How to enjoy the great outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Wildlife spotting

Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Hide and Seek in the arboretum

Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found.  If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!

Play make –believe in the tree house

The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens

Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.

Get close to nature in the parkland

We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.

Beach walks on Loch Ness

Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

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

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

Walking or cycling tours

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

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own. This varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland.

Experience the utter joy of viewing spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

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

The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

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

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is. From the moment you enter the door you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop.

The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one. Whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, you will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

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

We look forward to posting our second installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.


Top 10 family attractions in Inverness

At Aldourie Estate in Scotland we welcome guests to stay in its beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Our holiday cottage guests stay for different types of short breaks. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm. Others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another. Because after all, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it? In this blog we have listed for your perusal the top 10 family attractions in Inverness.

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

River Ness

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

Fort George

Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Fort George is cleverly laid out for visitors to experience it fully. Tourists can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. The fort is possibly the most historically relevant family attractions in Inverness. Be prepared to be transported back to the year 1727 crossing the drawbridge and wandering around the ancient fort. Then watch out for the intense sudden winds as you cross over the wide killing ground.  Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.Inverness Botanic Gardens family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Botanic Gardens

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

Ship Space

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

ship space family attractions in Inverness

The Highlanders’ Museum

Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.

highlanders museum family attractions in Inverness

Eden Court Theatre

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

Greig Street Bridge

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

Inverness Cathedral

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

The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre

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

Old High St Stephen’s Church

Aesthetically different from the cathedral the ancient stonework and bonny pointed turrets make this church a favoured tourist attraction. One of the oldest family attractions in Inverness, Old High has been in use since Celtic times.  Inside, leaflets provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. The church is a convenient cultural add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.

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

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


Top tips 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 is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s Loch Ness. It really is the most peaceful and beautiful region. All the more when it comes complete with a private hire castle and four traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages.

We guide you to the best place to visit for a cup of hot chocolate, 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

Explore the Isle of Skye

As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland. 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. Make the most of local knowledge and put your time to good use. In your ‘top five’ places to see we suggest you include the tranquil and mesmerising Isle of Skye.

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

Sights to make memories

Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs. Don’t forget 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 you’d be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Isle of Skye has fantastic colours that you can capture either with a camera and simply in memory. These sights 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

Get up close to Loch Lomond

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

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.

A wintry setting

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. These 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. Or take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. And, of course, don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

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 overlook your holiday location. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and so we invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness. Sail its vast open water and search for the legendary Monster. Or get up close and personal to the exclusive use property. 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. Some of the most famous whisky distilleries are based here – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness. There are also exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks on your doorstep. The heart of Scotland’s culture is within serious striking distance. Are you planning to visit the Highlands to relax during January or February? We at Aldourie can suggest an 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 shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.

Quaint tourist towns

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. Encounter a real feel of Scotland with a traditional Highland pipe band and quaint row of touristy shops. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truly 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. This quaint little place is itself an extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate. So 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 housing 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. And especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands and a moonlit Loch Ness.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

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

hogmanay-edinburgh

Definition of Hogmanay and its origins

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

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

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

How the big Scottish cities do it

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

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

The importance of Hogmanay to the Scottish people

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

Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year

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

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

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

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Castle

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


Christmas & New Year stays in Scotland

Why not make Christmas 2016 the year you decide to do something different? But don’t 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. 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. Book 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.

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. 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 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.


Multi-generational Castle family stays in Scotland: PART 1

Imagine a spring break or half term holiday where your kids will never once be bored. Imagine an exclusive use Castle on the shores of famous Loch Ness. Here we host exclusive luxury family stays and endless things to do for young and older guests; from toddlers to great-grandparents there are endless things to do in a Castle with acres of flat Highland grounds.Aldourie Castle Scotland parkland Castle Family Stays

An exclusive use stay at a large Estate such as Aldourie Castle means not only living in the private property as your own home for a weekend or longer, it also offers opportunities you may not come across with other types of holiday rentals in Scotland. One such opportunity to take advantage of here is the vast choice of activities available for both adults and children, within and off the Castle grounds, helping to vary your house party experience and make the decision to choose to book a multi-generational holiday an easy one.

Aldourie Castle has links with some of the finest distilleries in the Scottish Highlands and can arrange tours to close by favourites or offer personal whisky tasting here in the distinct and authentic environment of the Castle. Pass an evening sipping the favoured Scottish tipple in the Library whilst other members of your family enjoy a game of Billiards or take a walk to the marina.canoeing loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate Castle Family Stays

Loch Ness is not just a pretty picture seen from dozens of windows at Aldourie; it’s also an opportunity for kids and adults alike to experience endless adventure. From romantic boat rides to whizzing past the Castle in a speedboat to cruises with the whole family taking in the surrounding sights. The adventurous among you might wish to book the Nessie Hunter for a day trip on Loch Ness to go down in family history. Children also have the vast loch at their disposal for endless water sports, with canoe trips and zorbing ever more popular ways to enjoy Loch Ness.

Children can enjoy the Estate as their own playground, making their own fun with adventures through private woodland, clambering around the recently revamped Aldourie tree house and playing hide and seek in the old family graveyard.highland games aldourie estate Castle Family Stays

Adults- fear not: there is so much for you to do here on an idyllic and peaceful historic Estate in the Scottish Highlands besides daydreaming from your four-poster bedroom window and admiring the view…

Ever wanted to host your own Highland Games day? Maybe it’s never occurred to you before but once you make your way through these large Castle gates you will suddenly want to try it; believe us. Highland Games activities in front of the Castle and on the loch banks make for a perfect family day outside in Scotland and an opportunity to get involved in the Scottish culture right on your doorstep.loch ness lizzie aldourie castle dog Castle Family Stays

If you’ve never attempted archery on a hen or stag party weekend or even for a corporate activity teambuilding day, during your exclusive luxury stay in this private Castle is the ideal time to experience the Scottish sport. Archery in the parkland at Aldourie has been tried and tested for years by many a party of guests and corporate clients. Why not make it a light-hearted competition between family members – grown-ups V kids! With a striking Highland backdrop to boot and lots of fresh Scottish air this fun-packed activity on our Loch Ness Estate is a brilliant opportunity to spend time outdoors during a family holiday in Scotland.

If you truly want to experience the Highlands of Scotland then there is no other outdoor sport more countrified than clay pigeon shooting. You can shoot anywhere on the Aldourie Estate with clays making this a really independent sport with the bonus of a stunning countryside backdrop.clay pigeon shooting aldourie estate scotland Castle Family Stays

Get the country sports lovers of the family together for a spot of shooting on the Scottish Estate; take a wicker hamper filled with champagne and sandwiches and a couple of dogs to complete the look. Aldourie Castle’s very own Loch Ness Lizzie is always happy to lend a hand – any excuse for a run around the 500 acre grounds in a Harris Tweed flat cap!

The real benefit of taking over an exclusive use castle or other property in Scotland as your own home is the fact that the grounds surrounding the private hire accommodation are at the disposal of you and your family during private house party stays or celebrations. No imagination is too wild, no demand too extreme. One of the best ways to experience Aldourie is through its wildlife which exclusive use guests and cottage guests alike will find throughout the Highlands Estate; from arboretum to the woods and of course, the beautiful formal gardens.falconry day aldourie castle estate Castle Family Stays

Why not let us bring in some outside wildlife from the Scottish Highlands and have a falconry day with the kids? The birds of prey feel so at home in the Castle grounds that they can be incredibly well-behaved during this unusual pre-arranged luxury holiday activity creating endless photo opportunities you wouldn’t get anywhere else in Scotland. If that isn’t reason enough to try a multi-generational family holiday in the Scottish Highlands, we don’t know what is…

Look out for our next blog post which includes more outdoor activities to be enjoyed by all the family in the private grounds of the only habitable Castle on Loch Ness.