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, and consider spending New Year in a castle at Aldourie Estate.

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 occurred 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 activities mainly 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 spend New Year in a castle and 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 spend New Year in a castle by celebrating 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.

We really can’t think of a better way to celebrate and immerse yourself in full Hogmanay spirit than by spending New Year in a castle on the shores of Loch Ness.


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

Why not make this Christmas the year you decide to do something different? But don’t wait until the New Year to make your resolutions! Set a date now, hire a castle for Christmas 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. It continues 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. Hire a castle for Christmas by booking a luxurious exclusive use stay or a self-catered stay 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 can enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all. Simply book a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage. They are both the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties. But it’s also a time for 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 this can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.

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. In the latter you will find deliciously 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. These are ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.

Hire a Castle for Christmas

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 when you hire a castle for Christmas and New Year.

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 celebrate Christmas and 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. But the problem is that 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). You also need 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. You are also struggling to allocate everybody a room for the night. Many exclusive use properties or luxury destinations in Scotland are converted stately homes or mansion houses. The trouble is they have a small number of bedrooms (usually the original bedrooms of the house). So the property itself is too small for your family stay. A hotel, although it has plenty of space and many guest rooms, does not have the exclusivity ultimately required.

Choosing an historic Estate is the best option because there are usually other properties within the grounds that guests can stay in. For instance, the four traditional holiday cottages on the Aldourie Estate. You can spread your family group out across the entire grounds, where each cottage is within easy walking distance of the Castle. As a result, your bigger party (up to 50 guests at Aldourie) can be accommodated.
Garden Cottage Loch Ness

Another benefit of stay in the Castle and cottages: you have 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. Guests don’t have to decide which of these holiday types they prefer when taking over the whole Estate. Both are there for the taking to enjoy whenever they please.

Some mornings you might want a complete five star service at your disposal. And also 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. Later, take 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 artefacts. 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 heartwarmingly 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 Dalmore 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 Dalmore 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 Loch Ness. That famous stretch of water that makes up part of the captivating view from the luxury of Aldourie Castle. This second instalment continues your peaceful, always scenic and sometimes adventurous journey. As a group of guests at Aldourie, you’ll 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 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 Usually performed on flat ground in a large transparent ball 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 than bumping into Nessie would do too. The team at Aldourie Castle are always here however 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.

Fishing on Loch Ness

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.


How to make the most of the Scottish Highlands this winter

A week staying in a holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands over winter can certainly warm the soul – and that’s without feeding the wood-burning stove with a healthy supply of logs. Managing 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, we think deems us experienced enough to advise on how to truly make the most of your short break in Scotland’s most mystical region.

From the best places to visit for a cup of hot chocolate to the finest whisky distilleries and the most exhilarating walks and breath-taking landscapes, read on for some of the Highlands’ most favourite highlights in the most visited locations.ALLT DEARG COTTAGE NEAR SLIGACHAN, Scottish Highlands

Isle of Skye

As with any beautiful and popular holiday destination, your holiday in magical Scotland is precious so before sinking into a deep hot bath or curling up on the sofa with a series of Highland folklore, be sure to put your time to good use. We suggest your first port of call is the remote and bewitching Isle of Skye.

This part of Scotland is a perfect trip to allow you to experience the most beautiful views of the Highlands and Skye is accessible from the character-filled holiday cottages on the Aldourie Castle Estate. Known for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages, we advise jumping in the car early morning to make the most of the three hour journey up there.

Walk the coastline of peninsulas and narrow lochs stopping to admire Skye’s dramatic mountains and wild, cascading waterfalls. During winter you would expect to come across Highland cattle between snow-capped peaks and on crisp, clear days you can see all the way across to the Outer Hebrides. Some of the colours in the Isle of Skye are almost ethereal but you’ll be brought back to reality among the pastel-coloured houses of Portree where you can find a host of traditional pubs to choose from and a handful of lovely clothes and gift boutiques.PORTREE SKYE, INNER HEBRIDES PIC Scottish Highlands

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 dedicated folk song, castles and golf its central location crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sport fans, hikers and for setting up camp for winter short breaks in Scotland. Snow-capped peaks in the colder months have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal and its sheltered forests have inspired many artists.

In winter, the cloudless bright blue skies reflect onto a pristine water. Whether you’re into challenging hikes or simple scenic trails there’s a winter walk perfect for you and your family or group. Try any of the walks on the east or southern sides including Drymen and Balmaha for their striking views and the frost-bitten remains of summer’s bountiful nature. Listen out for the characteristic call of the winter geese flying overhead in Trossachs National Park and take a trip to Stirling and Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. While you’re there pop into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

Be sure to experience Loch Lomond’s lively city life, great food and drink scene and dip in and out of its many creative villages. We recommend a trip to Luss, a traditional conservation village whose steeple church and bridges look idyllic in winter.Ullapool and loch broom with the mountain of beinn ghobhlach in the distance. North west highlands.

Loch Ness

Not forgetting our own home in the Scottish Highlands, we invite you to explore the best of Loch Ness from its vast waters and the legendary Nessie to the very shoreline of Aldourie Castle Estate…

Its monstrous size and mythical 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 exciting boat tours and picturesque woodland walks, the heart of Scotland’s culture is at your fingertips. If you’ve come to the Highlands to relax, mooch around and get into the festive Christmas spirit there are numerous quaint towns boasting cosy tearooms, fancy restaurants and gorgeous interior shops all awaiting your visit with a friendly face.

Beauly, meaning ‘beautiful place’ is just a 20 minute drive from any of the Scottish holiday cottages on Aldourie Castle Estate. With a dedicated performing pipe band and row of central shops Christmas shopping is a real experience here. Take a well-earned break at Corner on the Square for a gourmet sandwich and slice of delicious homemade cake then walk it off and get some fresh air around the pretty Priory ruins.Beauly_priory_south_side_29042008

The best boat cruises on Loch Ness can be found at Fort William, a scenic drive away from our Scottish Highland Estate, as can the most enchanting winter walks leading into complete wilderness. Dores Inn, an Aldourie Castle personal favourite, is ideally located for our holiday cottage guests visiting Loch Ness and serves authentic Scottish food in traditional surroundings, along with a complimentary shuttle ride home. After a few glasses of your festive tipple, you may just need one!

Back at base, Aldourie Estate features 500 acres of private parkland, woodland and gardens, all ideal for taking advantage of the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Staying in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness allows you to walk the Aldourie Estate at your leisure during the winter months, letting you stop and admire the flora and fauna that make the Highlands such a popular choice for tourists.

For information on our Winter Special Short Breaks offer on Loch Ness, please click here.