In our last blog post Aldourie Castle gave its 10 top tips on how to host the perfect summer garden party. We focused on all the key elements to create the ultimate outdoor party. As always we came back to the guests’ experience. This is something Aldourie as an exclusive use castle on Loch Ness Scotland considers above everything else. Here we complete our list and wish you luck and fun in hosting your own outdoor (or indoor) perfect summer garden party.
Choose the ‘right’ music
The aim of the perfect summer garden party is to relax and excite your guests from the moment they arrive. Background music is the key to achieving this. Music exudes ambiance and you’re best to be prepared by creating a playlist well before the party day. That way you can perfect the list, adding or removing songs to suit. If your garden party starts early and finishes late you may want to create different moods for different times. For instance, you can create an energy to the start of your party with upbeat, soft rock or popular songs and opt for more mellow or folky tunes for winding down and reminiscing.
Create designated spaces for your perfect summer garden party
A garden party should have flow and tell a story as much as it should create a functional backcloth to your celebrations and fun. With this in mind, think about creating ‘zones’ that guests can frequent throughout the event.
Ideas include a cosy, intimate space for couples curling up with a glass of wine or close friends chatting into the evening; a partying space for dancing; and a play area for children and any lawn games – bubbles, hula hoops and croquet are just a few suggestions.
Aldourie’s game of choice: a spot of croquet on the Castle’s front lawn would be a must; for the more energetic guests, perhaps a Segway ride…
Set the mood with lighting
The perfect summer garden party needs to consider the small details, such as lighting both during the day and evening. Take on board these tips to keep guests happy.
Make sure there’s lounging spaces placed in both shade and sunny spots – the latter to cater for sun worshipers hoping to top up their tans. Be sure that your designated dining space isn’t in direct sunlight. As dusk falls bring out the candles and lanterns for that all-important ambiance.
Prioritise comfort for your guests
Making your guests feel comfortable and at home is your top priority for the perfect summer garden party. As mentioned above if the sun is shining bright all day shaded areas are a must. And remember, a good host provides anything and everything so make sure you’ve got plenty of sun cream to go around – especially for the children. Your guests will appreciate this considerate touch.
You may want to install some heaters if your garden party is set to go on until late and, of course, provide a basket of blankets for that essential garden party cosiness and warmth. As darkness descends, for any remaining guests lighting a small campfire is the ultimate treat.
Have a back-up plan
You’ve designed the perfect summer garden party with all the fixtures and fittings, but the weather decides to rain on your parade. Don’t let it! Back up plans guarantee a calm, collected host. So, should wet weather prevail, have a gazebo and umbrellas at the ready. If you have a very large garden space you may even consider having a small marquee on standby.
Aldourie’s perfect summer garden party back-up plan: bring everyone inside into the interlinking public rooms. We would let guests enjoy the inside of the Castle with its impressive views over Loch Ness and the Highlands.
As summer begins it’s time to start thinking of entertaining al fresco. Whether your garden space is small and intimate or large and lavish, these top tips make the ideal guide to hosting the perfect summer garden party. Aldourie Castle loves to throw a good outdoor party and we’ve highlighted some personal Castle choices throughout.
Consider your guest list
When it comes to deciding on your garden party guests list it’s important to think about what will create a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. At Aldourie we specialise in hosting the ideal house party of up to 30 guests taking exclusive use of the Castle and grounds. Social gatherings such as birthday celebrations, anniversary dinners or reunions are mainly made up of close family and friends. Therefore, we suggest this mix of guests as the ideal for your perfect summer garden party. Invite too many guests and you lose the intimate atmosphere. Likewise, invite distant relatives or friends of friends and you risk your party lacking familiarity and easy conversation.
Have a theme to focus on
The process of choosing a theme for your perfect summer garden party can be fun. Involve the children in sharing ideas too so they feel they’re involved in the party from the start. Having a well-chosen theme gives focus to the social gathering and makes it easier to plan the rest of the party set up. Ideas you could consider are nautical/beach, contemporary, Nordic or vintage.
Aldourie Castle Estate’s chosen theme: this would have to be the Scottish Highlands; scattering tartan blankets and cushions and offering a well-crafted whisky cocktail.
Tablescape – create a beautiful dining setting
Think ‘tablescape’ over party decorations. Food and drink are more often than not the focus of any party, indoor or outdoor, so make the most of showing these off to their full advantage. The table, whether a sit-down meal or buffet setting, should be the focal point of your party scene. All the better if it sits against the backdrop of a stunning natural landscape. Also, by making an effort with your artistic table arrangements you relinquish the hassle of having to decorate each and every nook and cranny of your party space. Less is more, as the story goes…
Delicious food and drink for your perfect summer garden party
You can host a winning summer garden party that will indulge your guests and be the talking point at social gatherings for months to come. How can you do this? By serving delicious, well-thought out food and drink throughout the day and into the evening. If you plan ahead with your food and drink choices you can create the perfect al fresco dining experience.
The key is to opt for dishes that complement the season, using fresh ingredients and local produce. On hot days be sure to have jugs brimming with ice cold juices, Pimms and cocktails. On warm days keep the wine flowing and have a welcome drink ready for all – champagne, anyone? If there are families on the guest list then remember to feature some fun, child-friendly food and drinks too.
Aldourie’s dishes: a Loch Ness inspired fish course (possibly salmon to cater for the majority of guests) and Scotland’s own colourful, summery cranachan for dessert. Delicious!
Create pretty flower displays
Nothing helps to create the perfect summer garden party more than a beautiful display of fresh flowers. If you’re lucky enough to have a colourful garden complete with all the blooms of the season then why not pick some for your table centerpiece? Depending on your choice of party theme opt for either formal or wild flowers. The scent of the florals will also add to the guest experience of your perfect garden party so remember this when choosing what to place where; evoking people’s senses when they least expect it adds a touch of magic to your showcase.
Aldourie’s flower choice: a selection of blooms freshly picked that morning from our wild flower garden. This would be a perfect tribute to the wild Scottish Highlands landscape that surrounds the 500 acre Estate.
Keep your eyes peeled for our second installment of our 10 top tips to the perfect summer garden party. Why not book Aldourie if you’re looking to hold a milestone birthday in a castle or enjoy a family reunion castle stay. We specialise in exclusive family holidays on Loch Ness in this private use Castle and whilst you’re here why not let us host your perfect castle garden party over summer. Email email@example.com or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.
You’ve booked the experience or holiday of a lifetime with an exclusive use house party with your favourite people. Not only that but the place you’re staying in a luxurious castle and it looks out onto the world famous Loch Ness; one of the most scenic and peaceful settings in Scotland. There’s plenty to do inside the Castle but one look through any of the south facing windows your adventurous streak starts to tug. It implores you experience a boat ride on Loch Ness, no matter what, to get out on that beautiful water and truly relish the Scottish Highlands. Let’s take a dip into Loch Ness, boat by boat.
Speed boat rides on Loch Ness
If you choose your holidays for the thrills as well as the chills, you must hire a speedboat on Loch Ness. The adrenaline rush of the fresh Highlands air on your face combined with viewing the spectacular natural beauty is indescribable. Who knew a boat ride could make you feel so free. A speedboat ride straight from Aldourie’s private marina is less of an adventure and more of an experience.
This type of boat ride also makes for a romantic trip for couples staying in the exclusive hire Castle. You get a lot of privacy speeding passed the Scottish wilderness with a loved one. And despite the pace of your ride it can be very relaxing, slowing down to appreciate particularly appealing spots. Don’t be deceived, however; this experience works up and appetite, what with all that fresh air coming at you at high speed. Thankfully, Aldourie’s private chef will have prepared something delicious for lunch back at the Castle.
Cruises on Loch Ness
If you like your natural landscapes peppered with historic ruins and fascinating facts, then a private chartered boat cruise on Loch Ness is for you. Depending on the weather you can choose to be indoors or up on the top deck. Outside you’ll be up high in the bracing air taking in mountainous backdrop of greens, purple and yellows for miles around. Don’t worry; if you forget your wind/waterproofs there’s plenty to go around. If it’s a bit nippy outdoors then take cover down below, order a hot chocolate and let the energy and history of Loch Ness sail you into a cosy but blissful state.
Kids will love watching the water ripple and foam as the boat skims through Loch Ness with its impressive force. This is a memorable boat trip for house parties of different generations to enjoy, and talk about over dinner later at the Castle. If you want to make your arrival at Aldourie Castle truly amazing, why not approach it from Loch Ness itself. Your party of guests can board a boat at Fort Augustus or just over the way at Dores, then sail across the deep waters and let the Castle slowly come into view. This is the icing on the cake after a spectacular cruise boat ride on Loch Ness.
Nessie Hunter RIB rides around Aldourie Castle
If you’ve brought heaps of imagination on your stay at Aldourie Castle on Loch Ness then you won’t want to miss out on an opportunity to see one of the most talked about mythical creatures in history. This boat ride on Loch Ness explores the very essence of these deep waters. You will learn a lot about the myths associated with the famous Scottish landmark and by the end you feel as though you really know the water. The Nessie Hunter is a great boat ride for groups who’ve booked an exclusive use stay in a private castle on Loch Ness. It’s also ideal for small wedding parties or hen parties; get everyone together the day before at Aldourie and search en masse. A bracing RIB ride on a mission is sure to be full of surprises, giggles, and most of all create wonderful memories.
Canoe or kayak on Loch Ness
Last but certainly not least is the canoe or kayak ride out on Loch Ness. This can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you wish. It’s possibly the most varied type of boat ride on Loch Ness you can experience simply because it suits any age and any level of expertise, from complete novice to experienced water sport enthusiast. Entire parties of exclusive use guests staying at Aldourie have been known to book a whole afternoon canoeing on Loch Ness. Children can stay more inland and be taught the basics. Others are free to explore the surrounding Highlands landscape or simply float off into the near distance to bask under a sunny summer’s sky with only the gentle lapping of water for company.
Canoeing or kayaking on Loch Ness is an exhilarating way to explore the Highlands during an exclusive use stay in the private Castle. If you think about it ahead of time you can build yourself up to the experience, especially if you’re new to this type of boat ride. It’s really more a water sport and there’s an element of independence about it. So the experience itself can be quite freeing and you feel very close to nature. There’s basically just you riding the water – not much boat.
Experience your own boat ride on Loch Ness
There are so many ways to experience Loch Ness no matter your enthusiasm for being outdoors or ever off the shoreline. Exclusive use guests and house parties who have booked a stay at Aldourie will be given ample opportunity to experience the Loch. We have a host of suppliers for various boat ride activities and will be happy to organise your outdoor experiences in the Scottish Highlands for you. To enquire about exclusive use on the only private Castle accommodation on Loch Ness please complete and submit a contact form from the Aldourie website.
The Highland Games are events held in spring and summer in Scotland and a long standing tradition especially in the Scottish Highlands. They are a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture. Exclusive use guests who stay here have enjoyed taking part in their own Highland Games in castle grounds. Guests enjoy various activities and events even bringing their own kilts and growing a beard especially for the occasion! Family and friends house parties at Aldourie are the perfect opportunity for holding such events. You set yourselves up into teams – or, indeed clans – and play from dawn until dusk.
There are no rules necessarily on how to format your Highland Games in castle grounds. However, it’s good to have a little idea of what you are doing so we suggest working with our favoured supplier In Your Element to help you host the events and get the most fun out of your experience. Aldourie is a private Castle on Loch Ness so you can imagine what a spectacular backdrop it becomes for the Highland Games.
Caber toss – great to start off your Games:
How do you achieve this event?
A long log is stood upright. It is then hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically holding the smaller end in his/her hands. The idea is to run forward attempting to toss it in the air so that it turns end over end with the upper (larger) end striking the ground first. The smaller end that was originally held by the competitor then hits the ground upright.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Cabers chosen by the Highland Games event company may vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance. These all add up to make things difficult for a successful toss. That is why holding Highland Games in castle grounds is ideal; the acres of space gives you freedom to really give it all you’ve got!
How is the event judged?
Competitors are judged on how closely their caber reaches ideal 12 o’clock position on an imaginary clock. It is measured relative to the direction of the run. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.
Stone put – a traditional sport:
How do you achieve this event?
This event is similar to its modern-day version, shot put, which you’ll have seen in the Olympic Games. Instead of a steel shot, however, a large stone of variable weight is often used. There are also some differences from the Olympic shot put in terms of techniques permitted. There are two versions: the “Braemar Stone”, which uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women), does not allow any run up to the toeboard or “trig”. In other words it’s a standing put. The “Open Stone” uses a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women) and the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style. However, the stone must be put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until it is released. Aldourie Castle’s supplier will advise you of the most effective techniques to use.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
Using a stone put heightens the feeling of tradition when you and your clan carry out Highland Games in castle grounds. Aldourie particularly has a beautiful, wild terrain of woods and hills beyond its immediate landscaped grounds. Imagine this as your backdrop and see how far it inspires you to throw.
Scottish hammer throw – calls for true clan members:
How do you achieve this event?
Again, this event is similar to the hammer throw of today albeit with some subtle differences. In the Scottish Highlands event, a round metal ball (weighing 16 or 22 lb for men or 12 or 16 lb for women) is attached to the end of a shaft. The shaft is around four feet long and made out of wood, bamboo, rattan, or plastic. In Your Element will have their preferred material with which to use for this event. Place your feet in a fixed position and whirl the hammer around your head before throwing it as far as possible over the shoulder.
Why is this events great for castle grounds?
The area allocated for this event at Aldourie allows hammer throwers to wear specially designed footwear featuring flat blades. These dig into the turf so that you can keep your balance as the hammer is whirled about your head. This gives a great advantage allowing the competitor to increase the distance attainable in the throw. More chance of winning! Just another reason to hold your Highland Games in castle grounds.
Sheaf toss – a heavy-weight event:
How do you achieve this event?
A bundle of straw (known as the sheaf) that weighs around 9.1 kg for the men (and 4.5 kg for the women) is wrapped in a burlap bag. The event calls for it to be tossed vertically with a pitchfork over a raised bar, not unlike that used in pole vaulting.
How is the event judged?
This event is scored is similarly to the Weight Over The Bar. There is therefore significant debate among competitors as to how authentic a Highland event it is. Some argue that it actually belongs to the country fair event list, but nonetheless is a fabulous crowd pleaser.
Maide Leisg (Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Lazy Stick’):
How do you achieve this event?
This is different from any of the above events for its format and direct contact with another competitor. It is a real test of strength and carried out by two men sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressing against each other. Once seated, they hold a stick between their hands which they pull against each other until one of them is raised from the ground.
Date for your diary:
Are you interested in the history of the Highland Games and not simply the chance to partake in some Scottish culture and tradition? If so, you may wish to witness the oldest ‘Maide Leisg’ competition in the world, which takes place at the Carloway show and Highland Games on the Isle of Lewis. Maybe the only thing better than holding your own Highland Games in castle grounds.
Music to accompany your Highland Games in castle grounds
For many Highland Games festival-goers, the most awaited and memorable of all is the massing of the pipe bands. This spectacular show is normally held in conjunction with the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. It’s an incredible display of as many as 20 or more pipe bands marching and playing together. It’s symbolic of true Scottish tradition and fellowship and a treat for the eyes and ears! The finale belts out a thunderous rendition of Scotland the Brave or Amazing Grace, followed by other crowd-pleasing favourites. Imagine a parade of pipers marching through Aldourie Castle Estate. Wouldn’t that be the perfect finish to your Highland Games in castle grounds?
It may come as no surprise but it is the bagpipe music which has come to symbolise music at the Games and, indeed, in Scotland itself. Music at Highland Games festivals and events can also include a variety of bands including fiddles, harp circles and Celtic. However, most usually feature their fair share of bagpipe music throughout.
Other events for your Highland Games in castle grounds
You’ll require slightly more variety for modern-day Highland Games thrown by an exclusive use house party at Aldourie Castle. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to choose from and In Your Element will assist with all the formatting and the detail. However, get your juices flowing by considering any of the following:
Clan tents selling/offering Scottish related food and drink – maybe have Aldourie Castle organise this for you and ask the Castle’s private chef to cook up some delicious Scottish cuisine you can enjoy straight from the tents.
Mock battles – again, the hospitality team at Aldourie can arrange this for you with a preferred supplier. If you’d like to know more about what this entails we‘ll be blogging about a Scottish mock battle in castle grounds in a later post.
Various vendors selling Scottish memorabilia – everything from Irn-Bru to the stuffed likeness of the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, this is your private Highland Games event performed for fun with family and friends as part of an exclusive use stay in a private castle. Why not let the kids be in charge of this, see what ideas they can come up with for giveaways or event prizes. It would definitely be a learning curve in Scottish culture and yet another reason to hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds.
Plan your trip of a lifetime around one of Scotland’s most beautiful coastal routes. Book two exclusive use stays during a life-changing North Coast 500 Road Trip.
We want to tell you about a new driving route through the western Highlands of Scotland. One that is full of adventure and scenic views. It’s called the North Coast 500 a 516-mile (830.4 km) route, and takes you around the north coast of Scotland. The route both starts and ends at Inverness Castle and in this blog we suggest how best to enjoy Scotland’s very own Route 66. For instance why not start your journey with a luxury stay at the resplendent Aldourie Castle. It is the perfect opportunity to stop partway through your drive and relax and recharge. Both Aldourie and Kinloch estates are part of the Wildland group of property and what’s more, each is available all year round for private hire as luxury group accommodation.
When you take this trip you really do experience 500 miles of the best scenery that the North Highlands has to offer. The route itself runs from and to Inverness, and takes you through the heart of the Highlands heading up to the west coast and back via the rugged north coast.
How many miles is do-able in a day on the North Coast 500 Road Trip
Well it’s all about personal preference really and it depends on what kind of experience you want to have. For the sightseers amongst you, you may prefer to stop every 50 miles to appreciate the various famous landmarks. Whereas, if you are a keen motorcyclist or driver you might be interested in just racking up those miles in either your vintage car or your Harley!
Stay in your own castle on Loch Ness
Whatever mode of transport you’ve chosen to travel in along the North Coast 500 Road Trip, there’s plenty of outdoor space at Aldourie Castle to park up your vehicles. Ideally situated just six miles from Inverness, why not make Aldourie Castle your starting point for this epic adventure? After all, the 500 acre Highlands Estate is accessed off the main road into Inverness.
A warm welcome will greet you here at the castle with our dedicated hospitality team helping you settle in. They will take your luggage whilst you can then sit and enjoy a drink in the drawing room. Or, if it’s nice weather you might wish to sit out on the terrace. Aldourie is designed for exclusive use rentals only, so the property and immediate grounds are solely yours for the duration of your stay. Enjoy these first few days of your North Coast 500 Road Trip in your own luxurious holiday setting on Loch Ness. The Castle can accommodate up to 30 guests in 13 bedrooms. However, larger groups can spill into the four holiday cottages on the estate where necessary.
House party before road trip
Off site at Aldourie Castle Estate there are various ways to spend your days before you begin travelling up to the Highlands. For instance, there are the ruins of Urquhart castle, which can be easily reached by boat. Then there’s the numerous famous whisky distilleries where you can taste a wee dram of the good stuff. If you would rather head out in the car or on bike, you could visit Fort Augustus for its winding walks and hikes. At Dores Beach on Loch Ness and nearby, you’ll find quaint market towns and villages a short drive away – visit Beauly for a spot of local culture and shopping.
Back at your luxury base at Aldourie Castle you can organise any type of outdoor sport or activity. So there’s plenty for your exclusive use group to enjoy. Take advantage of being so close to Loch Ness and book onto the Nessie Hunter or a canoe ride against the magnificent Highlands backdrop. A stay at Aldourie is complemented by our five star catering cooked in house by the Castle’s chef. Why not book your own House Party Experience at Aldourie before setting off from Inverness to start your North Coast 500 Road Trip.
The Black Isle
The Black Isle is located just north of Inverness. Eathie Road is one of the most scenic roads of the North Highlands and from here you can actually see Ben Nevis. There are many sightseeing opportunities on the Black Isle including wonderful views of Fort George, bright green fields above the deep blue waters of the Moray Firth, and not to mention the chance to see dolphins at Chanonry Point. The Muir of Ord distillery is a must-see. Designated drives can take their whisky tasting samples with them to enjoy that evening. This is a great Scottish Highlands experience; read more about whisky tasting in the Scottish Highlands.
This is your next stop along the stunning highlands route boasting amazing scenery. Wester Ross is famous for its stunning mountains, glorious lochs and white sandy beaches. Travel along the Bealach Na Ba, a steep and winding stretch of road. This is a truly exciting route for experienced drivers and riders. Extravagant sights will ignite your senses for the start of a memorable road trip. Here you will find some useful information if you are planning to bike along the North Coast 500.
Ullapool is the main town of Wester Ross, a lively and friendly spot with a varied music scene. If you like your music festivals it’s well worth stopping here. Another great pit stop is the picturesque village of Aultbea located on the shoreline of Loch Ewe. Adrenaline junkies will revel in Wester Ross; take advantage of the varied outdoor activities strewn across the region.
The next leg of your journey will take you to Caithness; a hive of history, nature and landscapes. Its dramatic flat lands and skyline give it an otherworldly feel. The district itself has an adventurous soul being home to the village of John O’Groats, the starting point to the UK’s famous end-to-end journey to Land’s End. Once you arrive here you are well established into your North Coast 500 Road Trip. So, take some quality time to relax and discover, and devour some dramatic scenery on the very edge of Europe.
Caithness is an escapist’s dream. A fascinating heritage will enthral curious minds that want to learn as they travel whilst a breath-taking coastline will capture imaginations. If you’re interested in royal connections visit the Castle of Mey, the official holiday home of the late Queen Mother. On a clear day nature lovers may like to take the nice stretch of 71 miles in one go – Cape Wrath to Duncansby Head. Make sure you get off your bike/out of your car to witness the magnificent Dunnet Head, the northern tip of the UK.
This region makes up a significant portion of your North Coast 500 Road Trip and is full of beautiful jaw-dropping scenery. Northwest Sutherland boasts unspoiled natural landscapes and world famous beaches. Particularly seek out Achmelvich and Clachtoll for some scenic strolling. You can not the spectacular mountain ranges of this part of Sutherland.
The east coast is a real treat for golfers and here is home to the 18-hole championship Royal Dornoch golf course. Luxury lovers will meanwhile enjoy visiting the fairytale castle Dunrobin, the seat of the Earl and Clan of Scotland. Spend a few hours if you wish admiring the stunning formal gardens and experiencing falconry up close. If nature is one of the reasons for your luxury North Coast 500 Road Tripwildlife can be found at the RSPB Forsinard Flows Nature Reserve, which serves to exhibit and preserve the peatlands of Scotland.
Kinloch Lodge, Sutherland – group catered stays
This exclusive use location offers solitude and comfort in the wild, magnificent setting of Sutherland. Kinloch Lodge is available all year round for private rental by one group/booking. A private holiday here is best enjoyed with a group of family or friends. It is all about appreciating nature, good food and company. Whilst at the same time, residing in a remote, rural paradise. Laidback luxury and tranquility come hand-in-hand, making it easy to nurture friendships or spend quality time. There is no need to lift a finger as the lodge has a private chef. Here we sourc only fresh, local produce. There is also a hospitality team as well as a head keeper to help organise any outdoor experiences.
Kinloch was originally the private lodge of the Duke of Sutherland. It’s a classic sporting property that has been newly refurbished in a Scandi-Scot style. The interior has been inspired by its outdoor setting with lots of wooden furnishings, natural colour schemes and open stone fireplaces. Generous, light living spaces allow for time alone with a good book whilst cosy corners invite fireside chats over a glass of wine. You can also, admire the rugged open landscape of Ben Loyal during dinner in the conservatory. Then again you can make yourself at home in beautifully decorated spacious bedrooms as well.
The unspoiled landscape of Sutherland
This hideaway from the real world is ideal for your second exclusive use stay during your memorable North Coast 500 road trip. You are surrounded by miles of land to roam and explore. So, whilst you’re on foot make the most of your idyllic setting. This area is vast and full of landmarks and attractions, history, shopping and culture. Before you take the last leg of your NC500 road trip why not spend some quality time in Sutherland and enjoy the remoteness of Kinloch Lodge?
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.
They’re in fairytales
Once upon a time people would get married in a church. Then came the shiny, swanky, spotless hotel andthatbecame 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.
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.
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 Augustusand 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.
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 ontoTimes of the Modern Castlenow, and that’s another story.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
When you decide to book an exclusive use stay in Aldourie Castle on the southern shores of Loch Ness, there is no need to venture much further beyond the Estate’s walls with so much to see and do on Loch Ness and in the Scottish Highlands around Inverness.
Two types of tours we are concentrating on for this blog post are nature and wildlife tours and boat tours on Loch Ness. The Highlands are famous for their lochs as well as their impressive landscapes and unique wildlife, so what better way to make you, our a private house party of guests, feel at home than by telling you all about what helps make the Scottish Highlands so welcoming and wonderful. The whimsical mountainous peaks and the fascinating natural world are what keeps people coming back to Aldourie year after year.
Nature and Wildlife tours
Take the Applecross Peninsula Day Trip from Inverness, a nine-hour day trip on a luxury tour that takes you to the less-visited part of Scotland, the windswept Applecross Peninsula. You will spot an abundance of wildlife native to the region and be transported to a dreamland as you soak up the dramatic views of wild Highlands’s scenery. A visit to the the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve, Britain’s oldest in fact, will supply you with enough knowledge to understand and appreciate the history of the area as well as the nature that thrives there. Look out for golden eagles soaring overhead. You will be eager to explore the many easy trails giving you and your private house party groups the chance to discover the true wildlife of the Scottish Highlands.
As you arrive in the village of Arndarroch, admire views of Loch Kishorn, then attempt the steep Bealach nam Ba (Pass of the Cattle). At the top (2,000 feet high), an extraordinary natural view will spill out before you; possibly your first sight of the Isle of Skye. From here, take the scenic drive along the shoreline of Loch Torridon, stopping part-way to explore the town of Shieldaig.
Dolphin spotting near Loch Ness
Another wonderful way to complement your exclusive use holiday in a luxury Scottish Castle is to venture out onto the wild waters of the Moray Firth, a triangular inlet of the North Sea with a stunning coastline, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the even wilder dolphin. One of the best places to spot this beautiful and intelligent aquatic mammal is at Chanonry Point near Inverness. The dolphin-spotting area lays between Fortrose and Rosemarkie on the Black Isle and the best time to see them is during a rising tide. See moraydolphins.co.uk for details on tide times.
For the ultimate dolphin spotting experience, Aldourie Castle recommends the boat tours that depart from inverness. The Dolphin Spirit encapsulates many aspects in one; you will be able to admire the natural landscape of Moray Firth as well as observe the wildlife in the area including herons and otters.
The thing to remember with dolphin spotting trips is how wild the animal is. That is part of its beauty; the fact that they are highly intelligent with a captivating sense of fun only adds to the delight of witnessing a dolphin in its own habitat. So, if you are lucky enough to see the dolphins that truly is a wonderful experience to hold onto. However, they are not there to perform or entertain, although their balletic dives may appear to have been rehearsed, so try not to be disappointed if you don’t catch a glimpse. And just hope they will grace you with their presence next time.
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.
People have always enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that accompanies a DIY holiday from camping to self-catered hotel stays; you have the base covered but you make your own fun from there. But the growing popularity in cottage breaks in the UK and abroad is proof that people want a holiday entirely on their own terms and deep down like the creature comforts of a home from home experience. Some added luxury and an idyllic location are usually top of the list, especially if a couple, family or group of friends are travelling far up the country to the magnificent and famous Scottish Highlands. It just so happens that Aldourie can provide all the convenience and beauty needed to make the perfect cottage holiday or short break in Scotland.
Self-catering is more fun
When you’re planning and preparing your own meals you can eat what you like, when you like, which certainly helps set the tone for a freeing existence during your cottage holiday. Convenient and relaxing, holiday cottages on any farm or large country estate will usually boast a chic country kitchen with all the mod cons you’d have at home – and the change of scenery makes it all the more enjoyable to cook and chat with family and friends. You also have the choice to break up your routine with visits to a selection of local cafés or pubs in quaint towns or glorious countryside settings – check your holiday cottage manual for the owner’s recommendations for the best eateries around.
Never mind Jamie Oliver’s dazzling kitchen or The Great British Bake Off marquee set ups, the huge kitchen at Pier Cottage looks out onto Highland wilderness and woodland and has a spacious cooking island and American style fridge-freezer whilst country chic Ivy Cottage has its very own SMEG. Let the beauty, aromas and tranquility of the Highlands inspire your contemporary cooking as you sit literally on nature’s doorstep. Guests are encouraged to visit the local and highly acclaimed Dores Inn for lunch or dinner; take the charming shoreline walk there and receive the complimentary shuttle back, available to all Aldourie holiday cottage guests.
Breakfast at your leisure
Wake up to a breakfast every morning at a time to suit you instead of being dictated to by a hotel’s set timings. Enjoy a leisurely prep in the kitchen and later the full works with the company of your choosing. Top off sitting down to a hearty cooked Scottish breakfast with incredible window views and cosy surroundings with the gentle hum of the radio.
It has to be bacon and eggs breakfast in bed or being woken up by the smell of steaming fresh coffee from the Nespresso machine, found in any one of the four pretty holiday cottages on the Highland Castle’s large Estate.
Beautiful setting and landscape
Compared to a hotel, which is more often than not placed for convenience of access and locality, a holiday cottage is placed thus for its setting. Luxury cottage rentals in Scotland are blessed with captivating surroundings of the Highlands or Lowlands or on the banks on many of the lochs that define the country. Tranquillity and beauty preside in the calming, wild and untouched areas of Scotland so when choosing your cottage destination be sure to opt for one with the most idyllic and captivating views as well as access to the type of countryside you most want to enjoy or explore. Your own holiday cottage garden, like the ones at Aldourie, allows freshly cooked dinners al fresco, barbeque on site and the kids run around by themselves in a safe, secure environment.
Nestled within a private Estate yet accessed by the main road into Inverness and minutes from the train station and airport, our cottages could not have a more convenient location. Once through the iron Castle gates, the route down the winding drive to find each of our hidden holiday cottage gems is an adventure in itself and the glorious, individual setting of each holiday cottage is the icing on the cake. With endless views, scenic walks, fresh air and rare Scottish wildlife on your doorstep there is no need to get in the car to find it elsewhere.
Unlike a hotel, with a relaxing cottage break in Scotland you will not have to share the outlook or immediate outdoor surroundings with anybody but your own party of family or friends. Plus, all rooms in the holiday cottage are yours to use as and when you please and for whatever reason you wish. Although the landscaped gardens and grand rooms of a hotel may be luxurious they are intended for public use and privacy is not necessarily part of the deal. Self-catered holiday cottages are also a preferred way of holidaying for many because there are no hospitality staff and no superfluous distractions; just the relaxing lapping of waves and the giddy noise of the children playing in the back garden.
Ivy Cottage’s cosy luxury complete with exposed beams and a freestanding bedside bath is more romantic than any hotel suite. Garden Cottage’s outdoor area is an adventure playground for all the family and Pier Cottage offers Loch Ness views you could only otherwise dream of that are exclusive to you. Privacy in your Scottish Highland dwelling is guaranteed at Aldourie.
Many hotels are not pet friendly but when you visit the Scottish Highlands bringing your beloved dog is a huge part of what makes your holiday special. One of the major pulls of a self-catered stay is the opportunity to bring the whole family and not leave a certain member behind. Bringing your dog on holiday helps to keep the stress levels low and the kids distracted, which on long car journeys could be a welcome relief. Moreover, dogs add fun, frivolity and activity to your cottage holiday and can take advantage of most of the holiday activities you would partake in as a family – perhaps not the initial supermarket shop, but definitely the long Highland walks, hill scrambles and wild swimming in the lochs! Pet friendly cottages can be found across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness and are usually advertised as such on the owner’s website.
The mysterious woodland, enormous parkland and close proximity to Loch Ness for playful paddles make for a perfect dog holiday at any Aldourie cottage, whilst atmospheric and heart-warming indoor wood burning stoves will keep your lovable pooch contented into the evening. Dogs love racing out onto the private pier and lazing there with a bowl of water, mesmerised by the boats bobbing on the marina.
When you think of family holidays what immediately springs to mind? Memories to conjure whenever you feel nostalgic? Time to yourself when you can daze and laze the days away with a good book trilogy? A place in which you can just be yourself and relax completely because nobody is judging? Being around those you love during a family holiday is one of the most precious things you can experience: complete freedom of spirit, private family jokes that go back years and years, fits of giggles when you reminisce over funny times – that seem funnier every time the story is retold. Family time can feel almost magical in the sense that family holidays are a very personal time; personal to each of us, a moment in time that no one else will ever experience in exactly the way we each have, with the same group of people. Many people think that it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re with the people you want to be around. Being a luxury travel destination in one of the world’s most iconic and beautiful places, however, does give us a rather specific view on that.
Aldourie Castle is a place of wonderment, peace and contentment. Everything you could possibly want or need on a multi-generational family holiday is here or can be arranged for you in a matter of hours. Things happen with ease at this storybook Castle; teenage girls’ childhood fantasies of being a princess miraculously come to life through winding staircases, private turrets and luxurious surroundings.
Boredom is not an option at Aldourie; a holiday here is literally like a fairytale. Boys can live out their dreams taking in every sporting or adventure activity under the sun; being outdoors on the magnificent Loch Ness with use of acres of private land is most appealing to the young explorer. Even toddlers enjoy spending time gazing at sparkling ornaments in the Castle and running through the brightly coloured gardens on a sunny afternoon.
Mums and dads can relax after the hectic schedule of the busy working life for a few weeks of quiet and quality time together. Romantic beach walks beckon in the evening before dinner together with the family. Quality time with grandparents is also something which should never be overlooked; children crave the attention and being spoilt rotten for a while whilst parents are relieved of responsibility and duties, if only for an afternoon. And the bonus? Individual and enchanting bedrooms await everyone after each eventful or restful day.
A week long or month long stay at Aldourie Castle means that this Scottish luxury home is only lived in by you and your family. The warm welcome upon arrival at the Castle is far beyond that which you would receive at a hotel. An exclusive holiday hire property is naturally your own home for the duration of your stay and so making guests feel relaxed, comfortable and at ease is the first thing on our To Do list. The rest is directed by the needs and wants of our most welcome guests. Whenever you want to get away from it all, come to Aldourie; no matter the season the Castle offers something extra special and is probably the most authentic home from home you will ever experience.