Aldourie’s top 3 castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What better way to appreciate the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What is the history of Urquhart Castle?

The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. During the 14th century the castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Thereafter it was considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands to this date.

Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?

It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness like any castle ruins. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands is greatly appealing to holidaymakers.

Special fact or feature of the castle

Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back and as a result is one of the most fascinating historic castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands.. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296, when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357. castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

The stunning castle ruins on the edge of Loch Ness is relatively local to Aldourie Estate, only 40 minutes’ drive away. When you’re driving through the Scottish Highlands, time seems to disappear anyway. The roads are so easy to drive along as they sweep past the spectacular mountains and lochs and there’s little traffic intervention. There’s also so much to see and appreciate; before you know it you’ve reached your destination.

Another pull for guests staying at exclusive use Aldourie Castle is that it is also located on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker.

Eilean Donan  – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

This attractively named landmark is one of the most recognised castles in the whole of Scotland. You may have seen it one shortbread tins, tea towels and scenic calendars if you have ever before visited a gift shop in the Highlands.  Eilean Donan itself is a small island in the western Highlands and the meeting point of three sea lochs. The castle was restored in the early 20th century and now a footbridge connects the island to the mainland granting easy access to a somewhat untouchable Scottish landmark.

What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?

Eilean Donan was named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint around in 617. The castle itself was founded in the 1200s, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and the Clan Macrae. The castle was destroyed in 1719 because of the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions. What you see is the castle in its reconstructed form in the twentieth-century.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Interestingly, in the thirteenth century, during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain-wall castle was constructed enclosing most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.

Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?

Eilean Donan is the up there with the most picturesque castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. The Castle has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark backdrop to pose for a photograph against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio!

Special fact or feature of the castle

Records suggest that there was a small Christian church on the island of Eilean Donan in the 6th or 7th century. Although no actual remains survive to this day fragments of stone do suggest an Iron Age or medieval history. This astonishing castle ruins has been redeveloped and reconstructed around six times; no wonder it looks tired now.

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century, all of which is well documented. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder that many of Aldourie’s holiday cottage guests like to cross the bridge to this castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, which bears such heritage.

Dunnottar Castle – castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands on ancient ground

Dunnottar Castle is the ruins of a medieval fortress situated on scenic rocky peninsula, elevated from the mainland. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. The ruins of the castle are surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?

The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort was built nearby in the 3rd century and in the following century a place of worship. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and it was captured by William Wallace in the year 1276.

Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. It was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.

Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?

Dunnottar Castle, an isolated castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, is an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over. The rock that the castle sits on formed some 440 million years ago; that’s enough to bring anyone to an historic landmark in Scotland. Tourists visit Dunnottar Castle for their own unforgettable experience; there is so much to see and do here. Try walking or cycling to the Castle from the nearby town of Stonehaven, itself a tourist attraction. The route to the castle is very picturesque.

Special fact or feature of the castle

When you visit this special historic landmark you will soon discover the importance of Dunnottar. It is in simple form an invincible fortress that holds important secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland- the Scottish crown jewels- were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army, which invaded in the 17th century.

Why this is a great castle to visit whilst staying at Aldourie?

It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the walls of this castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands, including:castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

Gatehouse and Benholm’s Lodging
Tunnels
Tower house
Forge
Waterton’s Lodging
Stables
Palace
Chapel
Postern gate
Whigs’ Vault
Bowling green
Sentry box

There’s so much more to the best historic castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to these top three castle ruins.


Top 8 luxury self-catering holiday cottage requirements

We’ve devised a hopefully useful post, based on comments and testimonials left by previous Aldourie cottage guests. It’s a list of the top 8 requirements for a luxury self-catering holiday cottage. Maybe these will feature high up on your tick list when searching for your next cottage stay.

Scenic spot

When searching for the best location to experience a family holiday or stay with friends, scenery is key. An aesthetically pleasing setting helps to create a feeling of peace and calm during a short break. This is especially important because a cottage holiday or short break to some is ‘never long enough’ so settling in quickly is a must. We think there is nowhere more scenic than the tranquil waters of Loch Ness and the majestic Highlands beyond. Or acres of mysterious woodland full of adventure and play. These sought after settings are easily viewed from any window at Pier Cottage on the Aldourie Estate.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Your favourite people

A stay in a luxury self-catering holiday cottage is nothing if not enjoyed with the people you love to spend quality time with. Reading through the testimonials of previous cottage guests we discovered that many were anecdotes. Their personal experiences were based on situations with others; conversations, family jokes, old/new stories, trying new things together.

‘Laughter’ and its derivatives were words we came across a lot. How people felt when they were on holiday, the emotions they experienced, were all positive: happy, carefree, contented, calm. We all know the importance of being in the moment and mindfulness holidays are on people’s agenda for 2017. It seemed most enjoyed some ‘alone time’ or ‘their own company’ during their short break on Loch Ness, but actual holiday highlights included the company of others.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Pet-friendly cottage

Dog friendly cottages are a must in today’s world. It was estimated in 2016 that over 40% of households had one pet or more. A pet is part of the family and are a huge part of people’s lives. They can be the making of a ‘funny’ story simply by their impulsive antics and behaviour. We surmised that guests preferred to bring their pet to their Scottish cottage holiday rather than leaving them behind. Needless to say all four Aldourie cottages are dog-friendly cottages with ample garden space for them to roam around. The area of Loch Ness and the Highlands is full of walks, hikes and trails perfect for dog walking holidays.

Child-friendly cottage

There is many a holiday cottage that would appear to be child friendly but strangely is not. So – tip – when searching for cottage stays don’t get caught up in the showy visuals before checking the facts. We can’t imagine Aldourie without children roaming about the place, having fun. Children help adults lose their inhibitions too, simply by being carefree, being themselves. Reading comments in our guest book it was clear that a sense of fun and adventure was at the heart of a family holiday in the Highlands.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Private garden

One of the main pulls of a holiday cottage break, we found, is its home from home feel. People are possessive of space, and quite understandably. It gives you the freedom to be yourself and the opportunity to manipulate your surroundings to your own desires and needs. Personal outside space is just as important to cottage holidaymakers. Our previous guests have made the best memories outdoors: afternoon barbeques with friends, romantic evening drinks by moonlight and the kids playing with the dog in the garden. Privacy is also key to a peaceful holiday. All you have to do is look at Ivy Cottage’s idyllic country garden to see what we mean.

Character & original features

Character is something very close to people’s hearts, in various forms, but particularly in buildings. Families and friends who stay in a cottage that has been renovated into a luxury self-catering holiday cottage also want to appreciate the original features. They also like to see lots of wood – particularly if the cottage is in a rural setting. And why not? It makes everything so much more authentic. On the Aldourie Estate in the Highlands you don’t have to imagine real logs burning on open fires, cosy corners and characterful beams in every room.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

Mod-cons & comfort for easy living

We also confirmed our suspicions that people want to feel ‘at home’ in a holiday cottage on Loch Ness. They want to feel as though they have everything they have at home, and more. Take, for example, that essential souped up coffee maker that makes every morning a Sunday morning. Or a huge American style fridge-freezer. They mean you can stock up, for the most relaxing and efficient luxury self-catering holiday cottage you’ll ever experience. We also discovered that groups and families who stayed at an Aldourie cottage preferred the comfort over aesthetic. So when it comes to lounging on the sofa or curling up in bed, priorities would be lots of soft cushions, high arms to snuggle into and a good mattress.

Close to culture and landmarks

Holiday cottage dwellers prefer to be in striking distance of at least a few well-known places of interest. Not to cut down on travel time; in fact, driving is seen as a highlight of many cottage holidays. It can evoke a real holiday feel to be so close to famous landmarks whilst to others it’s satisfying to feel like a ‘local’ in a holiday destination. Conveniently, Aldourie Estate and its four traditional cottages are close to tourist hot spots.luxury self-catering holiday cottage

The city of Inverness is a hive of culture as our recently posted guide to family attractions in Inverness explains. Fort Augustus is a scenic drive away, as is the famous Black Isle region. The Caledonian Canal is accessible from Loch Ness cottage stays and the southern shoreline is home to some impressive landmarks including Urquhart Castle.

It is very clear people expect certain things from a luxury self-catering holiday cottage.  But of course, every family and group have different requirements. Friends on a cycling holiday for instance would likely put scenery and terrain at the top of their list. Families may gravitate more towards a cottage with the latest appliances and an enclosed garden. Nonetheless, it was agreed by all our previous guests that an Aldourie cottage holiday was somewhat of a dream escape and everyone who’s ever left has wanted to return.

Our cottage calendar checker makes it easy to check dates for Aldourie cottages – take a peek at available dates here or call 01463 751309.


The best holiday cottage tours near Inverness

Aldourie Castle Estate is located just a few miles from the centre of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Its peaceful setting and convenient location make it the ideal place for enjoying best cottage holiday tours near Inverness.

The private Estate hosts numerous guests at any one time. For example, we might have a private house party of guests in the Castle, a family of four in Gate Lodge and a group of cycling friends at Pier Cottage. Each individual or group will have different expectations and ideas for their holiday on Loch Ness. Therefore, we decided to provide a generic guide to some of the best tours in Inverness. We also made sure to encompass the variety of day trips available.

It’s easy to take advantage of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. This is mainly because there are so many reputable tour operators providing an variety of tours across the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness. They operate only a few miles away in Inverness and this guide comprises a few carefully selected favourites.pier cottage Aldourie Estate best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Walking or cycling tours

One of the very first things our guests request is information on scenic walks and cycling routes around Loch Ness. Some like to do it alone, following a map or their noses and discovering as they go. However, others like a guide to show them the best places to walk and cycle for the most spectacular sights and views. If you are searching for the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness, be sure to include a cycling trip.

Happy Tours, among its many destination tours, offers a truly wonderful tour of the mesmerising and tourist destination Isle of Skye. Once you’ve been transported up the never-ending roads that weave in and around its stunning landscape, be prepared for some serious scenery that will literally take your breath away. Stop off at romantic glens, shimmering waterfalls, wild hilly terrain and historic landmarks with an atmosphere all of their own. This varied and beautiful Isle of Skye tour also includes a stop off in the traditional harbour town of Portree. Here you can refuel with a seafood lunch ready for more unforgettable views. These include the Cuillin Mountains, Old Man of Storr and the Kyle of Lochalsh.walkers in the Scottish Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Cycling tours offer freedom

For a chance to use your own bike opt for the Loch Ness cycling tour from Inverness. This is an ideal day out if you’ve booked a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Explore Loch Ness at your leisure with this independent one-day tour where you are completely in control of your time. You will have been issued a trusty map with set of directions at the starting point of Bellfield Park. From there, you are taken along a journey – and an incredible one at that – into miles of peaceful rural Scotland.

Experience the utter joy of viewing spectacular unspoiled scenery accompanied by no other sound than the crunching of your tyres. Weave along winding country roads intermittently slowing down to capture the essence of those quaint lost-in-time villages seeping character and layers of intriguing history.

Towards the end of your route, stop off in Dores, just around the corner from Aldourie Estate, perhaps for a café lunch or a bite at Dores Inn. From this spot simply enjoy your beautiful surroundings of majestic Highland hills and a glistening Loch Ness. Take a break from the seat with a stroll along Dores Beach’s shoreline. You’ll quickly realise the joy of a cycling holiday on Loch Ness. Should you require them, you can hire a top brand bike and accessories from Bellfield Park hire shop. From Dores, you can either take the flat route adjacent to Loch Ness or head uphill to appreciate the unforgettable view across the famous water.Man Cycling in the Highlands best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Whisky distilleries & tastings

There are endless whisky tours available around the shire of Inverness. We chose this one because it combines two famous distilleries in an area that houses over half the distilleries in Scotland. And both are situated in entirely different settings so you get a feel for their uniqueness. To experience some of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness you must book at least one trip to a whisky distillery.

The Speyside Whisky Discovery Tour is run by the Hebridean Explorer. From Inverness enjoy the 1hr 15 minute drive towards the heart of the lush hills of Speyside before arriving at the traditional and authentic surroundings of the Macallan Distillery complete with nostalgic-looking signage and bouts of fog-like steam filling the air. Here you will experience their ‘Six Pillars’ tour culminating in a tasting of four specially selected malt whiskies, including their 12 year-old Sherry Oak and 18 year-old Fine Oak.

Afterwards, visit Aberlour village for lunch before heading to the ancient parish of Dufftown, in which sits Glenfiddich Distillery. Here, stone walled paths intercept white wash warehouses with grey domed roofs against a backdrop of thick green forest; a postcard worthy scene. You will take the ‘Explorer’ tour before tasting another four drams of signature malts.whisky tasting seet up Macallan Distillery best cottage holiday tours near Inverness

Truly ‘taste’ the Highlands

Experiencing a whisky distillery tour makes you feel as though you’re tasting the true essence of the Scottish Highlands, both literally and metaphorically. It is designed to make you feel ‘at home’, as almost any place in Scotland is. From the moment you enter the door you are greeted by genuinely friendly staff and the passion each worker seems to have for their brand, the drink itself and the overall culture that whisky evokes. Your guide will appear to emit endless knowledge and obvious pride in the distillery. Breathe in the atmosphere of peaty, malty aromas of the distillery warehouses. Then finally, arrive in the immaculate, ordered setting of the tasting room and gift shop.

The entire process from start to finish is a history lesson and cultural experience in one. Whether it’s an hour long or a day trip, for that period you are transported to another world. You may well become a whisky convert (if not already a lover). Most importantly, you will always remember your last distillery tour, and look forward to the next.

If you get the bug why not book on some more whisky distillery tours for the rest of your short break, taking your pick of the crème of the crop in the scenic splendour of Speyside. A fan of the dram? Have a read about three other distillery suggestions in our place of interest blog post.

We look forward to posting our second installment of the best cottage holiday tours near Inverness. Look forward to details on wildlife and nature alongside boating and cultural tours around Inverness and Loch Ness.


Top 10 family attractions in Inverness

At Aldourie Estate in Scotland we welcome guests to stay in its beautiful Highland holiday cottages all year round. Our holiday cottage guests stay for different types of short breaks. Some are cycling groups of friends with an holiday itinerary as long as their arm. Others are go-with-the-flow families looking for a relaxing yet fun-filled short break. We also love hosting couples who are looking for sanctuary and space and time to enjoy with only one another. Because after all, if you can’t do that on Loch Ness, where else in the world can you do it? In this blog we have listed for your perusal the top 10 family attractions in Inverness.

Couples holidaying in Scotland tend to prefer long drives out to the hills and ambling around peaceful villages they have seen in magazines or in films. With this in mind, we have produced a list for the those holidaymakers who wish to stay more local to their Aldourie holiday cottage. Inverness, the most local city only six miles away from Aldourie, is great for enjoying family attractions. In fact, it boasts a deceivingly ample offering of tourist destinations that can often get overshadowed by the wild calls of the idyllic, majestic countryside of the Scottish Highlands.fort george from above family attractions in Inverness

River Ness

If refreshing walks and scenic beauty are your idea of the perfect day out then do visit River Ness. It’s one of the most walked family attractions in Inverness. It is about 12 miles long and flows from the north of Loch Ness to north-east in Loch Dochfour. In the summer, bask in the warm and peaceful riverside whilst relaxing and taking in the freshly-scented air. In winter, we hope you’re lucky enough to witness the mountains topped with snow for truly breath-taking views. To add a touch of magic to your cottage holiday in Inverness, head south in the evening to the Ness islands. You’ll find them in the middle of the river and you can stroll the walking paths linked by little bridges. Lit up against the dark skies, they make for a beautiful moonlit walk.

Fort George

Situated at the edge of the Moray Firth facing harsh North Sea winds, this remarkable fort is well established for tourists yet maintains a strong sense of authenticity due to its current use as a British Army barracks. The impressive landmark overflows with both historical charm – step inside its pretty chapel – and fascinating facts – muse the battle relics in the museum. Fort George is cleverly laid out for visitors to experience it fully. Tourists can appreciate the on-site picturesque architecture whilst walking the original fort grounds. The fort is possibly the most historically relevant family attractions in Inverness. Be prepared to be transported back to the year 1727 crossing the drawbridge and wandering around the ancient fort. Then watch out for the intense sudden winds as you cross over the wide killing ground.  Enjoy a picnic outside or visit the café for a warming soup or coffee.Inverness Botanic Gardens family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Botanic Gardens

Plant and flower lovers will adore this celebration of natural life with its well-kept ecosystems. Descend a delightful stone staircase with wrought iron railings into a botanical paradise. You will find it peppered with archways in stone walls, columns and statues. Sit by the small but perfectly formed fountain and let its trickling sounds relax you for a while as the kids play in the maze. Inverness Botanic Gardens is a lovely day out for families seeking outdoor family attractions in Inverness; the memory tree is particularly appealing as are the greenhouses. It is a great learning experience full of a variety of plants.

Ship Space

Another family attractions in Inverness must-see is Ship Space, a free to enter interactive maritime museum. It houses an amazing collection of relics from the Titanic as well as the impressive 88ft outdoor replica. Located along the Caledonian Canal, visitors can explore its various exhibits, photographs and information about various ships. Exhibits include fascinating film footage of divers going down into the sunken Titanic. This family hotspot will have the kids’ imaginations whirring so it’s worth dedicating an hour to get the best out of the unique exhibition. This is an eclectic space full of different levels. So, although fabulous for exploring, it’s not ideally laid out for disabled access.

ship space family attractions in Inverness

The Highlanders’ Museum

Residing in the walls of Fort George (detailed above) the Highlanders’ Museum featuring The Queen’s own collection covers three floors of the Lieutenant Governors’ House. It represents three of the four famous Scottish regiments which The Highlanders descend from; originally Highland clans of the 1700s. Refurbished to a high standard this is a fine attraction showcasing important Scottish history in impressive, authentic surroundings. This museum has an extensive collection of thrilling artefacts so if you are factoring this visit into a tour of Fort George, remember to allow plenty of time to peruse at your leisure.

highlanders museum family attractions in Inverness

Eden Court Theatre

Whether it’s to delight over a nostalgic ballet, go to the cinema or dine out in contemporary surroundings, this ambient Inverness venue is a cultural and social hub. It’s one of the most contemporary family attractions in Inverness. It features light, airy spaces that will bring even more fun to your cottage holiday on Loch Ness. Break up your action-packed holiday in Scotland with an evening out to enjoy dinner and a music concert. Loch Ness cottage holidaymakers travelling over winter can see the Christmas pantomime at this family-friendly attraction in Inverness. Oh, yes they can!

Greig Street Bridge

It’s been described as “bouncy” and “elegant” by Loch Ness holiday cottage guests, so wouldn’t you want to give it a go? Greig Street Bridge is a footbridge with an impressive view of the city of Inverness. It crosses over the River Ness and provides ample opportunity to stop and sight-see. Admire its fine ironwork frame but also the castle and churches on each side of the river. In spring, take a walk at your leisure and stop to look at the daises on the fresh green banks. On a sunny autumn day enjoy the bridge’s peacefulness and gentle swing. Gazing down watch the rippling water and up high the richly–coloured Highland leaves flying on the breeze.eden court theatre family attractions in Inverness

Inverness Cathedral

Grandiose with exquisite detail this striking cathedral is a credit to Inverness. It is stuated on the riverbank and makes a captivating postcard picture of your photograph travels. The historical space is a hive of stained-glass and beautiful sculptures found through magnificent arches over mosaic flooring. You will find a sense of Scottish spirit and a peaceful atmosphere within these walls.  Once outside you can enjoy its eye-catching architecture against a wild Scottish Highlands’ canvas. You’ll be pleased to have spent time in one of the most notable family attractions in Inverness.

The Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre

It’s what it says on the (tartan shortbread) tin; a wonderfully traditional shop to stop off at during your Highlands short break. The Kiltmaker Visitor Centre is great for tourists who want to remember their Scottish holiday in style. The friendly store sells everything you could ever want as a Scottish holiday gift or to remind yourself of the Highlands and Loch Ness. It specialises in making kilts although will happily take your own material and fashion it into a wonderful outfit. Perhaps you’re planning a small intimate wedding on Loch Ness and brought your chosen tartan along for the groomsmen’s kilts. This is yet another cosy little place in Inverness to make a lasting impression.inverness cathedral family attractions in Inverness

Old High St Stephen’s Church

Aesthetically different from the cathedral the ancient stonework and bonny pointed turrets make this church a favoured tourist attraction. One of the oldest family attractions in Inverness, Old High has been in use since Celtic times.  Inside, leaflets provide interesting facts on the clans and families who used to attend there. The church is a convenient cultural add-on for holidaymakers spending a day in Inverness. Explore its beautiful cemetery and be amazed at the clever and enduring architecture before entering the doors and losing yourself in its historic stained glass stories.

As you will have realised there is more to Inverness than initially meets the eye. It’s not simply a convenient airport for landing flights from London Heathrow and other major UK and international cities, although that is quite a pull, we admit. Inverness is a tourist city in its own right and the ideal holiday destination for short breaks where a bit of culture and history is just as important as freeing loch walks and dramatic landscapes.

Look out for our next blog post where we’ll invite you to explore the best tours around Inverness, from wine tastings and boat trips to nature spotting and sight seeing.


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.


8 reasons to visit the Scottish Highlands in spring

Are you thinking of taking the family on a short break or a week long holiday in the Scottish Highlands this year? 2016 could be the year you take your loved ones or a group of friends to one of the world’s most naturally beautiful countries to witness the great outdoors in all its glory and embrace simple living. What better time of year to holiday in Scotland than in the spring when the skies are as blue as the sea and the forests and woodland trees are starting to breathe once again…And, if you’re wondering where to stay in the Highlands why not book one of our idyllic holiday cottages on Loch Ness?Aldourie Castle Loch Ness Scottish Highlands

Here are just eight of the many reasons to take a trip to the atmospheric Highlands during some of the prettiest months of the year.

Fresh air and scenic splendour

Spring is a truly beautiful time of the year to visit the Highlands of Scotland for the clean, fresh air, and to see the many lochs of the Great Glen, the never-ending countryside and the mountain peaks at their best. Try a few of the long or short walks through the Highlands or even book a cycling holiday in Scotland. Whether you are staying in a loch-side holiday cottage or camping up on the hills there’s no excuse not to venture far and wide on these long, light days and breathe in that Highland air whilst taking in the panoramic views over a flask of steaming coffee.

Outdoor activities

Spring is an ideal time for enjoying a range of outdoor activities such as walking or hiking the West Highland Way, cycling the Great Glen Cycleway, golfing at Castle Stuart and kayaking on Loch Ness. While holidaymakers have to look for enjoyment in other forms during the winter months the majority of sports and activities are in full swing again come the lighter, dryer days and longer hours. Make the most of what is on your doorstep or do something totally unlike what you would try at home – water-skiing on Loch Ness, pony trekking through the rugged Highlands or a falconry experience on a Highland Estate during an exclusive use stay in a Castle.falconry aldourie castle Scottish Highlands

Spring showers         

Scotland is well known for its rain but don’t let that put you off experiencing all the Highlands have to offer. Shake off those winter blues with refreshing downpour as you journey through the countryside in spring – you may be able to avoid a complete soaking in the dryer months but during April and May the possibility of showers can make a walk in the Highlands a real adventure. One minute you may be walking under a blue sky down a quiet wooded lane, the next heading to the nearest village to dry off in a cosy tea room. Just wait till the April showers have cleared and everything is glistening in the spring sun.

Weather as good as summer

Having said that about the occasional spring showers, the temperature in spring is very similar to that of summer with the added benefit that generally touristy places aren’t as packed out with people. Though it’s lovely to be in the throng of the summer action when the weather is on form it can be equally pleasant to acknowledge the stunning scenery of the Scottish Highlands and wander around cute little hamlets and towns surrounded by a calmer atmosphere. The festivals and events are less busy and there is a sense of peace presiding in places that can get swarmed meaning you can recognise the beauty of the Highlands at your own pace and usually in bright, warm weather. What’s not to love?walking scottish highlands

And that’s not all; our next blog post will bring you four more reasons to enjoy the Highlands in spring. Best start planning your spring holiday or short stay in Scotland for 2016.

 

 

 

 

 


A cottage holiday on Loch Ness: Part 2

Welcome to the second part of our Pier Cottage guests’ holiday blog. Read Part 1 of their Scottish Highlands holiday cottage adventures and discover your own Loch Ness experience.

Exploring Loch Ness

On the second morning waking up to a stunning view of Loch Ness we were compelled to experience in more depth the most famous expanse of water in the world. We drove to Fort Augustus, our starting point, via the scenic route so as to take in the spectacular and majestic sights of the Highland hills towering over lakes and forests. This was not without its own set of events, however. Just ten minutes from our destination we came to an abrupt halt; the strong winds that had taken Scotland by storm (pardon the pun) over the past few weeks had resulted in thousands of tall trees being lifted from their roots and strewn across forest floors, woodland and even roads. One absolutely huge tree seemed strategically placed across the B road we were travelling on stopping any major access. Although the van on the other side of its path was forced by logistics to turn around we decided there was just enough room to drive underneath the felled tree, and we were soon on our way again after taking some photos of this unusual sight.

trees A cottage holiday

Once at Fort Augustus we realised that March was a quieter time for tourists and we looked forward to a peaceful trip on the cruise boat, Nessie Hunter, to take in the wonders of Loch Ness. It just so happened a coach load of tourists turned up for the 1pm ride and we were part of a crowded but highly enjoyable boat cruise led by an expert team, who kept reminding us not to feed Nessie!

After an hour of high winds, fresh air and a good old traditional hunt for the Loch Ness Monster we ticked off another exhilarating experience in the Scottish Highlands. A boat ride on Loch Ness certainly works up an appetite so an exceptionally tasty sandwich lunch by fireside at cosy Lochside Inn was most welcome and it prepared us for a serene but steep three hour walk in the Fort Augustus hills.

Later, entering the Aldourie Estate by moonlight, we spotted three Roe deer playing in Pier Cottage garden, a wonderful sight for tired eyes and an almost magical moment as they scampered off into the trees as we approached. The warmly lit country kitchen was a welcoming tonic from the cool air outside so we settled in for the night reminiscing and planning over a romantic candlelit dinner.

A cottage holiday boat

A day of culture

Another day of activities ahead, after a hearty breakfast we set off to visit the historic Fort George, a large 18th Century fortress near Ardersier to the north-east of Inverness. Fort George is still in use today as army barracks and a popular visitor attraction of the Scottish Highlands. We parked up at the Fort, just across the road from the shoreline, with the roaring tides even late morning crashing up the stone walls below. This wind was incredible! We enjoyed a few hours here experiencing the recreations and exhibits before heading to Glen Ord Distillery for a whisky tour and a few tastes of the Highlands’ famous malt.

So, we travelled to the west of the Black Isle through bracing winds but with a beautiful blue sky above. The tour was interesting, starting in the visitor centre then heading in and out of large spaces to see the distilling process step by step; we had been on two whisky tours before but Glen Ord was the most insightful; the tour even taught us about cooperage, the making of the whisky barrels, and the profession of a cooper. After the detailed tour we had a whisky tasting of a 12, a 15 and 18 year old whiskies, which warmed our cockles and sent us on our way to our final destination, Beauly.

Beauly, meaning “beautiful place” is a Scottish town in Inverness-shire. It’s quite a small town but perfectly formed and there we enjoyed a delicious deli coffee and a walk around the picturesque Beauly Priory ruins.  Later that evening, it was back to Dores Inn for a fish dinner and some local beer.

A cottage holiday

At one with nature

On our final morning we took Aldourie Castle’s pet dog, Loch Ness Lizzie, for a walk in the Castle grounds. Lizzie leading the way we explored the Estate more thoroughly, starting in the forest-thick arboretum she climbed up the treehouse, swam in Loch Ness and showed us the family graveyard. We then ran across the parkland to the marina and back to the greenhouses where Sarah the gardener was hard at work putting into place plans to create a new look for the gardens. From fruit trees to rose arches and topiary lined paths to tending clusters of snow drops and developing a mini orchard, there were big plans afoot for Aldourie’s gardens. Lizzie tried to help but really only managed to make a mess. Sarah, patting her gently, was evidently used to her regular (possibly daily) contributing efforts in the garden and seemed unfazed by the soil that came flying her way as Loch Ness Lizzie tried to bury her stick.

We spotted Garden Cottage peeking through the trees and as we walked back to our own private Highlands hideaway to get ready to go home we passed Gate Lodge on the corner, which had an impressive view of Aldourie Castle in all its glory. We hoped the guests staying in each had enjoyed as wonderful a holiday in the Scottish Highlands as we had and experienced their own Aldourie cottage adventure.