Host the perfect summer garden party: part 2

In our last blog post Aldourie Castle gave its 10 top tips on how to host the perfect summer garden party. We focused on all the key elements to create the ultimate outdoor party. As always we came back to the guests’ experience. This is something Aldourie as an exclusive use castle on Loch Ness Scotland considers above everything else. Here we complete our list and wish you luck and fun in hosting your own outdoor (or indoor) perfect summer garden party.

Choose the ‘right’ music

The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.

summer garden party castle accommodation Scotland

Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party

A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event.

Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.

Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…

Set the mood with lighting

Milestone Birthdays in a Scottish Castle

The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy.

Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.

Prioritise comfort for your guests

Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.summer garden party Scottish Castle Vacations

You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.

Have a back-up plan

You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.

Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms.  We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.


10 tips for hosting the perfect summer garden party: part 1

As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.

Consider your guest list

When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Have a theme to focus on

The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.

Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.

Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting

Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party

You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience.

The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.

Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!

Create pretty flower displays

Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.

Keep your eyes peeled for our second installment of our 10 top tips to the perfect summer garden party. Why not book Aldourie if you’re looking to hold a milestone birthday in a castle or enjoy a family reunion castle stay. We specialise in exclusive family holidays on Loch Ness in this private use Castle and whilst you’re here why not let us host your perfect castle garden party over summer. Email info@aldouriecastle.co.uk or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.

READ PART 2 of our SUMMER GARDEN PARTY blog post here for more outdoor party inspiration.


The joy of soup in winter – Scottish castle dining

Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!

Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie.  Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.

Warming winter recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp olive oil sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ medium chilli
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 celery sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
pinch smoked paprika
2 pints veg/chicken stock
splash cream

 

Chop all the vegetables and sweat in a pan with olive oil. Add the stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add splash of cream.

Other traditional Scottish soups to try:

A soup is tastier if it is rich in ingredients and some of these Scottish traditional dishes are also particularly rich in proteins and vitamins.

Scottish Castle Dining

Bonfire Warmer Soup
Scotch Broth
Cullen Skink
Potato-Leek-Mushroom Soup
Scottish Oxtail Soup
Golden Vegetable Soup
Highland Chicken Soup
Haricot Bean Soup

Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?

Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!

The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.Scottish Castle Dining

When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?

You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.

Boat ride – during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.

Segway ride – the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.Scottish Castle Dining

Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.


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.


Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.

There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.Highland Games in castle grounds

Caber toss – great to start off your Games:

How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!

How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.

Stone put – a traditional sport:

How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds.  Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.

Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:

How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.

Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.

Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:

How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.

Highland Games in castle grounds

How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.

Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):

How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.

Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.Highland Games in castle grounds

Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds

For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?

It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.

Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds

You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following: Highland Games in castle grounds

Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.

Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.

Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.

For more information on exclusive use house parties and holidays please complete the contact form on our website found here.


A guide to wedding anniversary themes and their meanings

Did you know that it’s the Chinese year of the rooster? No? Well nevermind, that’s besides the point really. What’s more important is that this year you celebrate a special wedding anniversary with your loved one. In fact, every year until the 70th you can bestow a gift to your husband or wife according to the tradition that has transcended into modern times. There are various versions of themes you can adapt to however, if your lost for inspiration we’ve compiled a list below.

Today, all the anniversary years from 1 up to 30 have been linked with a theme or material, and then every five years up to 75 years of marriage. However, we approve the traditional! It also makes sense for Aldourie to go down the more old-fashioned route, being an historical property. Speaking of which, if you are looking for a special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate in, you need look no further than our exclusive location in the magnificent Scottish Highlands.

Bestow your gift inside your own castle

This is such a lovely thing to blog about, especially as we’re now mid-wedding season. Maybe you’ve recently become engaged or are planning your intimate wedding in Scotland. You may also discover our enchanting Castle, should you stumble across our helpful blog post, the perfect location for your wedding anniversary party with family and friends. 

Weddings can be exciting and spectacular, subtle and romantic, meaningful and mesmerising. They can be so many things to everybody all at once and just a certain thing to somebody at any one time. Wedding anniversary presents should be just as personal and bespoke – and that is how we like to keep things at Aldourie, a very special wedding anniversary castle.

1st Anniversary – Paper

The tradition has always been to give paper as a gift to celebrate your first year together. This notion was inspired by the first year of marriage being like a blank sheet, and largely fragile.

2nd Anniversary – Cotton

Your lives become more intertwined the longer you stay together as a married couple. This is symbolised by the many carefully woven threads that are used to make a piece of cotton.

3rd Anniversary – Leather

You relationship will become stronger as your marriage continues and matures. The gift for your third year suggests strength and protection. Leather is durable and hard-wearing material that is used to provide shelter and comfort.

4th Anniversary – Fruit & Flowers

This gift is based on a relationship ripening and blossoming as marriage continues. Flowers and/or fruit are the perfect way to celebrate your growing love after four years. Hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion and decorate the entire place with flowers of your choice.

5th Anniversary – Wood

This natural material is a wonderful symbol of a marriage reaching five years. Trees have always been seen to denote strength and wisdom. Your marriage by now is solid and you have established some deep roots keeping you together in body and mind.

6th Anniversary – Sugar

Life is thought to be getting sweeter by the time you reach your sixth year of marriage. Celebrate with some sweet treats. This is a lovely, tempting gift idea offering so much choice!

7th Wedding Anniversary – Copper & Wool

Does this appear a strange combination? The reason for the pairing of copper and wool to acknowledge seven years as a married couple is their ability to conduct heat. Your partnership should be toasty warm after such time, and as comforting as sitting by the fireside in an Aldourie holiday cottage. This inspires some beautiful gift ideas for both your partner and the home.

8th Wedding Anniversary – Bronze

Bronze is an extremely strong metal and is an apt way to recognise this substantial stretch of time together. This beautiful metal is made up of copper and tin; combined they form strength and beauty. If you choose to celebrate in style by hiring a special wedding anniversary castle you’ll no doubt find numerous bronze ornaments dotted around for inspiration.

9th Wedding Anniversary – Pottery or Willow

What a lovely combination with so many ideas for gifts. Pottery is moulded by hand and the careful process results in a work of art. In a similar vein, willow has qualities of flexibility and, again, strength. You can create beautiful things if you take the time and effort to weave it (being sure to work through any mundane moments).

10th Wedding Anniversary – Tin

Tin sounds is such a traditional-sounding gift theme – and it’s also a clever one. This old-fashioned metal was used to store and preserve items so you can see why it was chosen to commemorate a decade of marriage. Tin prevents other metals from corroding when they are plated with it, and can prolong the life of what it is storing; wonderfully symbolic.

15th Wedding Anniversary – Crystal

Crystal is not only beautiful on the eye but has long been seen as a luxurious product. Note how it is the most expensive traditional anniversary gift so far. The material has such clarity to it and is hence the token gift for its representation of a couple seeing each other clearly after 15 years together. Aldourie could be your very own special wedding anniversary castle. After all, for years a beautiful Murano crystal chandelier hung in the Red Drawing Room.

20th Wedding Anniversary – China

China is fragile, but when it is looked after properly, it can stand the test of time. Much like a relationship! Even after two decades together, you may have your moments but if you take care your relationship will always survive. Giving each other china based gifts is a good way to remind yourselves of that. Locate that special wedding anniversary castle to celebrate with family and friends in a private setting. We assure you you’ll behold some of the most beautiful china sets during your Afternoon Teas.

25th Wedding Anniversary – Silver

Silver is a precious metal, and no matter how old it is, if it’s treated properly and polished regularly it will continue to gleam. Give silver gifts for your 25th anniversary to remind yourselves of that.

30th Wedding Anniversary – Pearl

Pearls are a symbol of hidden beauty – they are cultivated over time within the not so pretty oyster, but once you open it up you find something precious inside. After three decades together it’s unlikely you’ll appear the same as you did when you first met, but what’s inside counts. Pearl inspired anniversary gifts are the way to mark this occasion.

35th Wedding Anniversary – Coral

Coral is a very precious substance and was once believed to have magical properties to protect against illness and danger. It is still precious and protected today so think carefully when it comes to choosing a coral inspired anniversary gift and maybe choose something inspired by the beautiful colour.

40th Wedding Anniversary – Ruby

Red is a colour often associated with love, and a rich red ruby is the perfect way to symbolise your love. Whether you want to do the traditional anniversary or the modern, look for ruby inspired gifts as the stone is used for both. This is such a momentous, hopelessly romantic anniversary that you may just need a hire a special wedding anniversary castle for the occasion, a location able to match the beauty of this stunning stone.

45th Wedding Anniversary – Sapphire

Beautiful blue sapphires were once the reserve of loyalty, making them a luxurious, aspirational item. Give the gift of sapphires to celebrate an impressive 45 years together, as it’s used for traditional and modern anniversary celebrations.

50th Wedding Anniversary – Gold

After a lifetime together, there’s only one gift that can do it justice – gold. The most precious metal, gold symbolises lots of things, including prosperity and strength. Again gold is used for modern and traditional anniversaries so buy your loved one a gold anniversary gift. You could even upgrade your wedding rings!

55th Wedding Anniversary – Emerald

Green is considered to be the most calming of all colours, and represents growth. After 55 years together your life may not be as hectic as it once was, but you’ve grown together so give emerald inspired gifts to recognise that.

60th Wedding Anniversary – Diamond

Diamonds flourish under pressure and are extremely hardwearing – just like your relationship will be after six decades of marriage. It is considered to be invincible and is associated with love and wealth. After 60 years of happy marriage, you may not have physical wealth but you’ll have a wealth of experience and love so celebrate with diamond inspired anniversary gifts.

70th Wedding Anniversary – Platinum

Platinum is a metal that resists wear and is incredibly hard to tarnish. It’s one of the rarest metals, making it exclusive and is a symbol of endurance. What better way to describe 70 years of marriage? Celebrate not only with each other but why not mark this incredible milestone with everyone you love? Take over a special wedding anniversary castle with your dearest family and friends in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Make your 70th wedding anniversary a memory for all those you cherish.

This has been a real lesson in love. How fascinating to find out exactly what and why matrimonial gifts are so meaningful and important. Note how the gifts start off simple and inexpensive with great potential for innovation and interpretation. Finding your feet and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t is akin to the first few years of marriage. And making sure there is enough money left in the pot for building a life together. Later, the materials become more elegant and of finer quality and great value. Surely a long, prosperous marriage is worthy of such recognition. It seems right to bestow a gift of beauty that can be admired for years to come, in the same way you look back on the beautiful picture your life together.

Beautiful location to match your anniversary gift

Unique Aldourie Castle hosts a handful of weddings a year and specialises in the intimate wedding celebration. This is mainly because the setting within is made for intimate gatherings and house parties. Also, we like to pay tribute to the history and values of the property. As well as small weddings, the only habitable Castle on Loch Ness makes a stunning location for wedding anniversary parties. Guests come from world-wide to stay in this enchanting Castle and make it their own for a week or even longer. Please call 01463 751309 to discuss your celebration requirements and how Aldourie can make this your very own special wedding anniversary castle.


5 amazing reasons to stay in a castle

In case you need persuading we’ve listed our favourite five reasons why you might want to stay in a castle. Of course, we could have focused on the exclusivity of some castles, perfect for private family holiday rentals. Or we could have enticed you with talk of luxury bedrooms and spectacular window views. Instead, we’ve considered what might come to mind when conjuring up the image of a castle in your head. If you had never considered a stay in a castle, whether for a luxurious group holiday or special birthday celebration, it’s time to give in to your inner romantic and realise the wonder behind every castle wall.
Aldourie Castle Loch Ness bride internal spiral staircase stay in a castle

They’re in fairytales

Once upon a time people would get married in a church. Then came the shiny, swanky, spotless hotel and that became the ideal wedding venue. But nowadays, brides want it all – and that can often mean getting married in a fairytale castle…but, of course!

Not only can couples officially ‘get married’ but they can also stay in a castle overnight and so can their guests. Whether for your intimate nuptials or full blown celebrity wedding, insist on posing for photographs in the highest turret and use the spiral staircase as part of your walk down the aisle. Because surely, if they had gotten the chance, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty would have done the same thing.

Holiday and history in one

Traditionally, one of the main reasons a castle was built was to ensure protection from enemy armies. They had cold rooms, grey stone walls and floors, and tiny windows to lessen chances of danger getting in. Some castles, in Scotland most definitely, remain precisely this way to this day. These Scottish castles are fabulous for tourists wanting to get a feel for life in the olden days. However, they’re not so enticing for the luxuries one longs for when escaping for a week or two’s holiday. Now that the exclusive use property has taken off like a cannon ball, many castles have been restored and renovated with more opulence and comfort than they’ve ever had before.

old photo Aldourie Castle Estate exterior stay in a castle

Large families searching for that special reunion location can stay in a castle equipped with everything expected of a luxury holiday rental. These range from impressive technology to a five star hospitality service. The added benefit is the history that comes with a castle, from architecture to stories of the past within. A castle stay is ideal for a multi-generational holiday. For example, mum might enjoy the peace and quiet of the old library but granddad will have a whale of a time taking the kids around the nooks and crannies of the castle giving them history lessons mixed with old Scottish fables. See some photos of Aldourie Castle long ago on our History page.

They make a perfect ‘spooky’ Halloween retreat

From ghost stories round the fire, to Hide and Seek that could last a day, a castle is an Aladdin’s Cave of adventure for a Halloween stay. Not every castle is destined to be haunted, but because of its history it’ll most certainly have ‘atmosphere’. Whether a castle built for battle or an old mansion house converted into one like Aldourie, it will have an interesting past.

Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness Graveyard stay in a castle

Wouldn’t it be exciting to stay in a castle with a group of friends over Halloween? You could enjoy themed outdoor activities (arranged by the castle staff) and then make your own fun inside? You could indulge in a Halloween feast and decorate the halls with cobwebs, have a Fancy Dress evening and even carry out a Murder Mystery dinner. Thrilled by this idea? Read our Halloween House Party blog post for many more reasons to stay in a castle over Halloween. It includes lots of spooky ideas for Aldourie Castle – which has its own graveyard, you know?

You can make good use of the moat

Many castles designed for exclusive use or private hire, and notoriously Scottish castles, will feature their own moat. Quaint as this may seem, the moat surrounding the castle was, again, there to make it difficult to attack. If you are lucky enough to stay in a castle with a moat you can access, we suggest family fun activities such as zorbing, outdoor water sports like canoeing and, if the weather permits, wild swimming. Though we are not sure how wild swimming in a moat could be. In Aldourie’s case, the Castle has something better than a moat; it  has magnificent Loch Ness on its doorstep. Let us arrange a ride on the Nessie Hunter, private boat trips to Fort Augustus and water activities in front of the Castle. Water sports are a wonderful way to get everyone in a group stay involved in the holiday fun.

speedboat loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate stay in a castle

Castles unleash children’s imaginations

Nobody should really require an introduction to this point, but if in doubt; think Disney. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Shrek each have castles at the core (and heart) of their stories. Imagine telling the kids you’re all going to a land Far Far Away to stay in an enchanted castle. (The journey to the Scottish Highlands where Aldourie Castle is located, for example, could definitely qualify depending on where you live). Now, surely that’s better than DisneyLand!

There will be boundless opportunities already on offer in many castle grounds. For instance: treehouse antics, woodland to explore, a game of Tag/Tig in the parkland, Billy Goat’s Gruff if there’s a bridge and stream. Kids can create their own fun on a rainy day playing Make Believe, having the authentic props to hand. Should a back-up be needed most exclusive use castles have a dedicated games rooms where you might find a billiards table, large screen TV and board games – but we’re moving onto Times of the Modern Castle now, and that’s another story.

Aldourie Castle Estate loch ness treehouse in woodland stay in a castle

For some of you, the thought may never have crossed your mind before reading the amazing reasons above. But, if you do decide to stay in a castle maybe consider this Castle on Loch Ness. The Aldourie experience would provide you with memories to last a lifetime. On top of that, it could end up being the staple family holiday for generations to come. Make your own history at Aldourie and enquire about exclusive use availability at: info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.


Private anniversary celebrations with family and friends – in a Castle far, far away

Keep the romance alive whilst throwing the party you’ve always dreamed of. Aldourie Castle is brimming with secret stairways and cosy corners for the perfect anniversary retreat, with a twist…

Your Ruby wedding anniversary was a different story; a quiet country hotel with just a few rooms, each taken by different couples most likely away on their own anniversaries. Anonymous yet intimate, but sort of passé, don’t you think? So, now that it’s your Golden anniversary, instead of staying in a beautiful setting full of strangers, why not create your unique paradise in an exclusive use property with those closest to you. After all, this is a very personal time in your life and it’s your time to shine.

spiral staircase Aldourie Scottish Castle

Romance at its heart

As you wind down the drive to Aldourie you realise one thing; that you have never arrived at anywhere quite like it. And you never will again. What better thought to start off your anniversary celebrations? With an imposing castle door, stately rooms and beautiful castle grounds, the scene is set for a romantic getaway.

Magnificent setting​ easily accessible

But let’s not forget the reason you’re here – to celebrate! Aldourie oozes enough charm, ambiance and style to rival any regal place. So, spoil your guests with luxurious surroundings, bedrooms fit for royalty and food of the highest order. Here, you’re all left to enjoy the Castle and Estate in your own way and in your own time.

With just the sounds of wildlife at your door you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re miles away from anywhere. In fact, the main road to Inverness is just outside the Castle walls and direct flights go from London Heathrow to Inverness airport daily. This means a private hire Castle in the Scottish Highlands is a lot more accessible than you would at first think.

Anniversary Celebrations Aldourie Castle ScotlandCelebrate in your own style

Anniversary celebrations come in all shapes and sizes. So there’s no reason to stick to something tried and tested just because it works. Trust us; everything works and anything goes at Aldourie. But by all means be led by recommendation. What would we suggest? Drinks and canapes in the Drawing Room, an elegant feast in the Dining Room featuring the best of Scottish cuisine, followed by a party in the Main Hall. If a summer anniversary celebration, your guests can overspill onto the lawn that reaches down to Loch Ness.

Note: Ceilidhs certainly vamp up any party especially if you hoped to accompany your traditional Scottish Castle with traditional dance and music. And night caps are best enjoyed in the library against the backdrop of bookshelves and dark wood. But don’t be surprised if the wanderers amongst your party decide to stray and find themselves stargazing from an inviting-looking window seat or roaming portrait-laden passageways looking for a wardrobe that leads to a whimsical wintry world. The beauty of a great inner hall Aldourie Scottish Castlecelebration at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is the possibilities it creates.

Party atmosphere

Whether you stay for a weekend or two weeks for your special celebration, rest assured your every whim can be catered for. You may wish to have one main party evening to celebrate your anniversary with a host of activities strewn throughout your stay. We can organise any activity, from Charades around the fireplace to a full blown Nessie hunt on Loch Ness.

An exclusive Highland Castle such as Aldourie can inspire a traditional Anniversary Party Celebration to exceed itself. And the beauty of that? It’s likely to become one of your best memories of all because it includes all your favourite people.

 


Yachting or boating on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

One of the best ways to truly experience the Scottish Highlands is to get out on a boat over the Caledonian Canal. The shimmering waters weave through these majestic hills and there’s so much to see and experience. The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles of fresh water just waiting to take you to sights you’ve only dreamed of. Twenty-two miles of this is a man made wide canal enabling inland sailing crossing the whole of Scotland. Four large lochs make up the remainder, one of which is Loch Ness. This memorable sightseeing ride is there for the taking. And if you already have yourself a yacht (or other means of water transport), so much the better…
boating on caledonian canal

We can give you a few ideas of what to see whilst yachting along the Caledonian Canal. And there is plenty to see and do both on and off the water.

Destination east

“A most enjoyable and life-changing experience during a holiday in Scotland”, according to many of our previous guests, is to take a trip to Moray Firth and visit the dolphins. Are you a yacht owner or have you hired a yacht whilst touring the Scottish Highlands? If so, you can easily head east from Inverness. Take in the striking and ethereal surroundings of the imposing wild hills as you go. Soon enough you will come across the peaceful scenery of Moray Firth. Here you can sail along beside the friendliest fish in the sea and the largest school of dolphins in the UK.

Destination south

If you decide to travel downwards from Inverness in the Scottish Highlands you will pass a host of cultural and scenic spots. These include the must-visit quaint village of Invergarry, home to Invergarry Castle amongst many other beautiful sights. Originally the seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry (another Castle – at which you can also enjoy a delightful lunch), the Castle has a fascinating history. Its gothic façade makes even the least interested sight-seers want to roam around its evocative grounds.Golfing Near the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Stop for a spot of food and drink at a deli or brasserie in this charming village. Later, venture forth and sail your yacht further down the Caledonian Canal. Veer off slightly to the west before stopping at the famous Fort William. Known as the gateway to Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest peak, this lovely town is full of outdoor sport and beautiful yet challenging walking trails.

Destination north

Dornoch is just one of the championship golf courses in close proximity to Aldourie Castle in Inverness. It provides an opportunity to hone your golfing skills whilst holidaying in Scotland. Maybe you’re an experienced golfer and touring the Scottish Highlands by yacht to break up a golfing holiday. In this case, Royal Dornoch is definitely somewhere you want to stop off – or tee off!

Destination west

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Not until you reach Muir of Ord. This is again just one of many of its kind in Scotland; a whisky distillery with a name of prestigious heritage. Close by, and after a tasting of course, you may stumble upon Beauly. Enter a typical Highlands town complete with abbey ruins, quaint coffee shop-delis and stores with old-fashioned Highland quality and values. One such place is called Campbell’s, an outfitters which combines the tradition and warmth of a local shop with the quality of a high fashion befitting the Scottish gentry. It also offers a bespoke tailoring service – why not get fitted with gear for a shoot on one of the local Highland Estates?
Boatin on the Caledonian Canal Scotland

Take a break from the water

As you can see, there is more to the Scottish Highlands than simply taking – or trekking – the high road. From picture perfect villages with friendly locals to ancient ruins with their own ghosts of the past, a journey by yacht can expertly combine a luxurious five star holiday. Along the way enjoy random adventures at every turn culminating in memories to treasure. Here’s a thought: moor up your yacht at Aldourie’s private marina on Loch Ness and hire out this enchanting Castle for a couple of nights. Then set off to explore more of the famously impressive and innovative Caledonian Canal.


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.