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 exclusive use stays and cottage holidays.

The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time, for example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness so we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness, making sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

With so many fantastic tour operators providing an excellent array of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness, and operating from the convenient location just a few miles down the road in Inverness, this guide consists of a select few Aldourie favourites.Aldourie Castle, loch ness -55

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first requests from guests we usually have is for details on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to go it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. Others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and ethereal Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape rising and falling in gentle waves, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. From romantic glens and shimmering waterfalls to wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own, this varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views, including the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.A couple walking on the Old Drovers' Road in Glen Coe, with the famous Three Sisters of Glen Coe in the background

For a real sense of freedom and a chance to use your own bike – great if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness – opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time having received a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland where you will experience the utter joy of speeding passed spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, which is just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn, and simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline and realise just how lucky you are to be able to both cycle and holiday on Loch Ness at the same time. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.cycling-in-scotland_1675665348

Whisky (tours and tastings) tours

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines over a full day two of the famous distilleries in an area that is host to over half the distilleries in Scotland, each in entirely different settings. The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.macallan-distillery

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is: from the moment you enter the door and are greeted by genuinely friendly staff to the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes; their endless knowledge and palpable pride to the peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses and the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop. The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one; whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported, abundantly impressed, a whisky convert (if not already a lover). You will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.

We look forward to posting our second instalment of Tours in Inverness which will feature the best wildlife and nature, boating and cultural tours in and around Inverness and Loch Ness.


Top 10 family attractions in Inverness

On the Aldourie Estate in Scotland we are lucky to welcome a variety of guests to stay in its four beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm whilst others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another because, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it?

The latter type of holidaymakers tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. So, we have produced a list for the those who wish to explore the local area of Inverness for family attractions because it in fact boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside that is the Scottish Highlands.fortgeorge_139291289

River Ness

If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of a day well spent then a trip along River Ness is a must. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains top with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands in the middle of the river and stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.

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. Cleverly laid out for visitors to experience Fort George in its full glory, you can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. As you cross the drawbridge you are taken back to the year 1727, bracing the sudden winds to cross over a wide killing ground.  Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.Inverness-Botanic-Gardens

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. A lovely day out for families, the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses, a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.

Ship Space

Again, another family attraction must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as its main attraction, the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships, including film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imagination whirring and it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of this unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels so, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.

ship space inverness titanic model

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.

the highlanders museum

Eden Court Theatre

Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema for the latest flick or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub featuring light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Couples and group stays can break up their action-packed adventure holiday in Scotland with a sophisticated evening out with drinks, dinner and a music concert. Or families who book their Loch Ness cottage holiday over winter can go to see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!

 Greig Street Bridge

Having been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, wouldn’t you want to give it a go? A footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness, Greig Street Bridge crosses over the River Ness and so provides ample opportunity to stop not only to admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks or on a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing as you watch the rippling water below and the richly –coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.eden court theatre

Inverness Cathedral

Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. Situated on the riverbank it makes a captivating postcard picture for your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches framing beautiful mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls whilst outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas.

The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre

It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break, great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. With everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness, this friendly store specialises in making kilts and will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. Yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.inverness cathedral

Old High St Stephen’s Church

Aesthetically very different from the cathedral the ancient stone work and bonny pointed turrets make this church a tourist attraction in its own right. Old High is a fascinating building that has been in use since Celtic times and, inside, leaflets will provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. This a brilliant add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness as the church is only a stone’s throw from the centre. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.

As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye and it’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities – although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.

Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.


How best to experience the Scottish Highlands this winter

There are endless reasons to book a week’s stay in a holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands this winter. Firstly, it is guaranteed to warm your soul – and that’s without topping up the wood-burning stove with a healthy supply of logs. A country Estate in the heart of the Highlands complete with a castle available for private hire and a few traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages, is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s most peaceful and beautiful region.

From top places to visit for a cup of hot chocolate to the finest whisky distilleries and the most bracing walks and breath-taking landscapes, read on for some of the Highlands’ most favoured highlights in the most renowned locations.

The Isle of Skye - Scottish Highlands
Excursions to the Isle of Skye or Loch Lomond the Choice is Yours

Explore the Isle of Skye

As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland and not without reason. So, before sinking into a deep hot bath or curling up on the sofa with Harry Potter, be sure to plan your short break itinerary, making the most of local knowledge, in order to put your time to good use. We suggest up there on your list should be the isolated and mesmerising Isle of Skye.

This remote part of Scotland is a perfect trip to allow you to experience the most spectacular views of the Highlands and Skye is easily accessible from the Aldourie holiday cottages, as long as you don’t mind an early morning start. Widely appreciated for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages, we advise jumping in the car at day break to make the most of the three hour journey.

Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs, not forgetting to stop occasionally to admire Skye’s dramatic mountainous backdrop and wild, cascading waterfalls. During winter you would expect to come across an abundance of Highland cattle congregated between snow-capped peaks, and on the clearest of days be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides. The Isle of Skye’s colours you will capture both with a camera and simply by being in the moment may strike walkers, hikers and cyclists as ethereal and those of you driving may have to get out once in a while to let the air hit you and make you believe it. After embracing the magic of the highest points of Skye why not meander among the pastel-coloured houses of Portree where you can find a handful of traditional pubs full of Scottish character as well as a host of pretty clothes and gift boutiques.

Loch Lomond in Winter Scottish Highlands
Enjoy Loch Lomond in Winter

Get up close to Loch Lomond

A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without taking the ‘low road’ out to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Famed for its folklore, castles and golf – there’s no getting away from it up here – its central spot crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sports, hiking and camping during winter short breaks in Scotland. The colder months showcase snow-capped peaks which frame the famous lake and have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal. Its mysterious forests that weave through and cluster among the mountains have inspired many creatives including artists and songwriters over the years.

During winter, cloudless blue skies illuminate the pristine waters of Loch Lomond. Whether you’re on holiday for the challenging hikes or simply ambling along simple scenic trails there’s a winter walk perfect for you and your family or group of friends. There are a host of walks on the east or southern sides of the loch including Drymen and Balmaha which have striking views and the promise of summer’s plentiful nature. Listen out for the characteristic call of the winter geese flying overhead in Trossachs National Park and take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. Don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

A must-see is Loch Lomond’s lively city life, which encapsulates a thriving food and drink scene. The famous Scottish landmark also features a variety of creative villages. We recommend a trip to Luss during a snowy winter, a traditional village whose steeple church and bridges would befit the front of a Christmas card.

Luss scotland winter Scottish Highlands

Loch Ness

With such a scenic and adventure-filled itinerary for a cottage holiday in Scotland it may be easy to oversee the location you are actually staying at. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness, from its vast open water and the legendary Monster to getting up close and personal to Aldourie Castle on the Loch Ness shoreline.

Its epic size and folklore sea creatures apart, Loch Ness has so much to offer the curious nature-loving tourist during winter. From some of the most famous whisky distilleries – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness –  to exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks, the heart of Scotland’s culture is within reaching distance. If you’ve come to the Highlands to relax during January or Februray, we at Aldourie can suggest and endless array of villages and towns each accommodating and friendly and worthy of a postcard home. Enter Beatrix Potter style tearooms, gourmet restaurants and beautiful interior home shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.

Beauly means ‘beautiful place’ and that is just what you’ll find only 20 minutes from any of the Scottish holiday cottages on Aldourie Castle Estate. With a traditional Scottish Highland pipe band and quaint row of central shops you will encounter a real feel of Scotland here. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truely delicious sandwich and slice of homemade cake then walk it off around the pretty Priory ruins.

Beauly Priory Scottish Highlands

Some of the best boat cruises on Loch Ness depart from Fort William, itself a extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate as do the most bewitching winter walks that lead higher and higher into utter wilderness. You will find your local area around Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate to house a couple of traditional pubs ideally located for holiday cottage guests visiting Loch Ness. There’s no excuse not to pop in for a quick drink in traditional Scottish surroundings, especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands of Scotland and a moonlit Loch Ness.


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 shimmering waters that weave through these majestic hills. 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 manmade wide canal, enabling inland sailing crossing the whole of Scotland, and the remainder is formed by four large lochs, 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 from marina to harbour 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. If you are a yacht owner or have hired a yacht whilst touring the Scottish Highlands you can easily head east from Inverness, taking in the striking and ethereal surroundings of the imposing wild hills as you go, and soon enough you will come across the peaceful scenery of Moray Firth where 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 including the 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 and its gothic façade makes even the least interested sight-seers want to roam around its evocative grounds.Golfing Near the Caledonian Canal Scotland

After a spot of food and drink in this charming village featuring delis, brasseries and many a hotel to choose from, you could venture forth and sail your yacht further down the Caledonian Canal veering 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 adventure and beautiful yet challenging walking trails.

Destination north

Dornoch, just one of the championship golf courses in close proximity to Aldourie Castle in Inverness, 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, that is. 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 (a typical Highlands town meaning ‘beauty’) 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 with random adventure 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 before setting off to explore more of the famously impressive and innovative Caledonian Canal.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

While most of the world will be celebrating ‘just another’ New Year’s Eve on 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest but the importance they place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar – 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. It is unclear where the actual word originated from though history suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north” – in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. Such parties eventually began to feature elements from the Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule, and these celebrations were labelled ‘daft days’ by the Scots. Now that Hogmanay has been established for a few centuries it culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences. The best celebrations always do!

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

One of the major differences between Hogmanay and the traditional New Year’s Eve parties is the length; 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 as while the rest of the UK is generally easing back  and business recommences, the streets in Scotland remain deserted.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, 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 and 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

It is only in recent years that Scotland began to celebrate Christmas. 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 Boxing Day was announced 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. Therefore 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.

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

Other traditions can include 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.


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

Why not make Christmas 2016 the year you decide to do something different? But why wait until the New Year to make your resolutions? Set a date now and start looking forward…

The beautiful, unassuming yet captivating Scottish Highlands does not ask anything of anyone. It looks down from above at all its worth – the majesty of its hills, the uniqueness of its landmarks and the intensity of its history. The vast wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is always there, like any other landscape, continuing as usual underneath these huge ever-changing skies.

Imagine entering a world like no other; a freeing endless space just waiting to be discovered by someone new. Whether your Christmas family holidays are usually land based with cycling routes and long country walks or water based with loch cruises, dolphin watching or canoeing, there is everything in the Highlands to keep your boredom at bay and your imagination running wild.

So, where do you stay in order to appreciate and experience a really traditional Scottish Christmas and New Year? Here at Aldourie we have the best of both worlds: catered exclusive use stays with lashings of luxury or self-catered stays in the heart of the Highlands countryside. Both are tempting, we agree, and also offer instant access to the famous waters of Loch Ness.

A cottage Christmas

Children and adults alike will enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all, through a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage, the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties as well as intimate family time exploring landscapes, unearthing history and tasting fabulous food together. Couples can escape to the Highlands of Scotland to experience the romance of its magical landscape so much of which can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.

Scotland has so much to offer. There are cities for the vibrant souls who are looking for a festive party atmosphere and there are quieter destinations like the quaint towns and villages of Dornoch, Fort William and Glencoe to name but a few. In the latter you will find delicious festive food and drink, picture perfect snow-topped views and a variety of frosty walks and cycle paths. Further up out of the towns there are even some well coursed mountain biking routes, ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.

New Year in a Castle

Fancy gliding along Loch Ness through the darkness and spotting beautiful Aldourie illuminated through the trees on New Years’ Eve? We can organise a cruise or speedboat ride so that you can experience just that. In fact, just about anything is possible with an exclusive use stay at Aldourie.

Some firm family favourites of previous exclusive use New Year’s house parties are archery in front of the Castle, falconry days and walking on water (or zorbing) – a great one for the kids as the minimum age is five years old. For those who want to explore the nature-filled Highlands independently during the festive season Aldourie can recommend the best walks and cycling routes but if you prefer a guide we can organise that instead.

After so much fun and activity to help bring in the New Year you can relax back at the Castle with a spa treatment or two; our favoured supplies can offer a personal service during your stay – a hot stone massage or an Indian head massage would go down a treat after a day hiking the hills of the Black Isle or taking in the rich culture of the city of Inverness. Later, whisky or wine tasting in the Library or Drawing Room could perfectly end well-rounded New Year’s Day at Aldourie Castle.

 


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.


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.


Explore the Highlands from a real Winter Wonderland on Loch Ness

A Scottish Highland Estate on Loch Ness – is it really the perfect retreat during winter months? One read of our New Year blog and you’ll be in no doubt of it. As 2016 lifts its head let us open your eyes to the mystical winter wonderland of a true Scottish Castle…

Scottish wildlife in many forms

Walk the parkland and traipse the trails of this fine 500 acre Estate in Scotland and you will soon discover fauna at every turn. From pine martens in the trees to wildfowl on the Loch the beauty of Scotland’s distinct nature unfolds before you letting you into its secret winter paradise. Photographers frequent the Estate at this time of year hoping to catch a glimpse of the Red Squirrel or a scarpering Mountain Hare if the snow has fallen from the Highland hills.Aldourie Castle Estate roe deer - Explore the Highlands

Luckily for Aldourie’s exclusive parties of guests, roe deer on the Castle Estate can be seen all year round so a winter walk on Loch Ness and through the trees could lead to a picture perfect scene – especially if the parkland is laden with a gentle covering of frost.

Woodland retreats

The secret woodlands of Aldourie are home to many surprises, some so small you may miss them – but no need to worry, if you read on all will be revealed. Right in the middle of the Castle’s arboretum lies a little haven where guests can sit together and light a campfire, toasting marshmallows and their well-clad feet whilst sipping warming spiced cider in winter. Look out for Aldourie’s very own wooden Nessie, a spectacular carving made from an old oak lying horizontally across your path.

Further into the wooded winter wonderland you’ll come across the towering tree house boasting mesmerising views across a scenic Loch Ness and Highland peaks. This is a great place for children to safely experience the great Scottish outdoors, let their imaginations run wild and we guarantee some fresh wintry air to fill their lungs.Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness treehouse Explore the Highlands

Maybe the romantics among you would like to walk the shoreline from one side of the Highland Estate to the other, finally arriving at Aldourie’s private pier that juts out into Loch Ness. Or take the adventurous route through ethereal woodland coming to a clearing where you eventually spot the peaceful marina dotted with bobbing boats that have been moored up for the winter.

Festive food and warming winter treats

Once you’ve made the most of the great outdoors here in Scotland’s mystical Highlands we invite you to sample the finest food and drink this country has to offer in the chilly, festive winter months. From succulent meats and decadent desserts to fish fresh from Loch Ness on our doorstep the Castle can make you feel as relaxed in the heights of Scotland as you would settled around your own dining table back home.Aldourie Castle Exclusive Use Afternoon Tea Explore the Highlands

Family and friends can gather around the traditional Lairds’ Room in front of a roaring fire or sit cosily together in the Red Drawing Room with seasonal meat sandwiches, local cheeses and rich cakes as part of our fine Afternoon Tea offering.

Later, wash down your daytime treats with a glass of the finest single malt whisky straight from the Highlands’ favourite distilleries.