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.


How a castle and cottages create the perfect combined holiday

Last time we described how they couldn’t be more different as holiday hot spots on their own. This week, we explain how Aldourie Castle and Cottages, booked together, create the holiday of a lifetime…

The beauty of a private Highlands country Estate
It’s not every year you get to explore at leisure a centuries-old country estate in the heart of Scotland. So, when you get the chance to stay in an exclusive use property that is surrounded by 500 acres of grounds – some wild and rogue made up of woods, forest floor and hidden treasures; some neatly trimmed gardens and hedgerows – it’s best to take it…
aldourie castle loch ness

Fitting for larger parties
Say you are looking for somewhere private and exclusive to host your large family get-together and you have family dotted around the world. You need a place that is easily accessible (an airport nearby and direct flights from major cities a must), a location that is not only beautiful but peaceful and extremely homely too.

Now, say your family is larger than a group of 30 people and you’re struggling to tick all the above boxes and allocate everybody a room for the night. Many exclusive use properties or luxury destinations in Scotland are converted stately homes or mansion houses featuring a specific number of bedrooms (usually the original bedrooms of the house); they would be too small. A hotel, although it has plenty of space and many guest rooms, does not have the exclusivity ultimately required.

Choosing an historic Estate is clever because there are usually other properties within the grounds that guests can utilise during their stay. Say, for instance, the four traditional holiday cottages on the Aldourie Estate. Spread your family group out across the entire grounds, where each cottage is within easy walking distance of the Castle, and bigger parties (up to 50 guests at Aldourie) can be accommodated.
Garden Cottage Loch Ness

Another benefit to this idea: you will make the most out of your stay with more settings and window views to experience.  Although Aldourie Castle is a luxury in itself, its captivating aura and interior beauty can sometimes be all-consuming (be prepared to enter another world when going on an Aldourie holiday). Many private stay guests say they want to explore more of the grounds next time. Therefore, having your family of guests spread out across the parkland means ample reason to roam around.

Best of both worlds
From romantic lie-ins in wooden beamed bedrooms overlooking Loch Ness to showering in a turret and wandering through formal gardens like a Downton Abby character, your experience of ‘Castle’ and ‘Cottage’ could not be more different. The joy guests have taking over the whole Estate is that they don’t have to decide which of these holiday types they prefer. Both are there for the taking to enjoy whenever they please.

Some mornings you might want a full-on five star service at your disposal and a large Scottish cooked breakfast on tap. Other days you could want to light the fire yourselves, cook your own eggs and bacon and wash up your dishes whilst admiring the woodland view through the window. At Aldourie, two types of holiday can coexist just minutes apart.

Pier Cottage Loch Ness

Roam down the back garden of Pier Cottage to the shoreline to watch the boats bobbing on the marina, taking the family dogs for a walk in the woods (all four cottages are pet-friendly).

Later, sit out on the Castle terrace facing Loch Ness and take afternoon tea. In the evening everybody can reconvene in the Castle to eat banquet style on long tables in the Main Hall. A multi-itinerary for a multi-generational holiday in the Scottish Highlands.

Historic living in the 21st Century
Some just wish to take a short break or luxury stay for the moments it brings and the memories it generates. Others look for something with more meaning and like to know the history of the place they are occupying. Stay on an historic Highland estate making use of both the quaint cottages and the large house and see just how life used to be for the wealthy and fortunate Scots.

Adventure through the ample grounds, which change from season to season and look at the archives in the library to read up on the Scottish clan history. Realise the proximity of the cottages to the castle, and get a feel for how an estate would run. Taking over a Highland retreat of today is not only a luxury family holiday but a learning curve for children and adults alike.library books Aldourie Castle Scotland

The variety of outdoor sports and activities groups and families can take part in together are also another pull for making good use of your exclusive use property and grounds.

Fresh air combined with majestic views across wild scenery make for longer days no matter the time of year and give you more energy to enjoy your stay.


Small winter weddings in a castle

Bring the year to a fine end with an intimate and atmospheric Highland Castle wedding

Is it the warmth of a roaring fire cosying up the room as you enjoy traditional Scottish cuisine for your wedding breakfast or the crisp, cool wintry air outside allowing you to snuggle further into your white fur cape placed delicately over your shoulders, that makes you want to book your small winter wedding at an enchanting Castle in the ethereal Scottish Highlands? There are many reasons for you to want to have a winter wedding at a luxury hire property and we at Aldourie Castle are firm believers that small, intimate weddings with just a select few guests of family and close friends is perfectly placed in this fairytale Castle.

Margaret Soraya wedding photography - Weddings in a Castle

Arrive in style wrapped up warm in a fur or velvet wedding dress and cape

One of the many benefits to having a winter wedding is that your wedding dress can be as heavy with as many layers of material as you wish without the worry of over-heating during your Big Day. Why not theme your dress around your venue – Game of Thrones or fairytale themed small weddings would befit the Highland Castle on Loch Ness. Then add some luxury to your attire with beads, diamante, lace or fur; any of which would be in-keeping with the winter season.

Be brave and bold with colour

We’re guessing that if you are choosing to hire a luxury turreted Castle in wild open grounds for your small wedding then you probably like to do things a little differently. If you think there may be too much white around on your wedding day then opt for a rich, decadent shade of crimson or emerald green for your wedding dress to contrast well against cool wintry settings. Choosing a bolder colour adds to your confidence on the day and makes such a statement amongst the atmospheric light blues and greys of winter. The cool striking backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, either wild and blustery or still and snow-topped, make any winter wedding photograph a work of art. Imagine your bridal gown in the foreground adding so much interest and depth to the look and feel of your wedding day.

Margaret Soraya Photography shows the wintry magic of Loch Ness

Hot beverages create a party spirit!

Champagne is the traditional option for the wedding ‘toast’ and adds elegance to your wedding; something you wouldn’t want to be without in an enchanting castle on Loch Ness. But you could opt for an alternative for your guests to drink at your small wedding reception. Pimms is ideal in summer so why not try the perfect match for winter and allow your guests indulge in the spiciness and festiveness of a glass of mulled wine. Many a bridal party at Aldourie Castle favours this festive tipple at their small winter wedding not least because it eases winter chills, warming the hands and hearts of guests as they wander the snowy woods and parkland or take in the views over the Loch from the glistening shoreline.

Theme it ‘Winter’

So many luxury castles and houses were originally designed for huge parties but Aldourie Castle with its intimate relaxing rooms, cosy nooks and hallways and individual character bedrooms was made for small, private parties. Because we are relaxed and want you to feel at home here you really can let go when theming your intimate wedding. Although the magnificent baronial interior of the Staterooms speaks for itself there is opportunity for personal touches; take advantage of the historic feel of the Castle and invite your guests to attend a small royal party in Winterfell and indulge in a private Game of Thrones style wedding. This doesn’t have to be corny – you go for outlandish glamour or stick to an impressively stylish but subtle theme. Lastly, ensure your flowers choices are brimming with rich colour and the occasional sparkle of silver or gold.

Margaret Soraya wedding photography - Weddings in a Castle

And finally…Let it Snow!

How many of us worry about the weather, generally; not just leading up to a wedding day. Avoid the stresses associated with hoping and praying for ‘nice weather’. What many a photographer may never tell you is that a bright sunny day is not necessarily the ideal scenario for capturing the best images. By choosing to have a winter wedding, by default you’re more likely to expect it to be cold, possibly frosty, a chance of rain or even a blizzard. But once you have accepted that will more than likely be weather to expect during your intimate wedding celebrations you can start to get excited about the possibilities of extreme weather forecasts such as a gentle smattering of snow. What conjures up romance more than a gentle snowfall outside whilst you make your eternal vows in the cosiness of a castle? It will only add to the excitement of the day. And what’s more, it means you can relax your feet in wellies under your wedding dress for some of the photos – and nobody will be any the wiser!

For couples searching for the perfect winter wonderland venue, Aldourie Castle near Inverness still has small winter wedding dates available from November to March 2016.

Celebrate with only your nearest and dearest family and friends in what will be one of the most memorable days of your lives, in an enchanting location on wondrous Loch Ness.


Luxury hen party weekend in Scotland

A Royal Night Out? This week’s new film release depicts the royal princesses escaping the Palace’s grandeur for more excitement. However, we suggest, if a home is adorned with beauty, space and luxury, it’s more fun staying in. Here’s how to hen party in style inside your own private fairytale Scottish Castle.

You are organising your best friend or sister’s hen party weekend but not sure what to do or where to go. Ideally, you want to encompass all the traditional traits of a sophisticated hen party in one well executed, yet still impulsive and exciting, weekend. Already sound like a challenge?

Your idea is for all the girls to have the opportunity to dress to impress – but still be pampered, enjoy some fine dining (and wining) – but also Afternoon Tea (Betty’s, Harrods or even Savoy style), whilst  luxuriating in a beautiful setting – preferably befitting a princess. A lot to ask for in one weekend? We don’t think so! And, we have the answer to your prayers: Private Castle Hire in the heart of beautiful, enchanting Scotland.

Aldourie castle , Loch Nes, tea and champagne Luxury hen party

All under one roof

There may be dozens of castle turrets at Aldourie, but there is only one roof; making your private hen party stay here a most intimate and personal celebration for the bride and her closest girlfriends. Unlike a hotel, hen party guests can wander through the Castle at their leisure making use of each room for those ‘spontaneous’ and sophisticated hen party games: Hide and Seek, Narnia style, anyone?

Our expert hospitality team also invites you to share your plans for your stylish, glamorous hen party weekend. That way, you are still staying in control but we do all the hard work to perfect the stay of your dreams. There is no need to venture to the nearest cocktail bar for the all-important Cocktail Making Session; we can organise that in the Castle’s Main Hall. Because we are so sure of our 5 star status and work with a variety of trusted suppliers we promise to deliver any of your chosen events with style, impeccable service and professionalism.

Bespoke and personable

Aldourie is a place without boundaries, where guests are encouraged to explore and free to roam and use their imaginations. We want your hen party to be a magical experience you tell your grandchildren about. Instead of a formal long list of ‘hotel’ rules, we ask you simply to respect the history and beauty of this private hire property in the spectacular Scottish Highlands. We have found this helps you and your party to relax.

Jacobite cruises loch ness Luxury hen party

Where else, even in the most luxury hotel in the UK, could you take over the outdoor grounds with just your hen party? Maybe for a price you could, but it possibly wouldn’t feel as personal and special as having a medieval Castle garden, woodland and moat (aka marina) all to yourself. Any outdoor activity akin to hen party fun, such as zorbing, can be arranged on Loch Ness itself or around the luscious green parkland. Both feature a breath-taking backdrop of the Scottish Highlands that could knock you silly!

Exclusively yours

Why share your special hen party celebrations with anyone else? At Aldourie Castle on peaceful Loch Ness shores ensconced in stunning Highlands hills and surrounded by thick forests, you and your party of close girlfriends could be the stars of your favourite Disney film or fairytale book. At Aldourie the only way we do anything is by exclusive use, so be prepared to enter the world of your dreams; be pampered, spoiled rotten, indulged and possibly have the best weekend of your life, so far…

Luxury and grandeur

The delightful individually styled bedrooms add such grandeur and luxury to your hen party weekend. Designed in a unique style of their own each bedroom can be assigned to your hen party princesses to suit personality and taste – now, that’s something you wouldn’t get in a hotel. Lady Grey bedroom with its huge en-suite bathroom is a bride-to-be’s dream; a high up turret fit for a queen where you can slip into cosy dressing gowns with your friends, sip champagne and await your personal pamper or spa experience. Try a luxury bootcamp or morning group yoga session on the lawn by Loch Ness to really get into the spirit of your hen party weekend.

Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots n Paddles Luxury hen party

A perfect hen party setting

Located in the midst of a 500 acre estate, behind a tall original Castle wall resides a 17th Century masterpiece. Perfectly formed to cater for your sophisticated hen party weekend away in Scotland, this luxurious private hire property could get lost in layer upon layer of vast green landscape. Considered by all who’ve experienced its magic to be a very special venue, Aldourie Castle is a hen party location with history, character, charm and magnificence combined; the perfect start to wedded bliss.