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.

 


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.


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?


A dog’s role on a Scottish Castle Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What lies within; Aldourie grounds and gardens uncovered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Historic Aldourie Castle past and present – in pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Part 2: Why does Loch Ness appeal to celebrities from around the world?

In our last blog post we looked at how the infinite and mystical Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands brought in interest from around the world. Celebrities visit simply to take in its beauty and let the natural aura of Loch Ness enchant and inspire them for their short break or luxury holiday in the great Scottish Highlands.

Read the PART 1: Why does Loch Ness appeal to celebrities from around the world? Then continue to adventure through the calming, majestic waters that float past the beautiful Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness.

The late Robin Williams was said to have been a fan of Loch Ness and its ethereal appeal. He would glide across the waters with pal, Billy Connolly, on occasions, finding the beauty and wildness of the place completely freeing. It is wonderful to think that this exhilarating and captivating paradise on earth brought this great actor some small comfort in the years and days before his sad passing.lochness-aldourie-castle-boatride

A place in history

The largest loch by volume in the Highlands and holding more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined, idyllic Scotland destination Loch Ness has gone down in history for more than just its monster or mysterious storybook setting. It has always been an important site for military, political and commercial reasons with settles gathering at Loch Ness as far back as 2000BC.

Recent history makes Loch Ness just as captivating as a tourist hotspot in mystical Scotland. Playing host to colourful characters of the past such as the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, Loch Ness is said to have housed black magic ceremonies and secret tunnels during the early C20th.  It was the crash landing place of a Wellington bomber during WWII that was 40 years later brought up to the surface with barely a mark on it and today can be seen at the Brooklands Motorsport and Aviation Museum. It was also the chosen location for John Cobb’s fatal water speed record attempt in 1952; the memorial for which stands at the edge of the Loch in commemoration of his achievement.

You can visit Drumnadrochit’s Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition for a more in-depth detail of the natural history of the famous lake that features the only habitable Castle on its blissful shoreline.
Airview of Loch Ness and Aldourie Estate

Big fish of the Scottish Highlands

Despite the ice cold Highland air cooling its wild current and frost bitten hills flanking its shorelines during winter, relentless Loch Ness never freezes making it a big allure to fishing enthusiasts all year round. Whether local or tourists, fishermen flock here owing to the lake’s large variety of fish species. From Northern Pike to Atlantic Salmon and Brown Trout, Loch Ness is a sea of life waiting to be caught.

Anglers of all ages can partake in the fishing experience available in this part of the Scottish Highlands and the mesmerising scenery tops off any days’ conquests making it a truly memorable (and refreshing) day out or even holiday. Book a week’s stay at one of Aldourie’s Cottages on Loch Ness for your annual fishing trip or holiday with friends and indulge in one of Scotland’s most treasured pastimes.

In time for the salmon fishing season look out for our March blog article ’10 reasons to go fishing on Loch Ness’.

From Brad Pitt and Gwen Stefani to Oprah Winfrey and President Obama, the list of celebrities who love to go fishing, whether on their own or with a friend or family members, seem happy to let this be known and pose for photographs. Is fishing becoming more popular and could this be another reason to attract them to holiday on Loch Ness? We think so.Fishing Holidays at loch Ness

And, with our unique Castle providing group accommodation for the luxury travel market and idyllic cottages on the secret shores of Loch Ness perfect for celebrity hideaway holidays, we think they’ll soon be swarming here along with all the envious fish who want to be seen at the destination hot spot of the century.