Hogmanay to the Scottish people

Scotland began to celebrate Christmas only in recent years. The festive holiday was abolished by the Protestant Reformation for 400 years and it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was accepted as a public holiday in Scotland. Then, in 1974 the Scots announced Boxing Day as a public holiday. Scotland instead had to work through Christmas and wait until Hogmanay to celebrate with family and friends. Is it any wonder now that this traditional get-together has become an exciting explosion of freedom and fun!hogmanay scotland

Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year

It has to be said, there is no hiding it; the Scots love a good party. And that is usually the main focus of Hogmanay. But, if you’re lucky enough to witness this special celebratory period in Scotland you may observe, though you might not know them to be at first, a number of traditions as well.

‘First-footing’, where the first person to enter the house after midnight brings gifts such as food or coal, is the most popular tradition. It is regarded as affecting the fortune of the household for the coming year. This is dependent on the appearance of the visitor; the ideal guest is a tall, dark man. So, if you open the door to a flat-coat retriever called Lizzie wearing a Santa hat…well, you can guess the rest.

There are other traditions. Watching abominable and cheesy TV programmes (ones you would never ordinarily choose to watch, of course) before the bells chime, and linking arms whilst singing with all the clan, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famous poem written by Robert Burns.

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Castle

Speaking of which, why not book your New Year’s celebrations at Aldourie Castle on Lochaldourie-castle-loch-nes-tea-and-champagne-020 Ness? It’s unique, luxurious and scenic; the perfect backdrop to a house party style that’s seen a lot more of Scotland’s history than anyone alive today. While there’s no rules to celebrating Hogmanay, maybe your first attempt could be kept quite simple with the core elements of Scottish culture at its heart. Many Scottish families this year will be sitting down to a delicious meal with family and friends with the drink flowing – oh, please don’t forget the whisky – to help bring in the new year followed by a steak pie dinner the next day. Should your head be a little sore ask any one of our dedicated hospitality team for a glass of Irn Bru (or a bottle). We’re almost certain this bright orange fizzy drink has been curing hangovers for centuries too.


Top 5 places of interest around Inverness and Aldourie

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

Cawdor Castle

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

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

Culloden Battlefield

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

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

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

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

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

Tomatin Whisky Distillery

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

Muir of Ord Distillery

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

Dalmore Distillery

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

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

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


Holiday activities on Loch Ness: Part 2

Part 1; ‘Holiday activities on Loch Ness’ explored the various ways in which to take advantage of the famous stretch of water that makes up part of the captivating view from your luxury home for the holidays,  Aldourie Castle in Scotland. This second instalment continues your peaceful, always scenic and sometimes adventurous journey when you decide, as a group of guests at Aldourie, to utilise the unique and beautiful Scottish natural landscape that is – very literally – on your doorstep.

Work colleagues: unique teambuilding activities spark innovation

When did you last review your teambuilding calendar? Do you go back year on year to the same hotel for your teambuilding experience with your company or work colleagues? Here are two activities you can enjoy with team members on Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, both of which offer a completely unique experience of Loch Ness but let you enter into the spirit of teamwork, competition and fun all at the same time.Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Have you ever zorbed on water? Water zorbing is a (fairly) recent craze to hit the Highlands that involves walking on water (yes, you read correctly) in the safety – and dare we say, comfort – of a huge transparent ball.  Usually performed on flat ground but sometimes on a slope zorbing lets the rider experience the freedom of weightlessness and speed, igniting their confidence and letting them embrace their inner child.

They say do one thing a day that scares you. If the idea of zorbing on Loch Ness gives you more goose bumps then bumping into Nessie would do, the team at Aldourie Castle will be there to encourage and support. If, on the other hand this teambuilding sport in the Scottish Highlands sounds like a lot of fun then please don’t hesitate to book your company activity day at this Scottish Castle Estate – we welcome corporate groups at any time of year.

If the idea of canoeing with colleagues leaves you a little out of your depth then an exclusive stay at the only liveable castle on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland may give you a different perspective. It is during private hire corporate teambuilding stays that groups of colleagues learn how to be a team and enjoy it at the same time rather than feeling as though they’ve been dragged along to another activity day in another location that offers nothing different from the last. Locations like Aldourie Estate in the Scottish Highlands bring corporate teambuilding to a new level. Step into a canoe from our private pier and within moments you’ll be learning a new skill whilst witnessing one of the world’s most captivating areas of natural beauty.Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Individuals – time to yourself is important in a busy world

When you think of activities you can enjoy in Scotland what springs to mind? Walking. Trekking. Cycling. What about swimming? Where there’s a highland hill there’s likely to be a loch down below so swimming should be just as popular as walking, right? Perhaps not in the Scottish Highlands. The weather plays a huge part; walking is a traditional highly enjoyable hobby during every season whereas swimming is mostly partaken in the warmer, summer months.

You’ve dived in at the deep end by booking to stay at a spectacular and unique exclusive use property so this is the ideal opportunity to experience a breath-taking activity that not everybody has tried. Wild swimming lets you explore secret coves, hidden waterfalls and, whilst you’re in the vicinity of Aldourie Castle, majestic lochs. Let go of stress, breathe in that fresh Highland air (it’s good for you, honest) and be at one with nature; all before breakfast.

Experience fishing on Loch Ness when you stay with family or friends or even entirely on your own at the only castle with bedrooms on this long, wondrous shoreline. If you’ve never taken yourself off to the nearest waterway with a packed lunch, a rucksack of maggots and a rod then there’s no better time to do just that than during an exclusive use stay in a Scottish Castle. Likewise, experienced anglers will not be held back when they have the most picturesque paradise at their fingertips.Fishing - Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Whether you’re holidaying with friends or part of a multigenerational family holiday, escaping the group for a while and taking some “me time” to go fishing on Loch Ness can be rewarding in more ways than you think. Not only can you catch your own dinner (why not ask Aldourie’s chef will gladly make a creative dish out of your day’s catch) but you will soon discover the pleasure of your own company out in the wilderness of the Highlands. Though the Loch Ness shoreline is only minutes from the luxurious and homely Castle the freedom is all-consuming and the air as fresh as the water itself.

Just a canoe and you for complete solitude

Ever had that dream where you’re out on your own in the middle of a calm ocean with nothing but water for miles and miles? How does it make you feel? Alone? Frightened? Free? There’s an activity you can experience on Loch Ness that could definitely be described as dreamlike; canoeing on your own. When there’s no one to chat to then there’s no distraction. Out in the middle of Loch Ness you can hear yourself think and breathe and give attention to the beautiful Highland landscape that, though thoroughly enjoyable with others by your side, becomes majestic in its power to transport you to another world; Scotland’s very own Narnia or a dreamlike state of mind.Canoeing Loch Ness Holiday Activities

It’s fair to say that there is a never-ending list of activities to enjoy on the famous stretch of fresh water that glides passed Aldourie’s drawing room window, any moment of every day. From group fun to secluded soul searching and romantic jaunts, water can make a luxury holiday even more exciting and exclusive. Just think of the special photos you’ll capture and the fresh air in your lungs if you need any more persuading, although after reading these two blog posts we’re sure you won’t require any  further convincing to set sail on your own Loch Ness adventure in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.


What does Exclusive Use of a private Castle actually mean?

The first thing to know when you hear the words ‘Exclusive Use’ in reference to a hospitality venue or private property is that it’s most likely a very special and unique place indeed. And secondly, if it’s a historic property, that it is unlikely to be open to the public, making it an even more exciting and intriguing place to visit. Thirdly, this phrase means that the property is available only for private hire by an individual or group. There is no rule who that individual or group may be; it could be a family reunion of numerous generations, a corporate booking or a close group of friends sharing an idyllic holiday.

The library has hundreds of books Use of a private Castle

All of the above outlined attributes of our beloved Castle go down very well with guests. They like to know they are staying in not only a beautiful property but a special venue that can be experienced only by those who feel it worthy enough of hiring the place privately for themselves or their group. This private Scottish Estate and the enchanting Castle that sits within it is classed as a private historic property rather than a public place owned by any of the national heritage organisations that look after buildings and gardens, such as the National Trust or Historic Houses Association.

These organisations are brilliant at up-keeping hundreds of beautiful properties that are dotted around the UK and are responsible for opening their doors during certain time of the year for the public to visit and enjoy. (This is not always the first wish of their current owners but in fact a necessity to keep the contents and the properties themselves in existence). If owners are lucky enough to not to have to rely on The National Trust and HHA for their services and therefore tick all the boxes and have means to operate as a private hire property then this opens up a whole new set of opportunities for such heritage buildings.

4. Aldourie Castle from Loch Ness Use of a private Castle

Setting up your own heritage Estate as a private hire property however is not as simple as listing it on a few websites and telling some travel agents where it is located. There is hard work to be done in making it ready for the guests you want to attract. For instance, health and safety regulations have to be adhered to and any overnight accommodation has to be guest-ready (not like the red-roped bedrooms you see in various stately homes that, although look inviting and exciting to experience, would probably leave you with a bad back by morning).

Like any top hotel, private use venues have a priority; to satisfy guests with an exceptional service and comfort so they either book again for next year or recommend the property to family and friends. All this means research into what other exclusive use properties are offering on a service and comfort level, and aiming to match or go a step further than them. It then also means investment of pieces such as incredibly comfortable items befitting the property. There is a certain knack needed here which is why so often a professional interior designer is hired; the furniture must be attractive, coordinating, comfortable, endurable and at the same time, if in a historic setting, should appear as if it was placed there hundreds of years ago. The same theory applies to the decoration of floors, walls, ornaments and artwork etc. You get the idea! There is so much to prepare for before a property can even be considered as being hired out to the luxury travel market.
Use of a private Castle - red room

Now you realise that the properties you see available for ‘Exclusive hire or Exclusive use are those which are in-keeping with their original era through design, style and architecture but have most definitely been through a period of transformation and modernisation of their facilities, both inside the property and in the grounds. This is no mean feat and, as with Aldourie Castle, often takes years of vision, research, preparation, hard work and perseverance in order to achieve the final outcome. Guests who hire an exclusive use property therefore appreciate what they are getting in return.

for  there is something quite special and mystical about being able to staying a week, or even just overnight, in a country house or castle that was once lived in centuries ago by families and welcomed intriguing historical characters as visitors for weeks on end. Aldourie itself was such a Castle, complete with house party staus and part of a celebrated and popular sporting Highlands Estate.

Privately hiring this Castle as your own home lets you and your guests share in the memories of years gone by, family secrets and as many historical facts as you can possibly take in. Exclusive Use is what is says on the tin: special, privileged and entirely yours.