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.


A guide to wedding anniversary themes and their meanings

It’s the year of the rooster. But really, that’s of little importance if 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 since transcended into modern times. There are various versions of themes but we like this list below. Today, all the anniversary years from 1 up to 30 have been linked with a theme or material, and then every fifth year 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.


Daily flights from London to Inverness benefit Scottish tourism

This year has seen a tidal wave of new business come to Inverness through both leisure and corporate tourism. Since May 2016 Inverness airport has welcomed travellers from London Heathrow on a daily basis. The direct flight is a great benefit to corporate travellers who wish to commute to Scotland. This applies to travelers from London and from overseas. Aldourie Castle has been host to many American guests as a result of the convenient new flight. Guests see the advantage of a little longer airtime in order to experience the beautiful and wild Scottish Highlands and mesmerising Loch Ness.Looking over Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. Scottish Tourism at its Best.

British Airways decided to resume the daily flight to Inverness Airport, which is just outside of Aldourie Castle Estate. The journey originally stopped in 1997. Aldourie, for one, was extremely confident of the benefits to corporate travelers. They would have instant easy access to a location that is both versatile and spectacular; the Scottish Highlands. Ideal for corporate events and important business meetings, the Highlands is home to a few exclusive use country Estates. The benefits of such Estates include peaceful settings, striking backdrops, impressive facades,

Since May this year the direct flight linking London tourism to Scotland has operated as a year-round service. Its first flight of the day departs from Heathrow just before 10am with an afternoon flight from Inverness back to London.

This remains an exciting opportunity for Inverness, the Highlands’ capital, which already has a strong link to economy. The tourism offering in the Highlands can capitalise further from travelers flying in from overseas and London who previously may not have considered travelling up to Scotland before. Now they can hold their multi-generational family holiday, luxury Scottish holiday, annual corporate event or board of directors meeting up here.luxury bedroom Aldourie Loch Ness - Scottish Tourism

This new option available to both the leisure and business tourism markets diversifies the British hospitality scene in general. It also makes a location once considered unusual and possibly logistically complicated, on par with the more conventional locations. Move over popular high end, but predictable, venues in the UK.

What can a country estate offer overseas corporate clients?

Places like Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness can offer guests who have traveled by plane a change in scenery and culture. This, as we already know, can work wonders for holidaymakers. A conducive environment can help guests to relax, focus and put things in perspective. A business would benefit from this type of support from a corporate hospitality location or property.aldourie castle loch ness Scottish Tourism

Aldourie has spent time and effort in enticing London and overseas businesses to take advantage of the direct flight from Heathrow to Inverness. Both to encourage a more affluent hospitality business in the Highlands and a varied approach to luxury corporate travel. Meetings, events and client incentive stays are just some of the ways in which corporate guests can enjoy exclusive use stays in places like Aldourie. We have already seen an increase in interest from corporate clients. They are themselves interested in using the private hire Castle as a multi-functional business venue.


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.