Welcome to the second part of our Pier Cottage guests’ holiday blog. Read Part 1 of their Scottish Highlands holiday cottage adventures and discover your own Loch Ness experience.
Exploring Loch Ness
On the second morning waking up to a stunning view of Loch Ness we were compelled to experience in more depth the most famous expanse of water in the world. We drove to Fort Augustus, our starting point, via the scenic route so as to take in the spectacular and majestic sights of the Highland hills towering over lakes and forests. This was not without its own set of events, however. Just ten minutes from our destination we came to an abrupt halt; the strong winds that had taken Scotland by storm (pardon the pun) over the past few weeks had resulted in thousands of tall trees being lifted from their roots and strewn across forest floors, woodland and even roads. One absolutely huge tree seemed strategically placed across the B road we were travelling on stopping any major access. Although the van on the other side of its path was forced by logistics to turn around we decided there was just enough room to drive underneath the felled tree, and we were soon on our way again after taking some photos of this unusual sight.
Once at Fort Augustus we realised that March was a quieter time for tourists and we looked forward to a peaceful trip on the cruise boat, Nessie Hunter, to take in the wonders of Loch Ness. It just so happened a coach load of tourists turned up for the 1pm ride and we were part of a crowded but highly enjoyable boat cruise led by an expert team, who kept reminding us not to feed Nessie!
After an hour of high winds, fresh air and a good old traditional hunt for the Loch Ness Monster we ticked off another exhilarating experience in the Scottish Highlands. A boat ride on Loch Ness certainly works up an appetite so an exceptionally tasty sandwich lunch by fireside at cosy Lochside Inn was most welcome and it prepared us for a serene but steep three hour walk in the Fort Augustus hills.
Later, entering the Aldourie Estate by moonlight, we spotted three Roe deer playing in Pier Cottage garden, a wonderful sight for tired eyes and an almost magical moment as they scampered off into the trees as we approached. The warmly lit country kitchen was a welcoming tonic from the cool air outside so we settled in for the night reminiscing and planning over a romantic candlelit dinner.
A day of culture
Another day of activities ahead, after a hearty breakfast we set off to visit the historic Fort George, a large 18th Century fortress near Ardersier to the north-east of Inverness. Fort George is still in use today as army barracks and a popular visitor attraction of the Scottish Highlands. We parked up at the Fort, just across the road from the shoreline, with the roaring tides even late morning crashing up the stone walls below. This wind was incredible! We enjoyed a few hours here experiencing the recreations and exhibits before heading to Glen Ord Distillery for a whisky tour and a few tastes of the Highlands’ famous malt.
So, we travelled to the west of the Black Isle through bracing winds but with a beautiful blue sky above. The tour was interesting, starting in the visitor centre then heading in and out of large spaces to see the distilling process step by step; we had been on two whisky tours before but Glen Ord was the most insightful; the tour even taught us about cooperage, the making of the whisky barrels, and the profession of a cooper. After the detailed tour we had a whisky tasting of a 12, a 15 and 18 year old whiskies, which warmed our cockles and sent us on our way to our final destination, Beauly.
Beauly, meaning “beautiful place” is a Scottish town in Inverness-shire. It’s quite a small town but perfectly formed and there we enjoyed a delicious deli coffee and a walk around the picturesque Beauly Priory ruins. Later that evening, it was back to Dores Inn for a fish dinner and some local beer.
At one with nature
On our final morning we took Aldourie Castle’s pet dog, Loch Ness Lizzie, for a walk in the Castle grounds. Lizzie leading the way we explored the Estate more thoroughly, starting in the forest-thick arboretum she climbed up the treehouse, swam in Loch Ness and showed us the family graveyard. We then ran across the parkland to the marina and back to the greenhouses where Sarah the gardener was hard at work putting into place plans to create a new look for the gardens. From fruit trees to rose arches and topiary lined paths to tending clusters of snow drops and developing a mini orchard, there were big plans afoot for Aldourie’s gardens. Lizzie tried to help but really only managed to make a mess. Sarah, patting her gently, was evidently used to her regular (possibly daily) contributing efforts in the garden and seemed unfazed by the soil that came flying her way as Loch Ness Lizzie tried to bury her stick.
We spotted Garden Cottage peeking through the trees and as we walked back to our own private Highlands hideaway to get ready to go home we passed Gate Lodge on the corner, which had an impressive view of Aldourie Castle in all its glory. We hoped the guests staying in each had enjoyed as wonderful a holiday in the Scottish Highlands as we had and experienced their own Aldourie cottage adventure.