Head gardener revitalises exclusive use castle gardens on Loch Ness

Here at the Aldourie castle estate, we’d like to introduce you to our new Head Gardner – Duncan Hall. Duncan is taking the exclusive use castle gardens and grounds to new heights; literally. So much thought and hard work has been put into the design of the restored Victorian landscape. It now features four considerably different garden areas. Each is enchanting to the eye, featuring various levels, from tall ancient trees to our ankle-grazing kitchen garden. Moreover, each has its own particular purpose.

You can read about them in our previous ‘Revitalised Gardens and Grounds’ blog post. But for now, we’re focusing on Duncan and his story. Along with ‘leadership of landscape’ architect Tom Stuart-Smith, Duncan and his team recently improved important parts of Aldourie’s 500-acre grounds.exclusive use castle gardens

The history of a Castle gardener

Our new gardner, Duncan’s passion for gardening grew over time as he worked as a landscape gardener where he grew up in Dumfries and Galloway. He felt at home working outdoors surrounded by nature and after realising his love for gardening Duncan studied for an “HND in Horticulture with Plantsmanship” at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. It was here that he developed his passion for horticulture and researched the huge range of plants at the RBGE. After finishing his HND, Duncan spent a year as a student gardener for the National Trust of Scotland and was based at both Threave Gardens and Branklyn Garden. Threave is a teaching garden for the NTS and Branklyn is a small collectors garden full of interesting woodland and alpine plants.

Duncan was then offered the role of Assistant Head Gardener at Cambo Garden, Fife, where he spent three interesting years. At Cambo he developed a passion for contemporary naturalistic planting and learned a great deal in this area. His guru was the inspirational Head Gardener Elliott Forsyth. He was also involved in teaching students about naturalistic herbaceous planting and design, as well as, other general horticultural skills.exclusive use castle gardens

Tom Stuart-Smith designs exclusive use castle gardens

Whilst working at Cambo, Duncan studied the work of Tom Stuart-Smith as well as visiting various gardens that he has designed. So, when the opportunity arose to work with him, revising the exclusive-use castle gardens at Aldourie Castle, he jumped at it. Duncan says: “This is a fantastic time to be involved with a project like this and it is very exciting to be able to contribute to the creation of the garden.”

The project to date has been challenging and rewarding, however the process has allowed Duncan to learn a lot about the construction of an exclusive-use castle garden, Duncan comments, “As a plantsman, I particularly enjoyed seeing the first of the trees and topiaries planted, which started to bring the garden to life. We have also carried out extensive clearance works in the arboretum, which were completely overgrown with the invasive Rhododendron ponticum. It is now wonderful to see and feel the potential of this space. We can now start the process of replanting with trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.”

Duncan says, “it has been very interesting and enjoyable working with Tom and his team. He has learned first-hand about Tom’s style and how he works.” Tom has produced some wonderful planting plans for the castle gardens and the gardening team at Aldourie are now preparing to implement these in spring, something which Duncan is really looking forward to.exclusive use castle gardens

Gardeners’ section in blog

Look out for our new exclusive use castle gardens and grounds section of the website coming in 2018. This will complement the existing grounds pages. Duncan will also be popping up more frequently in the Aldourie Blog. He will showcase recent project work in the Castle grounds as well as offering handy tips for your own garden and what to plant at different times of the year. For more information on exclusive use stays at Aldourie please contact the Castle’s hospitality team.


Are exclusive use stays good for your wellbeing?

What do people want from an exclusive use holiday? Why would a group of guests choose to stay in a property that’s there just for their enjoyment? Why is it more exciting to celebrate with your own family and friends without having strangers celebrating around you? Isn’t the answer obvious? Not exactly, because exclusivity might mean something different to each person. Here we explore a few of the reasons why guests opt for exclusive use stays in a property, the reasons they might not even know themselves. We also throw in a few examples of where Aldourie Castle estate has placed the utmost importance on exclusive use.

Intimate surroundings encourage important family time

The world is changing and with it so are people’s perceptions and priorities. Mental health awareness, placing importance on more family time and being ‘in the moment’ are all ways in which individuals in society are striving for the ultimate wellbeing. Why is it so important we find that elusive work-life balance? To be truly happy we need to be around those we love and cherish.  But in order to enjoy the company of loved ones doesn’t there have to be a degree of ‘luxury’, of comfort, that only money can buy? And if that intimacy can be found inside a world of natural beauty and fresh air combined with regal splendour and relaxation, then that surely will make anyone feel good.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays guarantee privacy and space

Everyone enjoys the privacy of being at home. Although the whole point of going on holiday is to be away from home, when you choose an exclusive use holiday it’s likely because you want the ‘home from home’ feeling. Aldourie Castle Estate is continually striving to make your exclusive experience even more exclusive. Take, for example, our brand new private bathroom for Nursery Bedroom that has taken the place of a shared kitchen for exclusive use guests staying in the Nursery suite. There are already numerous public rooms in the Castle perfect for idle conversation, dining, drinking and relaxing with your clan. However, as individuals, we need to always be able to retreat to our own personal sanctuary. During exclusive use stays at Aldourie Castle you can be confident of the right balance of shared and private space.

We all like to feel special sometimes

Who doesn’t want to feel special from time to time? When you know you’re getting a pretty unique experience in a one-of-a-kind property with its own personal heritage, it will undoubtedly make you feel special. For instance, exclusive use stays in a private castle are perfect for anniversaries. For a one-off celebration with your loved one it makes sense for the location to be just as unique.

So, what makes our exclusive use guests feel special? At Aldourie, for some it’s waking up to a view over Loch Ness every morning, indulging in a home-cooked Scottish breakfast then taking a steaming mug of coffee down to the treehouse for half an hour with a ‘classic’ from the Castle library. For others it’s grabbing a perfect-fit pair of Hunters wellies from the cloakroom and wandering the peaceful woodland alone for a sense of well-being. Or bathing next to a huge Georgian window overlooking the parkland with no other person in sight. It might be a game of football with the children before dinner in a never-ending parkland meant for nobody but you. Exclusivity; yes it’s indulgent, but it’s also an opportunity for self-preservation.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays are comforting in every sense

Have you ever been on holiday and things went wrong? You suitcase doesn’t appear on the conveyor belt. Your luxury villa you booked online resembles nothing of its description and photographs; not so luxury at all. Your credit card won’t work abroad or your bag gets stolen en- route to the hotel. Your nerves start to jangle; things aren’t as they should be, and you’re in a place you don’t know.

Exclusivity gives you an instant peace of mind; at Aldourie, in our private Castle, should you have any problems, each member of staff is there to help you and only you at any time. You can start to relax because you don’t have to get anyone on your side or wait until someone is available to assist you. With exclusive use an entourage, if you like, can be at your side to assist you from the moment you arrive until the moment you depart. And there’s definitely comfort in that.

Keeping up with the Joneses is a bygone era

Remember curtain twitching? You don’t tend to get much of that these days. The idea of uniqueness is so much more appealing. Who wants to have the same, but better, these days? When it comes to experiences, whether for yourself alone or with family and friends, the more ‘out of this world’ it is, the more in touch with reality you feel. There’s so much to see and do in life so why not go for something different.

When you and your clan arrive at Aldourie, one of the most charming and welcoming exclusive use properties in Scotland, you truly feel as though you’re the only ones to have ever stepped through the door. Wouldn’t you prefer to make incredible memories in a place that feels bound in history over a modern hotel with characterless facilities and a simple seasonal menu. At Aldourie you can taste the earth on which the Castle sits, pick your own fruit and veg and ask Chef to rustle up something tasty for dinner. You make your own experiences here rather than sharing in a tried and tested package that seems to suit most people.exclusive use stays

Exclusive use stays in the Scottish Highlands

The combination of a private holiday property in the spectacular Scottish Highlands might just send you into wellbeing overload. With hundreds of miles of beautiful natural landscapes so wild and otherworldly looking you have nowhere to be but in the moment. Here, inside Aldourie, you can experience the joys of a luxury home offering you privacy, absolute comfort and everything you could possibly need at your fingertips. Outside, on the Castle’s doorstep, not only is there a private 500 acre wilderness for you to enjoy, but the wider Highlands boasting some of the most peaceful scenery known to man. A day of walking or cycling in the Cairngorms National Park could very well leave you speechless. Hopefully, however, it will leave you with enough breath to reminisce over your shared exclusive use experience with family and friends for years to come.