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. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. 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. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.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.


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.


What to do on a rainy day at Aldourie Castle

It may seem a little absurd to print a blog post so focussed on rainy weather during a week on Loch Ness when there has been so much sun. But you must never take a sunny day in the Scottish Highlands for granted and always prepare for the best things to do in the rain. We don’t mean to dampen your spirits, however, so read on for Aldourie’s top tips on how best to enjoy a castle holiday when the weather turns…tree house aldourie castle estate scotland

Early morning

Wake up to a warming Scottish breakfast enjoyed in front of the burning fireside of the Lairds Room. There’s no better way to prepare for the chill of a rainy day than with a heart-warming plate of good traditional food.

Exclusive use holidays are best enjoyed when the whole family gets together for breakfast, still in their pyjamas and slippers with sleep in their eyes. After all, what use is a private hire property if you are not as relaxed as you would be in your own home? Finish off with a steaming cup of coffee before dressing for the outdoors – layers of clothing (because walking can make you warm) and preferably waterproofs.

Mid-morning

Pick out some Hunters from the Castle’s welly room, grab Loch Ness Lizzie from the Aldourie office and head out into the parkland with a large golf brolly. Walking is the best way to see Aldourie Estate, in fact any Highlands estate, in anything from a meek little drizzle to a full on downpour.welly room aldourie castle

The arboretum just next to the Castle which groups of guests can literally tumble into is where you will find the treehouse hidden amongst the treetops as you walk along the Loch Ness shoreline. The Aldourie family graveyard is a sight to behold in the rain, if a little spooky, and multigenerational family house party stays at Aldourie during Halloween usually squeeze in a visit or two. The tombstones and original triptych engravings are enough to get you into the spirit of the setting. Be warned: if Loch Ness Lizzie is still with you by this point she may try to find a comfy spot in the long grass so it could be best to let her catch you up.

Our beautiful newly renovated greenhouses provide scenic relief from the rain and let you enjoy the raindrop sounds up above as you absorb some heat as well as the scents of fresh salads and vegetables.

Lunchtime

Come lunch time on the Estate we recommend that you and your private party of guests savour some of Aldourie Castle’s delicious Scottish cuisine once again. Our fresh scallops from Applecross have been known to bring sunshine to the wettest of days in the Castle, whilst our roasted loin of Speyside lamb or fillet of Highland beef lets you succumb to the most treacherous weather and indulge in the sheer cosiness a traditional hearty dish can bring.Aldourie Castle, Fine Dining Scotland

Afterwards a variety of fresh fruit juices, if the rainy weather and full tummy have made you weary, are just the thing to pep you up for another jaunt around Aldourie’s 500 acre grounds.

Mid-afternoon

Burn off your lunch with a walk through the woodland or even a spot of cycling if the ground isn’t too muddy. Go to the very edge of the Castle’s private pier for some magnificent views as you gaze across to the Highland hills over Loch Ness.

Do you fancy water sports in the rain? No, neither do we. But a boat ride when you’re covered from top to toe in waterproofs and protected well from the unflappable Scottish elements can be a real thrill. Let us book you an hour with Cruise Loch Ness on the Nessie Hunter and experience adventure whilst distracting the kids from the rainy weather.

All that water will have you yearning for a hot pot of tea and some cream cakes – Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room with the fire and a good book, anyone?cruise loch ness boat aldourie castle scotland

Dinnertime

One of the best ways to warm up after a rainy day is to have a long soak in a roll top bath with a hot chocolate on the side. Take your time getting ready in your luxury bedroom and re-join your party in front of the Aldourie Library’s real wood fire for a pre-dinner catch up on the day’s events.

Afterwards, sit for dinner around the long table in the atmospheric Dining Room to enjoy chef’s choice of Scottish cuisine accompanied by a glass of the finest red wine from the Castle cellar.

Evening

Spend a while in the Games Room for a spot of billiards or a couple of traditional board games or let Aldourie’s hospitality manager organise a whisky or wine tasting in the Red Drawing Room. Either of these are such cosy, indulgent indoor holiday activities for when a storm hits Loch Ness.view loch ness aldourie castle window

Help yourself to your favourite drink – sherry or port will keep the chill away – and take a moment to gaze out of the large windows of Aldourie. Why not take in the portraits in the Main Hall, stop midway up a spiral staircase or relax on a window seat along the luxurious corridor upstairs to watch and listen to the rain pitter patter against the glass and drop into the Loch. You could even take a journey up to a turreted balcony and feel the refreshing rain on your skin – after all, if you can’t sing and dance in the rain during a stay in a stately Scottish castle, when can you?


Top 5 places of interest around Inverness and Aldourie

The Scottish Highlands is swarming with things to do at any time of year. With so many day trips and activities available to you and your group or family stay on Loch Ness we understand it can be difficult to decide what to arrange to do or visit during your weekend or week at Aldourie. We think that packing your suitcase is the most you should have to work at when taking a luxury holiday to Scotland and so, if you were our guests staying for a while, we’d be suggesting you experience all or some of the below to get a real taste of the Highlands. And we can arrange every last detail.cawdor Inverness

Cawdor Castle

Located in Nairn (so around a 30 minute drive from Inverness) and a fun, cultural day out, Cawdor Castle is a beautiful place and one of the many historical delights of Scotland. The 14th Century Castle is open to the public and hosts a number of public events throughout the year including the Living Food Weekend on the 17th and 18th of September combining local food and drink stalls with art and craft. The Estate has a magical ambiance with a Hogwarts appeal. Its formal gardens, including a maze and walled garden, are a stunning array of wild and traditional flora where keen gardeners will find both enjoyment and inspiration.

Home to the Cawdor family to this day, the Castle is not unlike Aldourie with its neat little turrets and lush green backdrop, within; its homeliness and attention to detail. Wander through its beautifully ordained and decadent bedrooms admiring family portraits and heirlooms and look out for the family dogs lazing together in a cosy spot. Pause for a moment on the steps on your way to the Great Hall surrounded by high stone walls, arched doorways and original glassless windows to really feel the history of this Scottish Castle home.Jacobite memorial Inverness

Culloden Battlefield

You have not visited Inverness without a trip to Culloden Battlefield. Let yourself be transported back 250 years when the European War hit Scotland for a one hour battle that changed the fate of the Highlands forever. Culloden is a short break or holiday must-see attraction where infamous Scottish clans fought to reclaim the British throne; where much blood was shed and many stories over the years have been derived.

The location is unique and beholds an immense amount of history; both in its atmosphere and its artifacts. The land you will walk over features ‘graves of the clans’ and ‘the well of the dead’ so be sure to head home to Aldourie before midnight so as not to let Culloden interfere with your fairytale dreams. Roam from the original farmhouse that survived the battle – Old Leanach Cottage – to the contemporary Visitor Centre with exhibitions including immersion theatre and audio visual, which re-enact elements of the famous battle before your very eyes.

The above are just two of the great sights of the Scottish Highlands, all within shooting distance of Aldourie Castle. And where better to head back to than an exclusive use historic Castle to enjoy all to yourself after visiting such dramatic, significant and luxurious locations. Fancy a night cap? …because you haven’t truly appreciated the wild Highlands of Scotland until you’ve sipped a dram or two of Highland whisky. Here are a few of Aldourie’s favourite distilleries so, by all means, take your pick…dram of whisky Aldourie Castle Inverness

Visiting a whisky distillery in Scotland, whether you’re just dropping in on the way back from a famous Scottish landmark or have booked in advance, is an experience to savour. Walking through the shop door you’re greeted like an old friend and there is a scent of nostalgia as you are enveloped by warmth; both from the air and the welcome. The reason? Maybe it’s the love and patriarchy that goes into the whisky making process. Or it could be the endless competition…

Step inside most distilleries open to the public for tastings and tours and you’ll find a cosy and beautifully displayed shop; a shrine to their brand. Neatly presented staff in matching uniform and numerous gift items related to the product – perfect for a grandparent present if you haven’t yet come across a decent magnet – greet each and every guest.  There are so many small and independent traditional distilleries that there’s no room for complacency – you could literally go from door to door on a cold winter’s day in the Highlands and experience something heart-warmingly different at each one.

Tomatin Whisky Distillery

Let’s start off with Tomatin – a single malt Scotch whisky distillery established in 1897. This one is great for the kids as their tour guides keep the information clear and informative. Efficiently run and ideal for the whisky novice this distillery just a short drive from Aldourie Castle offers a succinct and easy to understand introduction to Scotch whisky. Likewise, there is enough knowledge thrown in for the experienced whisky lover.whisky distillery Inverness

Muir of Ord Distillery

With a remarkable family history dating back to 1263 and a distillery that helped ensure work for the local men throughout the 19th Century, Glen Ord Distillery is tradition at its best. Educational and helpful the whisky tours cover a wealth of information and knowledge, and are delivered with a passion for the brand and a dedication to its past. Weave through the working machinery to really feel involved in this historical malt.

Dalmore Distillery

Situated 20 miles north of Inverness Dalemore combines a legendary past with a most picturesque landscape from a beautiful original stone built property. Is it any wonder Aldourie recommends this whisky distillery to guests? A creation of one man’s dream the whisky’s unique taste is owed to its unique natural setting. During your visit enjoy views over the Black Isle meadows whilst learning of the regal history of The Dalemore and tasting its characterful collections.

From mashing to fermenting to distilling, all our recommended whisky tasting tours offer something unique and entirely Scottish. These makers are proud of their distinct product, their handmade single malts, state of the art machinery and in-depth processes, culminating in the purest dram.Loch Ness Inverness

Now that you know Aldourie has all bases covered (not least your fine Scottish drink sampling) for a Castle retreat on Loch Ness, you’ve little else to do but pack your suitcase and book that culture-filled holiday of your dreams. Why not make yours a Christmas or New Years’ 2016 holiday in the atmospheric Scottish Highlands.


Holiday activities on Loch Ness: Part 2

Part 1; ‘Holiday activities on Loch Ness’ explored the various ways in which to take advantage of the famous stretch of water that makes up part of the captivating view from your luxury home for the holidays,  Aldourie Castle in Scotland. This second instalment continues your peaceful, always scenic and sometimes adventurous journey when you decide, as a group of guests at Aldourie, to utilise the unique and beautiful Scottish natural landscape that is – very literally – on your doorstep.

Work colleagues: unique teambuilding activities spark innovation

When did you last review your teambuilding calendar? Do you go back year on year to the same hotel for your teambuilding experience with your company or work colleagues? Here are two activities you can enjoy with team members on Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, both of which offer a completely unique experience of Loch Ness but let you enter into the spirit of teamwork, competition and fun all at the same time.Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Have you ever zorbed on water? Water zorbing is a (fairly) recent craze to hit the Highlands that involves walking on water (yes, you read correctly) in the safety – and dare we say, comfort – of a huge transparent ball.  Usually performed on flat ground but sometimes on a slope zorbing lets the rider experience the freedom of weightlessness and speed, igniting their confidence and letting them embrace their inner child.

They say do one thing a day that scares you. If the idea of zorbing on Loch Ness gives you more goose bumps then bumping into Nessie would do, the team at Aldourie Castle will be there to encourage and support. If, on the other hand this teambuilding sport in the Scottish Highlands sounds like a lot of fun then please don’t hesitate to book your company activity day at this Scottish Castle Estate – we welcome corporate groups at any time of year.

If the idea of canoeing with colleagues leaves you a little out of your depth then an exclusive stay at the only liveable castle on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland may give you a different perspective. It is during private hire corporate teambuilding stays that groups of colleagues learn how to be a team and enjoy it at the same time rather than feeling as though they’ve been dragged along to another activity day in another location that offers nothing different from the last. Locations like Aldourie Estate in the Scottish Highlands bring corporate teambuilding to a new level. Step into a canoe from our private pier and within moments you’ll be learning a new skill whilst witnessing one of the world’s most captivating areas of natural beauty.Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Individuals – time to yourself is important in a busy world

When you think of activities you can enjoy in Scotland what springs to mind? Walking. Trekking. Cycling. What about swimming? Where there’s a highland hill there’s likely to be a loch down below so swimming should be just as popular as walking, right? Perhaps not in the Scottish Highlands. The weather plays a huge part; walking is a traditional highly enjoyable hobby during every season whereas swimming is mostly partaken in the warmer, summer months.

You’ve dived in at the deep end by booking to stay at a spectacular and unique exclusive use property so this is the ideal opportunity to experience a breath-taking activity that not everybody has tried. Wild swimming lets you explore secret coves, hidden waterfalls and, whilst you’re in the vicinity of Aldourie Castle, majestic lochs. Let go of stress, breathe in that fresh Highland air (it’s good for you, honest) and be at one with nature; all before breakfast.

Experience fishing on Loch Ness when you stay with family or friends or even entirely on your own at the only castle with bedrooms on this long, wondrous shoreline. If you’ve never taken yourself off to the nearest waterway with a packed lunch, a rucksack of maggots and a rod then there’s no better time to do just that than during an exclusive use stay in a Scottish Castle. Likewise, experienced anglers will not be held back when they have the most picturesque paradise at their fingertips.Fishing - Loch Ness Holiday Activities

Whether you’re holidaying with friends or part of a multigenerational family holiday, escaping the group for a while and taking some “me time” to go fishing on Loch Ness can be rewarding in more ways than you think. Not only can you catch your own dinner (why not ask Aldourie’s chef will gladly make a creative dish out of your day’s catch) but you will soon discover the pleasure of your own company out in the wilderness of the Highlands. Though the Loch Ness shoreline is only minutes from the luxurious and homely Castle the freedom is all-consuming and the air as fresh as the water itself.

Just a canoe and you for complete solitude

Ever had that dream where you’re out on your own in the middle of a calm ocean with nothing but water for miles and miles? How does it make you feel? Alone? Frightened? Free? There’s an activity you can experience on Loch Ness that could definitely be described as dreamlike; canoeing on your own. When there’s no one to chat to then there’s no distraction. Out in the middle of Loch Ness you can hear yourself think and breathe and give attention to the beautiful Highland landscape that, though thoroughly enjoyable with others by your side, becomes majestic in its power to transport you to another world; Scotland’s very own Narnia or a dreamlike state of mind.Canoeing Loch Ness Holiday Activities

It’s fair to say that there is a never-ending list of activities to enjoy on the famous stretch of fresh water that glides passed Aldourie’s drawing room window, any moment of every day. From group fun to secluded soul searching and romantic jaunts, water can make a luxury holiday even more exciting and exclusive. Just think of the special photos you’ll capture and the fresh air in your lungs if you need any more persuading, although after reading these two blog posts we’re sure you won’t require any  further convincing to set sail on your own Loch Ness adventure in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.


Activities on Loch Ness Part 1: From family fun to some alone time

What’s so special about Loch Ness? The lure of water itself, the freedom of its restless current? Or could it be its transient beauty? It’s a place where not one moment will ever be the same. Loch Ness is always on the move ready to embrace its next adventure, yet it retains a stillness that can calm troubled or wandering minds. Holiday on Loch Ness and feel your stresses float away. If you read on you will find out that there are many ways to achieve this other than meditating on a raft. Though, we could definitely arrange that for you.Aldourie Castle estate view over Loch Ness Activities on Loch Ness

You could be part of a family reunion, a multi-generational holiday party, or a group of friends sharing the same interests such as golf, cycling or walking. Or simply wanting to go it alone and hire a Castle on Loch Ness for the inspiration to write your novel, complete your portfolio of landscape paintings or take some time out from a hectic work schedule. Whatever your reasons for coming to stay here in a beautiful Castle on the shoreline of the majestic Loch Ness, the great Scottish outdoors beholds something for everyone.

Take a look; it’s a simple picture and yet the opportunities for fun, experience and adventure are endless. We just advise that you pack your imagination when coming to stay at Aldourie but should there simply not be enough room in your suitcase our creative hospitality team will always be on hand to recommend a host of activities.

Families: ensure your exclusive use holiday includes quality time

There are many reasons why a family would choose to visit the famous Loch Ness with all its diversions and areas of interest, its history and mesmerising beauty. Not to mention the excitement for children visiting the home of folklore celebrity, Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. After a leisurely morning taking breakfast at the Castle during your exclusive use stay with us let Aldourie’s team book you a cruise on Loch Ness that will take you up close to some of the Scottish Highlands most historic, cultural and wondrous landmarks.Jacobite cruises loch ness-1 Activities on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle is a must-see during your family trip on Loch Ness. Take your boat for up to 12 people from the private Aldourie pier on the exclusive Highlands Estate and spend a couple of hours admiring the views, learning Scotland’s most fascinating history and enjoy a spot of lunch en route.

Venture forth and stop off at the Moray Firth, one of the most important places on the U.K. coast for observing dolphins and whales. Given a nod to its scenic brilliance the coastline has been voted one of the most picturesque by National Geographic. With direct tours available from Inverness just a few miles down the road from Aldourie Castle, don’t miss out on a family experience in Scotland that will leave you speechless and clutching the camera in order to capture the next incredible sighting. The most common species are the Bottlenose Dolphin and the Harbour Porpoise with occasional sightings of Common dolphin and Minke Whale.

Friends: do something different for years of reminiscing

When groups of friends come to stay at Aldourie in the stunning Scottish Highland landscape they not only marvel at the views from their luxurious bedrooms and get swept away by the fresh air taking tea on the terrace. Friends holidaying in Scotland want to get involved in their surroundings and experience something together that will make for lasting memories. The Nessie Hunter is definitely a trip on Loch Ness we highly recommend to any group stay at the private Scottish Castle. Be led astray by the expert hunters on your personal speed boat and follow the lure of the waves to try to catch a glimpse of the iconic Monster. Be part of Aldourie’s fairytale and let your imagination take you into the heart of Loch Ness.The Deborah Leah Cruise Activities on Loch Ness

If during the week your group is hoping for something a little more relaxed, you can take a rowing boat from the Aldourie marina (the hospitality team at the Castle will be happy to arrange this for you) and wade out in smaller groups from the private pier on the Highland Estate. Experience Loch Ness and its many scenes from the comfort and joy or your own personal space and take in the hilly surroundings in your own good time.

We’ll let all this information on Loch Ness sink in whilst you take time to plan your next family holiday or group stay with friends in the Scottish Highlands until Aldourie’s next blog post. This second instalment will feature even more fun activities to experience on the most famous stretch of water in the world.


A dog’s role on a Scottish Castle Estate

It really is ‘a dog’s life’ when home is a Castle in the Scottish Highlands. Let’s find out what this Castle dog’s daily routine is really like. After all, all play and no work makes Loch Ness Lizzie a restless pooch – and we wouldn’t want that…

Watching for guests’ arrival
One of Lizzie’s very first jobs after she wakes up in the morning is to go out to the main gate of Aldourie Estate and wait for the day’s guests to arrive. This could be an exclusive use family house party who are taking over the Castle as their own home for a week, some corporate guests coming to set up a business meeting or even a group of cyclists who have booked one of the four holiday cottages on Loch Ness for a cycling weekend.At the main gate Scottish Castle Estate

Meet and greet
Once she has clocked their arrival Lizzie is highly trained at directing the cars and bikes to their allocated ‘home’ and helping Aldourie’s guests settle in. The experienced pooch tends to take the short cut across the lawns whilst private groups of families and friends staying at the Castle stick to the main drive so as not to lose their way – and make more of a grand entrance. They soon realise however that being met and greeted at the Castle or Aldourie cottages is a very informal process and that, despite the grandeur of this historic Highland Estate, guests are made to feel right at home at Aldourie straight away.

Fetching and carrying
It’s a busy life for a Castle Dog; no sooner has Lizzie shown our new arrivals to the impressive Castle door or down the garden path into their idyllic Highland cottage on Loch Ness then it’s time to grab their luggage and take it inside. If the Castle guests are part of a group booking where bedrooms have been pre-designated Lizzie consults her trusty list and makes sure that each suitcase is dropped off in the correct bedroom. (Of course, sometimes nature intervenes, and the highly clever retriever forgets what she was going to pick up and opts for the nearest stick).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots Scottish Castle Estate

Making sure guests are settling in
So, you’ve arrived at your luxury holiday destination in beautiful Scotland and unpacked all your belongings needed for a short break in the Highlands or a week long house party celebration in a Castle with family and friends. If you’re staying in one of the tranquil holiday cottages on the quiet Estate you’ve no doubt made a cup of steaming coffee from the coffee machine and sat down in front of the fire ready to plan your short break.

If you’re staying in the Castle overlooking the majestic Scottish Highlands and magical Loch Ness waters you’ve likely requested a bottle of champagne and are currently enjoying bathing in your roll top bath whilst admiring the scenic outdoor views from your en suite window. Then there’s a tap at the door. It’s only Lizzie with her courtesy call to make sure you and your party of guests have settled in well enough and to check whether you need anything. Bless her furry paws.

In charge of ‘fun’ and games
Here’s another example of Lizzie getting distracted and not completing her previous job before starting a new one. Being responsible for organising the fun activities both on and off the Highland Estate, either inside or outside the Castle, is something Lizzie takes a great deal of pride in. Liaising with Aldourie’s trusted suppliers in order to arrange unique and exciting activities such as archery in the grounds or a boat ride on Loch Ness for guests to enjoy is no mean feat. (No, Lizzie, that’s ‘mean feat’ not ‘meat treat’ – you can have one of those later. When you finish all your jobs).Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness Boots n Paddles Scottish Castle Estate

Organising Highland walks
One of the most popular and enjoyable ways to spend your time on the Aldourie Estate in Scotland is to borrow a pair of Hunters wellies from the Castle and take an adventure through the lush woodland. With 500 acres to explore no route you take will ever be the same in this unique place near Inverness. Some of our parties of guests who take exclusive use of Aldourie Castle are happy to get lost in the arboretum stumbling across the wooden Nessie and ambling along to the private marina to gaze out across the mesmerising Loch. Other like to have a structured route and know exactly what time they are going to return to their dwelling for dinner. That’s when we ask Lizzie to lend a hand and act as tour guide showing people the short cuts and most scenic spots making sure to incorporate a trip to the tree house, family graveyard and pretty gardens.Near Pier cottage spotting wildlfe Scottish Castle Estate

Maintaining the grounds and gardens
Speaking of the gardens at Aldourie, there is much to maintain that sometimes our gardeners need a bit of support to do the manual jobs whilst they concentrate on landscaping and making each area functional and pretty – or both.

Lizzie is always ready with her outdoorsy nature to jump on the lawnmower and take an hour out of her otherwise busy schedule to keep the Aldourie grounds in good shape. She particularly likes this job because the weather has to be dry so she tends to get a clear view of Aldourie Castle; her favourite place in the world…


What lies within; Aldourie grounds and gardens uncovered

Garden Bedroom inside Aldourie Castle seems to hint at the outdoor enchantment of this exclusive use rental property on the shores of Loch Ness. Its pastel coloured walls are peppered with delicate floral pattern camouflaging the hidden door to an adjoining daffodil-yellow bathroom, itself laden with nostalgic prints of the ethereal Scottish Highlands. Above a grand mahogany four poster bed cascades rich green fabric and the windows opposite tease guests with picture perfect views over neat lawns, ancient bridges and wild forests.luxury group accommodation Scotland - Aldourie grounds

Introducing the secret gardens of Aldourie: woodland walks, adventures in the arboretum, green houses brimming with life, lush orchards, fresh herb gardens and more…

Greenhouses for the green fingered
The greenhouses at Aldourie have long since been part of the private Castle’s charm and have stood in the vast clearing behind the dense arboretum for over a century. The past year has seen a lot of hard work by the Aldourie Estate’s gardeners go into the redesign and reconstruction of the greenhouses to better show off their shimmering glass panes and reveal the colourful treasures within.

At the end of summer 2016 Aldourie Castle’s private guests will be free to wander across and pick their own goodies from the greenhouses to enjoy back inside the luxurious Castle. In the kitchen Aldourie’s personal chef will whip up something delicious to bring in the new season and the Castle can celebrate its reconciliation with the Estate in using own-grown produce to feed its guests.

Fairytale woodland ignites imaginations
The enchanting woodland on the Aldourie Estate is a labyrinth of paths and clearings housing an abundance of wildlife varied enough to represent the whole of the Scottish Highlands.Aldourie woodland exclusive use stay Aldourie grounds

The 500 acre Estate is made up of part woodland and part parkland so you can imagine how much green there might be in and around the exclusive Castle’s grounds. Children enjoy their land of make believe exploring the woodland; making their own Easter trails and finding Santa’s Grotto at Christmastime. Just as much, adults love the romantic walks and catching a glimpse of deer playing in the moonlight on summer evenings.

Herb garden gives taste to Castle menu
It’s not only the home grown salad that will be causing a stir in the Aldourie kitchen. Our keen gardeners have been working on the formal gardens making a specific area dedicated to a variety of herbs. These will eventually be hand-picked by our chefs on a daily basis to help flavour the already delicious dishes made for the Castle’s exclusive use guests. The pretty patch is already underway and brimming with possibilities. The hospitality team at Aldourie look forward to its official launch when the private hire property in Scotland can state that it uses herbs cut fresh from its gardens to flavour each and every dish on its menu. Just another way in which the Highlands Estate gives back to the Castle and its loyal guests.fish dish luxury exclusive use scotland - Aldourie grounds

Arboretum has endless adventure
Filled with trees of every kind the Aldourie arboretum is a haven for adventure, freedom and fun. A nature lover’s paradise it houses surprises at every turn (we won’t tell you all of them as they won’t be a secret, then) and wondrous playful elements such as the majestic tree house on what could easily be the tallest stilts in Scotland. Discover the secrets of Loch Ness from your personal hiding place and then clamber down to find the novelty Nessie made out of a fallen tree trunk.

Mini orchard; a little piece of serenity
A year ago the gardeners at Aldourie decided to create a little piece of sanctuary in the form of a cluster of fruit trees; a mini orchard on a sprawling country estate. Not only it a beautiful place to perch oneself with a good book it’s also yet another area of the private hire property’s grounds which is laden with fresh food. Guests can grab a bite to eat en route to the ancient arboretum or take back a basket full to the kitchen and request a dessert of their choice. Dotted with snow drops in winter and blue bells in the warmer months the mini orchard paints a colourful picture in these endlessly enchanting Scottish grounds.Aldourie Castle Scotland parkland Aldourie grounds

So the next time you pass a large manor house, stately home, great hall, or even a terracotta Castle with real turrets, sitting serenely in the middle of its private Estate, think of all the possible secrets those grounds could hold and what enjoyment and freedom acres and acres of land can provide not just for those who once lived amongst it but for the people of today who arrive for a luxury holiday, a friendly visit or simply to explore all the beauty that the Scottish Highlands’ back yard has to offer.


Historic Aldourie Castle past and present – in pictures

Grand Designs
We were amazed at the similarities in these two pictures taken over one hundred years apart; but as its main reinvention was carried out prior to Aldourie becoming a Castle i.e. from a mansion house to a castle the exterior’s form remains pretty much the same today.Aldourie Castle historic property Historic Aldourie Castle

Notice how the shape of the historic Scottish Highlands property remains although certain features have been given a face lift, such as (although not so obvious in a black and white photo) the paint colour of the Castle turned cream along with the terracotta tones of the main turret wall. Also added was the hedging on the newly created sun terrace.Horse Drawn Carriage Aldourie Castle - Historic Aldourie Castle

Aldourie Castle is now clean shaven with no hint of the once ivy-clad walls – (in their place a few very subtly placed drainpipes, but we won’t dwell on those) – on the now 5 star luxury private hire property.

The same trees, as ever, still stand proud; in one photo wintry skeletons, the other boasting the lush leaves of summer. Architectural design has always been well thought out; see how there are more windows than wall in order to appreciate the enchanting views of Loch Ness that has long reflected Aldourie Castle and will continue to do so for hundreds of years to come.unique weddings Aldourie Castle golf buggy - Historic Aldourie Castle

Transport for guests
We love the differences displayed in these two images of guests arriving at Aldourie Castle; the lady of the house, a friend or perhaps a nanny come to take care of the children trots up by horse and cart riding herself, stopping just outside the Castle door while the bride-to-be is chauffeured, speeding along in a golf buggy, by the Best Man through the ever enchanting woodland of the Scottish Highlands Castle overlooking Loch Ness. The latter, we find, is a great way to get around the 500 acre Estate especially when pressed for time. It’s very nifty.Historic garden party Aldourie Castle - Historic Aldourie Castle

We appreciate the effort in attire too; of course one would be expected to dress up on one’s Wedding Day but a huge fancy hat with a bow simply in the name of popping in for a cup of tea is something to be admired.

Garden Party on Loch Ness
This photo we know was taken of Aldourie Castle in 1897 and the colour image just a couple of years ago. It’s wonderful to see how little the Castle has changed from the outside. A garden party of yesteryear looked pretty much the same as an outside celebration or family party would today in that the lawn facing Loch Ness is used to its full advantage and made a feature of with props.marquee wedding Aldourie Castle Estate - Historic Aldourie Castle

Bunting was used for the Jubilee celebrations of the 19th Century and ironically nowadays bunting is back in fashion for outside or garden party style events such as weddings and birthday parties, both of which are often held at Aldourie Castle.

Nice to see the grounds were then kept trim and pretty for such an occasion and that the idea of the garden party has not lost its appeal over the many decades and in fact has actually become a very fashionable way to celebrate large events in the 21st Century.

A fashionable set of wheels
One of Aldourie’s first cars; what a striking motor that was! Compare it to the types of vehicles that pull up outside the Castle door today; corporate hospitality events and car product launches see brightly coloured metal heading down the drive at a speed only these characterful drivers (photo 1) could dream of.old fashioned car Aldourie Castle Estate Historic Aldourie Castle

Today’s use of Aldourie Castle, although a luxury home for the holidays, is still a private hire property and therefore not an actual home for one family seven days a week. As a result this Loch Ness Castle in the Scottish Highlands witnesses the arrival and departures of dozens more cars nowadays – and not least because there are many more on the roads.

What must it have been like in days gone by at Aldourie? Originally a house party property in Scotland’s majestic Highlands (and way before that a large house with land frequented by many a Highland clan), this imposing Castle has seen the future unfold before its very eyes and inventions such as the motor car travel and change through time.car launch Aldourie Castle private corporate venue scotland Historic Aldourie Castle

Our historic photo archive depicts residents on the Estate; nannies, children, dogs (look out on our social media pages as we post these regularly) and there is a sense of calm and tranquillity in these images that, even in the day when grand estates held house parties every week, presided over the entire Castle and grounds. Was this due to fewer cars? Did peacefulness exist more in simpler times? If only these Castle walls could talk…

The wonderful thing about Aldourie, however, is that it is peaceful here every day; guests book to take exclusive use of older properties with acres of land for this reason alone, bright red Ferrari parked outside or not.historic Aldourie Estate Scotland Historic Aldourie Castle

Castle pets
Here we have a picture of what looks like the Aldourie Estate grounds being used as a pit stop for some cowboys or a ranch. Either way, the Castle makes a great backdrop to the horses and the image shows just how versatile these 500 acre grounds next to Loch Ness can be (nowadays we hold falconry days, archery lessons and Segway rides in front of the exclusive use property).Loch Ness Lizzie Aldourie Castle grounds Historic Aldourie Castle

The more modern looking photo stars Aldourie’s very own beautiful retriever, aka Loch Ness Lizzie. Our loyal canine friend regularly keeps a beady eye out on the Estate for long lost clan members and likes to befriend the many families and parties of guests who come to stay at Aldourie. And of course it goes without saying that she particularly favours other dogs who visit with their owners for short breaks in the four holiday cottages on Loch Ness.


The importance of a show round at an exclusive use property

When you choose an exclusive use venue or property, whether for an intimate or large scale event, it is important that you have viewed the property at least once for numerous reasons. A show round of a private hire property in Scotland will confirm that it is as spectacular in the flesh as in the photos you have seen or the testimonials you have read, not merely because Scotland is such a beautiful and mesmerising country. A personal viewing of your preferred celebration or holiday property will also serve to convince you whether or not it is suitable to host your family, friends or party of guests.

Confidence in the hospitality team

It is of the utmost importance when planning an event of celebration that the host can find a common ground or even a rapport with the hospitality manager and their team. The main reason for this is so that they feel comfortable asking as many questions as they wish for peace of mind and are confident stating what they would and wouldn’t like out of the booking experience and later the actual occasion or celebration.

If you as a company intend to make a corporate booking you may have certain expectations of your hospitality manager, the chef and waiting staff, if the success of your event depends upon your own client’s experience for example if you are booking a property as an incentive stay in Scotland. Show rounds help you to better visualise your potential event or experience.Aldourie Castle Loch Ness The Library - exclusive use property

The atmosphere of the property

The moment you step foot inside the door of an exclusive hire property or venue for a show round, you instantly get a feel of the place and its personality. This is primarily down to its atmosphere which can be generated through a number of reasons – its decoration, comfort, cosiness and character being just a few. The atmosphere of a distinguished or luxury property has to impress, first and foremost, because you are paying a significant amount to make an impression on your guests. Sometimes, the very fact that a private hire property is exclusive to one particular party of guests is enough to make the desired impact, but more often than not atmosphere plays a large part in the decision to make a definite booking.

You will generally get a sense of the private hire property’s warmth by how welcome and at home you feel being shown around the place whether it be a castle, a mansion house or a traditional cottage.

Decoration of bedrooms and public rooms

As you wander from room to room is the general decoration of the walls, floors and furnishings to your liking? If you are choosing a property to hold a very special occasion where photographs will serve as treasured memories, for example a wedding or anniversary, it might be wise to consider whether the decoration or design is in tune with your own style. Does it reflect your personality in some way? It may make you feel more comfortable if it does. It is important to have a show round of a property you think you really like on screen or in photographs to make sure it suits you on both a personal and a practical level.Fraser bedroom Aldourie Castle Loch Ness exclusive use property

As you are being shown around the bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas of the exclusive use venue or property consider if it is accurate to the description and the photographs you have seen online or in the brochure. Are they how you envisaged them and do they give you the feeling you imagined they would? Do they evoke happiness or a sense of nostalgia that made you interested to see the property in the first place?

The setting and location

Ideally, an historic private hire property, especially somewhere as majestic as the Scottish Highlands or as entrancing as the shores of Loch Ness, should be able to equal its own external setting within in order to appear synonymous with its environment. If the property is surrounded by lush countryside and pretty gardens the interior and aesthetics of the building have to ‘fit’ with the overall picture and therefore have a sense of nostalgia, romance or peacefulness so it doesn’t look or feel out of place or time. The most elite of private hire properties will undoubtedly have all three.

The location is key – you will realise how accessible, remote or quiet the property is as you journey into its vicinity or travel from the airport or main road. A map and directions to the venue given on a website can be misleading so if location is paramount to your decision to book an exclusive use property such as a castle, be aware of the distance you are travelling, the ease of the journey and anything else you think is important to be aware of. This route vetting can apply to any kind of booking be that for an important board of directors’ meeting or a multi-generation family reunion where guests are travelling from around the country or even the world.AldourieCastleLochNess

Whether for business meeting purposes or as a luxury holiday destination, seeing a property you wish to hire out on an exclusive basis up front is a vital part of the booking process from a practical perspective but also from an emotional point of view. So, look at it as a necessary day out to be savoured and enjoyed – especially if you have booked a food tasting as well!