Scotland really does do the entire festive season justice. Why? It goes hell for leather, grabs the bull by the horns and takes Hogmanay by storm. It suffers no fools and takes no prisoners. Now, enough of the idioms and on to the specifics. Inverness and Loch Ness particularly know how to bring the magic of the Christmas season alive. And this makes any stay at Aldourie Castle or Cottages from November to January a pure delight. It also gives ample opportunity for guests to get involved in the Scottish Highlands’ festive spirit when they rent an entire castle. Last month the Highlands had its first snow of 2018, marking the start of celebrations in the region’s capital…
All the above and more is either still happening throughout winter or to look forward to in your 2019 Christmas holiday in the Highlands.
Yet to come when you rent an entire castle…
Winter Wonderland, Whin Park
For three days from 14th-16th December this already beautiful park is transformed into a Wonderland. Filled to the brim with shimmering illuminations, the event is based around a number of giant attractions installed by The Highland Council’s Lighting Team. Another main attraction is of course Santa, who will arrive in style with his devoted reindeer for a spot of relaxation before all the hard work begins. This event has always been popular with young families and a favourite for toddlers. All you have to do is wrap up warm, believe in magic and watch Whin Park come to life before your very eyes. This is ideally located when you rent an entire castle on the shores of Loch Ness, which provides a sumptuous home from home to return to after a night of festivities.
The Red Hot Highland Fling, Inverness
This official Hogmanay party in the heart of the city has had its line-up of bands and artists confirmed since the end of summer. The people of Inverness are almost bursting with anticipation of this festive celebratory event. Expect upbeat tunes, original songs and traditional Scottish favourites. The Trad Project, Blazin Fiddles and Tide Lines have been given the prestige of bringing in the New Year. Crowds will gather to watch a great fireworks display over Inverness Cathedral to signal the start of 2019.
Dinner with Ceilidh, ‘Bogmanay at Bogbain’
This event promises to be a night to remember in a unique venue. It’s a wonderful celebration of Hogmanay combining all the elements of this magical season with food, music and also laughter at its heart.
And finally, anyone who chooses to rent an entire castle and holiday in Loch Ness during Christmas and New Year will have the chance to spot Nessie in a Santa hat! Well, maybe this one’s a long shot, but here in the Highlands we have nothing if we have not faith. In addition to all of the above there are other ongoing celebrations to commemorate the Christmas culture. These includes festive drams, visits to Santa, Christmas pantomimes, food markets and fairs.
What better way to compare the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings. Take a read of Aldourie’s personalised guide to the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit.
Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.
What is the history of Urquhart Castle?
The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence during the 14th century. It was thereafter considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland today. As a result it resides in our list of Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?
It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Like any castle ruins Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The appeal to holidaymakers is the combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands. This alone makes it and Aldourie favourite and puts it in the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Special fact or feature of one of the castle
Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296 when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357.
Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.
A main attraction for guests is Aldourie’s location on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker. This is why Aldourie Castle rates Urquhart as one of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles
Eilean Donan – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands
This attractively named landmark is one of the most recognised castles in the whole of Scotland. You may have seen it one shortbread tins, tea towels and scenic calendars if you have ever before visited a gift shop in the Highlands. Eilean Donan itself is a small island in the western Highlands and the meeting point of three sea lochs. The castle was restored in the early 20th century. A footbridge now connects the castle to the mainland, thereby granting easy access to a somewhat untouchable Scottish landmark.
What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?
Eilean Donan was named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint in around 617. The castle itself was founded in the 1200s, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and the Clan Macrae. The castle was destroyed in 1719 because of the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. What you see is the castle in its reconstructed form in the twentieth-century.
Interestingly, in the thirteenth century during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain wall enclosed most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.
Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?
Eilean Donan is a picturesque castle which has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark to pose a selfie against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio! No wonder it’s on Aldourie’s list of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Special fact or feature of the castle
Records suggest that there was a small Christian church on the island of Eilean Donan in the 6th or 7th century. Although no actual remains survive to this day fragments of stone do suggest an Iron Age or medieval history. The astonishing castle ruins have been redeveloped and reconstructed around six times; no wonder it looks tired now.
Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder despite the nearly three hour journey that many of Aldourie’s exclusive use guests like to pay a visit.
Dunnottar Castle – castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands on ancient ground
Elevated from the mainland sits Dunnottar Castle, the ruins of a medieval fortress. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. Steep cliffs that drop to the North sea 50 metres below surround the ruins of the Castle. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.
What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?
The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort and place of worship was built nearby in the 3rd and 4th century. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and William Wallace captured it in the year 1276. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle, (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. Dunnottar Castle was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.
Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. Because of its sheer perseverance through history we have named it one our the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?
Dunnottar Castle is an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. The rock that the castle sits on formed some 440 million years ago; that’s enough to bring anyone to an historic landmark in Scotland. Tourists visit Dunnottar Castle for their own unforgettable experience as there is so much to see and do here. Try walking or cycling to the Castle from the nearby town of Stonehaven, itself a tourist attraction. The route to the castle is very picturesque.
Special fact or feature of the castle
When you visit this special historic landmark you will soon discover the importance of Dunnottar. It is in simple form an invincible fortress that holds important secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland- the Scottish crown jewels- were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army, which invaded in the 17th century.
Why is this considered one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?
It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the castle walls including:
Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
There’s so much more to Scotland’s historic castle ruins than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to Aldourie’s highly recommended Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.
Why not make this Christmas the year you decide to do something different? But don’t wait until the New Year to make your resolutions! Set a date now, hire a castle for Christmas and start looking forward…
The beautiful, unassuming yet captivating Scottish Highlands does not ask anything of anyone. It looks down from above at all its worth. The majesty of its hills, the uniqueness of its landmarks and the intensity of its history. The vast wilderness of the Scottish Highlands is always there, like any other landscape. It continues as usual underneath these huge ever-changing skies.
Imagine entering a world like no other; a freeing endless space just waiting to be discovered by someone new. Whether your Christmas family holidays are usually land based with cycling routes and long country walks or water based with loch cruises, dolphin watching or canoeing, there is everything in the Highlands to keep your boredom at bay and your imagination running wild.
So, where do you stay in order to appreciate and experience a really traditional Scottish Christmas and New Year? Here at Aldourie we have the best of both worlds. Hire a castle for Christmas by booking a luxurious exclusive use stay or a self-catered stay in the heart of the Highlands countryside. Both are tempting, we agree, and also offer instant access to the famous waters of Loch Ness.
A cottage Christmas
Children and adults alike can enjoy at least some of what the Scottish Highlands has to offer, if not all. Simply book a traditional short break stay over Christmas weekend in either Gate or Pier Cottage. They are both the perfect family or couples’ holiday cottages on Loch Ness. Christmas is a social time for street festivals, festive markets and parties. But it’s also a time for intimate family time exploring landscapes, unearthing history and tasting fabulous food together. Couples can escape to the Highlands of Scotland to experience the romance of its magical landscape. So much of this can be found in the deep valleys of the country’s mountainous walks.
There are cities for the vibrant souls who are looking for a festive party atmosphere and there are quieter destinations like the quaint towns and villages of Dornoch, Fort William and Glencoe. In the latter you will find deliciously festive food and drink, picture perfect snow-topped views and a variety of frosty walks and cycle paths. Further up out of the towns there are even some well coursed mountain biking routes. These are ideal for the adventurers amongst you. Fancy some culture? Scotland’s rich history will captivate and shock you.
Hire a Castle for Christmas
Fancy gliding along Loch Ness through the darkness and spotting beautiful Aldourie illuminated through the trees on New Years’ Eve? We can organise a cruise or speedboat ride so that you can experience just that. In fact, just about anything is possible when you hire a castle for Christmas and New Year.
Some firm family favourites of previous exclusive use New Year’s house parties are archery in front of the Castle, falconry days and walking on water (or zorbing) – a great one for the kids as the minimum age is five years old. For those who want to explore the nature-filled Highlands independently during the festive season Aldourie can recommend the best walks and cycling routes but if you prefer a guide we can organise that instead.
After so much fun and activity to help celebrate Christmas and New Year you can relax back at the Castle with a spa treatment or two; our favoured supplies can offer a personal service during your stay – a hot stone massage or an Indian head massage would go down a treat after a day hiking the hills of the Black Isle or taking in the rich culture of the city of Inverness. Later, whisky or wine tasting in the Library or Drawing Room could perfectly end well-rounded New Year’s Day at Aldourie Castle.
As bright and lively summer gives way to comforting and cosy autumn, Aldourie Castle Estate is proud to present its four revamped idyllic retreats in the heart of tranquil Loch Ness. The holiday cottages on the Highland grounds just outside of Inverness offer even more appealing accommodation than before. As the Scottish countryside bursts into flames of colour, snuggle up in Ivy’s lounge, crunch through the copper leaves of Gate Lodge and breathe in that fresh Scottish air with a short break at Pier Cottage.
As well as a beautiful imposing castle on the shores of Loch Ness available for private hire, multi-generational stays and family holidays in Scotland can also be experienced in the perfectly formed character-filled cottages on the surrounding Aldourie Estate. The ideal holiday destination for families, couples or groups visiting the Scottish Highlands, the spacious holiday cottages can also be rented together for Castle house party stays that require additional guest accommodation.
This summer’s refurb has been a full-on experience for the hospitality and management team at Aldourie, not least for the talented gardeners who have designed new outdoor spaces for holiday cottage guests to enjoy. Scenic morning walks, autumnal picnics and evening campfires are all on the agenda this season at Aldourie, to make the most of these beautiful new outdoor spaces. Adventure is literally at your fingertips from each and every holiday cottage on this unique Loch Ness Estate.
Picturesque Ivy is postcard-perfect
Ivy Cottage is sought after by many of Loch Ness’ regular holiday makers. Its convenient situation close to all routes at the edge of the Aldourie Estate is one pull whilst the idyllic aesthetic of a symmetrical exterior at the end of a hedge lined path and framed by a pretty picket fence is another. Flowers surround the front of the cottage and it backs onto vast fields from a private yard setting. The traditional cosy stone sitooterie is an atmospheric place to shelter from the breeze and take in the glorious Highland countryside over a good book or a chat with friends. Its two penthouse bedrooms offer ample space for couples to unwind and romantic stays in Ivy are complete now that the outdoor area has been revamped to create a beautiful backdrop to those all-important memorable holiday moments.
Garden’s in bloom all year round
Garden Cottage has been painted top to toe on the outside and looks brand new again. Its varied plant life and flowers make for a colourful private space to enjoy the fresh Highland breeze over a warming cup of coffee or refreshing glass of wine. Beyond the garden gates our imaginative gardening team have created an adventure wonderland for children, adults and pets alike to enjoy in the form of the vast outdoor garden-come-orchard complete with rose arches, low hedging and access into the rest of the expansive 500 acre Estate. Families can adventure forth in the morning, walking with the dogs in the main parkland whilst exploring the changing colours of the grounds. In the afternoon, kids enjoy entering through the huge iron gate into the Secret Garden – AKA the castle’s enchanting arboretum – full of autumnal wonders including a giant tree house overlooking Loch Ness and a hidden family graveyard, perfect for Halloween stays.
Lodge in Gate with a view of the Castle
Offering one of the best views in Loch Ness (in our humble opinion, anyway) stately Gate Lodge looks out across the grounds towards the impressive façade of Aldourie Castle, behind which is the magnificent backdrop of the Highlands over Loch Ness. Smartly repainted to portray its former glory, the two-floor lodge hides a discreet back garden full of wild flowers and entrancing scents to complete its fairytale appeal. Black wrought iron fencing has been re-varnished to give the cottage a really polished look in keeping with its status as King of the Parkland. Ideally located on the Estate, it witnesses the comings and goings of all guests along the winding drive and is perfectly placed to spot the roe deer as they come out to play in the evening. For Scottish holidaymakers who like to be part of the action Gate Lodge is a charming base, and seclusion can always be found in its cosy lounge or in beach strolls not far from the cottage.
Private Pier makes your stay unique
Pier Cottage has undergone the most profound change of them all; from a brand new loch-side al fresco area complete with a fabulous BBQ and cosy picnic table to an exterior paint job that has transformed this spacious holiday rental into a shining star in the midst of Aldourie’s all-consuming woodland. The bungalow-style short break retreat is ideal for peace and quiet, water activity enthusiasts or guests who find it easier to reside in one-level accommodation. Its spacious and naturally inspired interior provides an instant warmth and comforting dwelling for couples and families looking for a home-from-home stay. Dogs are welcome to chase around the huge garden, run wild in the woodland and splash about to their heart’s content in the Loch. Morning strolls through the wooden pergola and down towards Aldourie Pier provide a fantastic view over the water towards the Scottish Highland hills, which in autumn are ablaze in colour.
Aldourie Castle Estate Is still taking holiday cottage bookings throughout autumn and winter 2015 – 2016. Don’t miss out on the experience of a lifetime in the beautiful Scottish Highlands on Loch Ness. View our holiday cottage calendar here.