Host the perfect summer garden party: part 2

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.

summer garden party castle accommodation Scotland

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

Milestone Birthdays in a Scottish Castle

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.summer garden party Scottish Castle Vacations

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.


10 tips for hosting the perfect summer garden party: part 1

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.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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…Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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.Milestone Birthday in a Scottish Castle

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 info@aldouriecastle.co.uk or visit our castle hospitality webpages for more information.

READ PART 2 of our SUMMER GARDEN PARTY blog post here for more outdoor party inspiration.


The joy of soup in winter – Scottish castle dining

Minus temperature outside? Feeling under the weather? All done in? Or tummy-rumbling hungry? The best cure for any of the above has to be, without a doubt, a bowl of hot soup. Aldourie’s chef loves the castle and grounds during autumn and winter for Scottish castle dining. The colours on the estate change along with the weather and guests’ appetites also change. Gone are the desires for fresh salads and cool, refreshing desserts. All they really want – like most of us during the wintry months – are succulent meats coated in delicious sauces, warming soups and comforting puddings – the more custard the better!

Our Chef has some delightful recipes he brings out year-after-year as well as, new dishes to impress the gourmet connoisseur. One in particular at the castle we all love for its simplicity, homeliness and heat is the ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’. It’s devoured time and time again by guests and once an exclusive-use party has sampled this particular version, they usually request it numerous times throughout their stay at Aldourie.  Here, the castle’s private chef would like to share his favoured, yet simple, autumnal dish with you, so you too can enjoy it at home during the cold, festive months ahead.

Warming winter recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp olive oil sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ medium chilli
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
2 celery sticks
1 medium onion, chopped
pinch cumin seeds
½ tsp chilli powder
pinch smoked paprika
2 pints veg/chicken stock
splash cream

 

Chop all the vegetables and sweat in a pan with olive oil. Add the stock and simmer until vegetables are tender. Add splash of cream.

Other traditional Scottish soups to try:

A soup is tastier if it is rich in ingredients and some of these Scottish traditional dishes are also particularly rich in proteins and vitamins.

Scottish Castle Dining

Bonfire Warmer Soup
Scotch Broth
Cullen Skink
Potato-Leek-Mushroom Soup
Scottish Oxtail Soup
Golden Vegetable Soup
Highland Chicken Soup
Haricot Bean Soup

Where is best to enjoy a bowl of soup at Aldourie?

Exclusive use house parties of guests dine in numerous rooms in the Castle depending on the time of day. A mid-morning mug of soup might be best enjoyed looking out onto Loch Ness from the cosy yet classical surroundings of the Laird’s Room. This room is also the closest room to the kitchen for quick access to refills!

The grand main hall would be great for a soup feast, ladle and all. Gather your friends round the large long oak table for a clan-like supper in true Scottish castle dining. The cosy dining room is perfectly designed for eating in, so try here for an intimate candlelit dinner beginning with a soup dish starter. The parkland views will help you relax and conversation will flow for hours as you enjoy four delicious courses cooked by our Highlands castle’s personal chef for that ultimate Scottish castle dining experience.Scottish Castle Dining

When is the best time for Scottish castle dining?

You cannot beat the feeling of a good soup that is both rich in taste and nutritious, trickling down your throat, when you’re either peckish, tired or cold. At Aldourie castle, you could easily be all three of these at the same time if you choose to enjoy one of the many outdoor activities on the Highlands estate during the autumn/winter season.

Boat ride – during a stint on Loch Ness hunting for Nessie or simply absorbing the spectacular scenery, private groups of guests are always ready to be fed. Out on the exposed Loch you have the wind rushing in your face and all that water around makes you hungry for soup.

Segway ride – the Aldourie parkland is made up of 500 acres of woods, parks, walks, gardens and more. Segway rides let you see more of the grounds than you would on foot. During the autumn and winter months you use up so much energy and will return to the Scottish castle searching for something warming like a bowl of soup.Scottish Castle Dining

Archery or clay pigeon shooting – these are popular outdoor activity sports at Aldourie and our chef likes nothing more than rewarding a hard afternoon’s play with one of his delicious soup recipes.

Look out for more recipes from Aldourie Castle by signing up to our newsletter through our blog web page. In the meantime, enjoy our ‘Spiced Butternut Squash Soup’ in the comfort of your own home this winter. And…Don’t forget to post us a photo on Facebook or Twitter saying which room you enjoyed eating it in and what outdoor activity inspired you to make it.


Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit

What better way to compare the stately grandeur of Aldourie Castle than to depict some of the most famous and intriguing castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands. Make more of your exclusive use stay in one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles. Experience, up close, the past of these mesmerising buildings. Take a read of Aldourie’s personalised guide to the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles to visit.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits on Stone Point on the north-western shore of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is relatively close to water level and inland you can imagine where the gardens and orchards would have stood. It is the epitome of a Scottish castle ruin featuring a dry moat which would have once, before its excavation, defended the castle. A stone-built causeway provides access and would have featured a drawbridge at one time. The castle is a popular tourist spot for those visiting the Highlands or more specifically the quaint, lonely village of Drumnadrochit.
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

What is the history of Urquhart Castle?

The present ruins of Urquhart Castle date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The castle played a substantial role in the Wars of Scottish Independence during the 14th century. It was thereafter considered a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. Urquhart was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though endured further raids by the MacDonalds until it was abandoned during the mid-17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. It was opened to the public in the 20th century and is one of the most-visited castles in Scotland today. As a result it resides in our list of Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Why does Urquhart Castle appeal to tourists?

It’s all about size. The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest (in area) in Scotland. Like any castle ruins Urquhart Castle is a spectacular sight to witness. But what draws the crowds is its particularly scenic, famous and unique location: on the banks of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is famed for being the second largest lake in Scotland next to Loch Lomond, which is saying something. Not only that, but Loch Ness holds more water than any other lake in the British Isles. The appeal to holidaymakers is the combination of its historical beauty set against the dramatic scenery of the world famous Loch and the majestic Scottish Highlands. This alone makes it and Aldourie favourite and puts it in the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Special fact or feature of one of the castle

Urquhart Castle’s historic files go way back. The first documentary record of Urquhart Castle occurs in 1296 when it was captured by Edward I of England. Edward’s invasion marked the beginning of the Wars of Scottish Independence, which would go on intermittently until 1357.
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

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

A main attraction for guests is Aldourie’s location on Loch Ness. House parties can experience a private chartered cruise from Aldourie’s private marina to the beautiful ruins of Urquhart Castle. To travel from one castle to another and back again is a unique opportunity for any holidaymaker. This is why Aldourie Castle rates Urquhart as one of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles

Eilean Donan  – a magnificent castle ruins of the Scottish Highlands

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

What is the history of Eilean Donan Castle?

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

Interestingly, in the thirteenth century during the reign of Alexander II, a large curtain wall enclosed most of the island of Eilean Donan. At this time the area was at the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross: the island provided a strong defensive position against Norse expedition.Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

Why does Eilean Donan Castle appeal to tourists?

Eilean Donan is a picturesque castle which has frequently appeared in films, television dramas and documentaries so is fabulous landmark to pose a selfie against. Eilean Donan is part of the Kintail National Scenic Area; not surprising considering its postcard worthy setting against a shimmering water floor and lush green hills. Remarkably, in 2001, the island had a recorded population of just one person – even for Scotland that’s a pretty low land-person ratio! No wonder it’s on Aldourie’s list of the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Special fact or feature of the castle

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

Why is this considered as one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

Eilean Donan is one of the most important attractions in the Scottish Highlands. It beholds a significant tapestry of history since its beginnings in the 6th century. Amongst its ongoing association with invasion and feuding, the castle has seen many a clan stay within its walls over the centuries. This resonates with Aldourie’s very own family history. It’s little wonder despite the nearly three hour journey that many of Aldourie’s exclusive use guests like to pay a visit.

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

Elevated from the mainland sits Dunnottar Castle, the ruins of a medieval fortress. It’s on the north-east coast of Scotland just outside of Stonehaven. Steep cliffs that drop to the North sea 50 metres below surround the ruins of the Castle. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

What is the history of Dunnottar Castle?

The surviving buildings of Dunnottar are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. For example, a pictish fort and place of worship was built nearby in the 3rd and 4th century. Vikings attacked the castle in the 9th century and William Wallace captured it in the year 1276. So much happened at Dunnottar Castle, (its dedicated website makes an interesting read of chronological historical events) that it barely got time to rest. Dunnottar Castle was finally rescued from ruin in 1925.

Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. Because of its sheer perseverance  through history we have named it one our the Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.

Why does Dunnottar Castle appeal to tourists?

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

Special fact or feature of the castle

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

Why is this considered one of Aldourie’s Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles?

It’s not just the ruins of a castle alone, and in that sense it’s much like that of a castle estate, like Aldourie. There a various buildings/structures within the castle walls including:
Scottish Highlands' top 3 castles

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 Scotland’s historic castle ruins than initially meets the eye. No matter how much you read about them, however, nothing can compare to visiting them and being inside those castle walls. Each castle in Scotland has its own history, its own mysteries and its own charm. Step outside the luxuries of a private hire property in Scotland’s beloved Highlands and really experience the ghosts of Scotland’s past with a visit to Aldourie’s highly recommended Scottish Highlands’ top 3 castles.


4 very different ways to boat ride on Loch Ness

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.boat ride on Loch Ness

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.boat ride on Loch Ness

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.boat ride on Loch Ness
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.boat ride on Loch Ness

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.


How to enjoy the great outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

There’s lots to enjoy on a Highland estate on the banks of Loch Ness. No need to always hire outdoor activity companies when nature provides more than enough to entertain, teach and experience. Children adventure, explore and play during luxury family holidays giving you time to yourselves to relax. Couples can escape into their own romantic world for an afternoon. And families can spend quality time together using the grounds as they wish and discovering small, simple pleasures outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Wildlife spotting

Let’s start with the simple things nature has to offer: wildlife in its natural habitat. The Aldourie Estate is home to a wide variety of Scottish Highlands’ wildlife. Make your own fun acting like the animals you seek to find. For instance, there are dozens of pretty little roe deer all across the Aldourie Estate. They are particularly delicate creatures and make little sound. If you’re quiet enough, your footsteps won’t distract them and you could end up getting up close to these beautiful animals. Look out for them running across the parkland at dusk or looking for tasty brambles in pairs at the edge of the woods. Look up to the sky for your next character; you may just see osprey soaring over the open grounds or woodpeckers climbing to the tree tops in the heart of the woodland. The red squirrel home to the highlands is a real sight for sore eyes. It may come out to play if you happen to stumble upon its dwelling or stay in one place long enough. If you take a keen interest in Scottish wildlife then you may wish to explore some wildlife spotting locations outside Aldourie Estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Hide and Seek in the arboretum

Does anything sound more exciting than that? This outdoor activity is ideal to play in all weathers in any season here at Aldourie Castle. Who needs a garden maze when you have acres of foliage and tall oaks to hide behind? Your seeker should give you all at least a minute to set off on foot to your desired hiding location. Then, once you’re past the clearing the (outdoor) world is your oyster. Hide and seek outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate is exciting; for one thing, if it rains it’s even more difficult to be found.  If you’re staying over Halloween why not double the excitement by looking for hiding spots in the old family graveyard. During the winter months it’s bound snow at some point in the Highlands. Why not wait for a snowfall then venture off to the Castle ground’s arboretum to crunch your way through the undergrowth. Don’t forget to cover up any footprints!

Play make –believe in the tree house

The spectacular tree house at Aldourie blends synonymous with its surrounding environment. You can pass it and not know it’s there. It was built into the thick of the trees on the outskirts of the woods on the verge of Loch Ness. The impressively designed tree house is perfectly positioned for light and shelter and capturing fantastic views. Here you can bring your camera, hide from the rain or bring a good book or a pal or two. Absorb nature’s peaceful sounds and the fantastical scenery of the distant wild Highland hills. Use your imagination and pretend your captain of a great ship. Bring a pair of binoculars with you and look out to sea (or even more exciting; try to spot Nessie out on Loch Ness!).outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

Read a book of fairy tales in the formal gardens

Family house parties thrive at Aldourie because of all the experiences to appreciate within unique and unforgettable settings. Curl up with your little one on a bench in the pretty Castle gardens. Then read them their favourite stories as delightful floral scents fragrance the air around you. Fairy tales lend themselves easily to the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate, which itself is full of adventure and magic. Just another example of how to have outdoor fun for children in the Scottish Highlands.

Get close to nature in the parkland

We’ve so many ideas for you and your young family to take advantage of on the 500 acre Estate. Springtime daffodils make for pretty photographs. During this happy season toddlers love chasing the bees from flower to flower and looking for ladybirds in the grass. Children can also clamber onto the small old bridge and look down on the small stream. Watching out for tiny fish amongst the rockeries and pebbles is a sure way of keeping their interest in the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.

Beach walks on Loch Ness

Strolling along Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate allows for a relaxing break in your day and offers a little gentle exercise. Let a fresh water mist on a calming breeze accompany your walk. The beach is great for varied company whether a family fun day or a romantic moonlit stroll. Or maybe you’d like some timeout on your own to reclaim your thoughts before your business meeting during a luxury corporate stay in the Castle. Take your shoes and socks off and have a splash about on Loch Ness’s southern shoreline; surely one of the most liberating ways to enjoy the outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate.outdoors on a Scottish Castle estate

The reason you book an exclusive use stay at Aldourie Castle is up to you. You may wish to hire the Castle to host a family house party or celebrate a special birthday of a close friend. But the large private Scottish estate is always there for you to enjoy at your leisure. For availability of our private hire property in Scotland please call 01463 751309 and speak to the hospitality manager. Our team at Aldourie will be happy to chat through the requirements of your exclusive luxury stay on Loch Ness.


Hold your own Highland Games in castle grounds

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.Highland Games in castle grounds

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.

Highland Games in castle grounds

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.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: Highland Games in castle grounds

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.

For more information on exclusive use house parties and holidays please complete the contact form on our website found here.


5 amazing reasons to stay in a castle

In case you need persuading we’ve listed our favourite five reasons why you might want to stay in a castle. Of course, we could have focused on the exclusivity of some castles, perfect for private family holiday rentals. Or we could have enticed you with talk of luxury bedrooms and spectacular window views. Instead, we’ve considered what might come to mind when conjuring up the image of a castle in your head. If you had never considered a stay in a castle, whether for a luxurious group holiday or special birthday celebration, it’s time to give in to your inner romantic and realise the wonder behind every castle wall.
Aldourie Castle Loch Ness bride internal spiral staircase stay in a castle

They’re in fairytales

Once upon a time people would get married in a church. Then came the shiny, swanky, spotless hotel and that became the ideal wedding venue. But nowadays, brides want it all – and that can often mean getting married in a fairytale castle…but, of course!

Not only can couples officially ‘get married’ but they can also stay in a castle overnight and so can their guests. Whether for your intimate nuptials or full blown celebrity wedding, insist on posing for photographs in the highest turret and use the spiral staircase as part of your walk down the aisle. Because surely, if they had gotten the chance, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty would have done the same thing.

Holiday and history in one

Traditionally, one of the main reasons a castle was built was to ensure protection from enemy armies. They had cold rooms, grey stone walls and floors, and tiny windows to lessen chances of danger getting in. Some castles, in Scotland most definitely, remain precisely this way to this day. These Scottish castles are fabulous for tourists wanting to get a feel for life in the olden days. However, they’re not so enticing for the luxuries one longs for when escaping for a week or two’s holiday. Now that the exclusive use property has taken off like a cannon ball, many castles have been restored and renovated with more opulence and comfort than they’ve ever had before.

old photo Aldourie Castle Estate exterior stay in a castle

Large families searching for that special reunion location can stay in a castle equipped with everything expected of a luxury holiday rental. These range from impressive technology to a five star hospitality service. The added benefit is the history that comes with a castle, from architecture to stories of the past within. A castle stay is ideal for a multi-generational holiday. For example, mum might enjoy the peace and quiet of the old library but granddad will have a whale of a time taking the kids around the nooks and crannies of the castle giving them history lessons mixed with old Scottish fables. See some photos of Aldourie Castle long ago on our History page.

They make a perfect ‘spooky’ Halloween retreat

From ghost stories round the fire, to Hide and Seek that could last a day, a castle is an Aladdin’s Cave of adventure for a Halloween stay. Not every castle is destined to be haunted, but because of its history it’ll most certainly have ‘atmosphere’. Whether a castle built for battle or an old mansion house converted into one like Aldourie, it will have an interesting past.

Aldourie Castle Estate Loch Ness Graveyard stay in a castle

Wouldn’t it be exciting to stay in a castle with a group of friends over Halloween? You could enjoy themed outdoor activities (arranged by the castle staff) and then make your own fun inside? You could indulge in a Halloween feast and decorate the halls with cobwebs, have a Fancy Dress evening and even carry out a Murder Mystery dinner. Thrilled by this idea? Read our Halloween House Party blog post for many more reasons to stay in a castle over Halloween. It includes lots of spooky ideas for Aldourie Castle – which has its own graveyard, you know?

You can make good use of the moat

Many castles designed for exclusive use or private hire, and notoriously Scottish castles, will feature their own moat. Quaint as this may seem, the moat surrounding the castle was, again, there to make it difficult to attack. If you are lucky enough to stay in a castle with a moat you can access, we suggest family fun activities such as zorbing, outdoor water sports like canoeing and, if the weather permits, wild swimming. Though we are not sure how wild swimming in a moat could be. In Aldourie’s case, the Castle has something better than a moat; it  has magnificent Loch Ness on its doorstep. Let us arrange a ride on the Nessie Hunter, private boat trips to Fort Augustus and water activities in front of the Castle. Water sports are a wonderful way to get everyone in a group stay involved in the holiday fun.

speedboat loch ness Aldourie Castle Estate stay in a castle

Castles unleash children’s imaginations

Nobody should really require an introduction to this point, but if in doubt; think Disney. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Shrek each have castles at the core (and heart) of their stories. Imagine telling the kids you’re all going to a land Far Far Away to stay in an enchanted castle. (The journey to the Scottish Highlands where Aldourie Castle is located, for example, could definitely qualify depending on where you live). Now, surely that’s better than DisneyLand!

There will be boundless opportunities already on offer in many castle grounds. For instance: treehouse antics, woodland to explore, a game of Tag/Tig in the parkland, Billy Goat’s Gruff if there’s a bridge and stream. Kids can create their own fun on a rainy day playing Make Believe, having the authentic props to hand. Should a back-up be needed most exclusive use castles have a dedicated games rooms where you might find a billiards table, large screen TV and board games – but we’re moving onto Times of the Modern Castle now, and that’s another story.

Aldourie Castle Estate loch ness treehouse in woodland stay in a castle

For some of you, the thought may never have crossed your mind before reading the amazing reasons above. But, if you do decide to stay in a castle maybe consider this Castle on Loch Ness. The Aldourie experience would provide you with memories to last a lifetime. On top of that, it could end up being the staple family holiday for generations to come. Make your own history at Aldourie and enquire about exclusive use availability at: info@aldouriecastle.co.uk.


Best Loch Ness tours for exclusive use holidays

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.

Exclusive Use Holidays - Applecross Peninsula Scotland

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.Exclusive Use Holidays - Toward Beinn Eighe

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.


Top tips to experience the Scottish Highlands this winter

There are endless reasons to book a week’s stay in a holiday cottage in the Scottish Highlands this winter. Firstly, it is guaranteed to warm your soul. (And that’s without topping up the wood-burning stove with a healthy supply of logs.) A country Estate in the heart of the Highlands is the most perfect way to start to make the most of your short break in Scotland’s Loch Ness. It really is the most peaceful and beautiful region. All the more when it comes complete with a private hire castle and four traditional Loch Ness holiday cottages.

We guide you to the best place to visit for a cup of hot chocolate, the finest whisky distilleries and the most bracing walks and breath-taking landscapes. Read on for some of the Highlands’ most favoured highlights in the most renowned locations.

The Isle of Skye - Scottish Highlands

Explore the Isle of Skye

As with any scenic and popular holiday destination, locals are proud of this area of Scotland. So, before sinking into a deep hot bath or curling up on the sofa with Harry Potter, be sure to plan your short break itinerary. Make the most of local knowledge and put your time to good use. In your ‘top five’ places to see we suggest you include the tranquil and mesmerising Isle of Skye.

This remote part of Scotland is a perfect trip to experience the most spectacular views of the Highlands. Skye is easily accessible from the Aldourie holiday cottages, as long as you don’t mind an early morning start. It is widely appreciated for its rugged landscape, historic castles and pretty fishing villages. Tip: jump in the car at day break to make the most of the three hour journey.

Sights to make memories

Once you have arrived in the region, enjoy coastline walks and narrow lochs. Don’t forget to stop occasionally to admire Skye’s dramatic mountainous backdrop and wild, cascading waterfalls. During winter you would expect to come across an abundance of Highland cattle congregated between snow-capped peaks. And on the clearest of days you’d be enchanted by the view out across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Isle of Skye has fantastic colours that you can capture either with a camera and simply in memory. These sights may strike walkers, hikers and cyclists as ethereal and those of you driving may have to get out once in a while to let the air hit you and make you believe it. After embracing the magic of the highest points of Skye why not meander among the pastel-coloured houses of Portree where you can find a handful of traditional pubs full of Scottish character as well as a host of pretty clothes and gift boutiques.

Loch Lomond in Winter Scottish Highlands

Get up close to Loch Lomond

A trip to the Scottish Highlands would not be complete without taking the ‘low road’ to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond. This other famous loch is famed for its folklore, castles and golf – there’s no getting away from it up here. It’s central spot crossing the Highland border is also a pull for water sports, hiking and camping during winter short breaks in Scotland. Colder months showcase snow-capped peaks framing the famous lake which have given Loch Lomond legendary world-wide appeal. Its mysterious forests that weave through and cluster among the mountains have inspired many artists and songwriters over the years.

A must-see is Loch Lomond’s lively city life, which encapsulates a thriving food and drink scene. The famous Scottish landmark also features a variety of creative villages. We recommend a trip to Luss during a snowy winter; a traditional village whose steeple church and bridges would befit the front of a Christmas card.

A wintry setting

During winter, cloudless blue skies illuminate the pristine waters of Loch Lomond. Whether you’re on holiday for the challenging hikes or simply ambling along simple scenic trails there’s a winter walk perfect for you and your family or group of friends. There are a host of walks on the east or southern sides of the loch including Drymen and Balmaha. These have striking views and the promise of summer’s plentiful nature. Listen out for the characteristic call of the winter geese flying overhead in Trossachs National Park. Or take a trip to Stirling and the Forth Valley for its medieval Castle. And, of course, don’t forget to nip into MacGregor’s Market in Killin for a mug of scrumptious hot chocolate.

Luss scotland winter Scottish Highlands

Loch Ness

With such a scenic and adventure-filled itinerary for a cottage holiday in Scotland it may be easy to overlook your holiday location. We must not forget our own home in the Scottish Highlands, and so we invite you to explore the wonder of Loch Ness. Sail its vast open water and search for the legendary Monster. Or get up close and personal to the exclusive use property. Aldourie Castle, on the Loch Ness shoreline.

Its epic size and folklore sea creatures apart, Loch Ness has so much to offer the curious nature-loving tourist during winter. Some of the most famous whisky distilleries are based here – Glen Ord and Tomatin are among some of the best distilleries near Inverness. There are also exhilarating boat tours and picturesque woodland walks on your doorstep. The heart of Scotland’s culture is within serious striking distance. Are you planning to visit the Highlands to relax during January or February? We at Aldourie can suggest an endless array of villages and towns, each accommodating and friendly and worthy of a postcard home. Enter Beatrix Potter-style tearooms, gourmet restaurants and beautiful interior shops all awaiting your visit with service and a smile.

Quaint tourist towns

Beauly means ‘beautiful place’ and that is just what you’ll find only 20 minutes from any of the Scottish holiday cottages on Aldourie Castle Estate. Encounter a real feel of Scotland with a traditional Highland pipe band and quaint row of touristy shops. Take a break from shopping at Corner on the Square for a truly delicious sandwich and slice of homemade cake, then walk it off around the pretty Priory ruins.

Beauly Priory Scottish Highlands

Some of the best boat cruises on Loch Ness depart from Fort William. This quaint little place is itself an extremely scenic drive away from your base on Aldourie’s Scottish Highland Estate. So do the most bewitching winter walks that lead higher and higher into utter wilderness. You will find your local area around Dores Beach on Aldourie Estate housing a couple of traditional pubs ideally located for holiday cottage guests visiting Loch Ness. There’s no excuse not to pop in for a quick drink in traditional Scottish surroundings. And especially when the walk home looks out over the spectacular Highlands and a moonlit Loch Ness.