6 Highlands plants to spot holidaying on Loch Ness

Holidaying in Loch Ness is full of rich horticulture thanks to its tended parks and gardens, wild woodland and landscaped Highland estates. Every inch of soil here is treasured by locals and tourists, not to mention the keen conservationists who are committed to nurturing Scotland’s wildland.

Through conservation and a thriving habitat the wild hills of the Scottish Highlands continue to bloom. The landscape is a huge part of tourism and people come to see its formal garden displays and its majestic wild terrain what ever the weather. From sprays of daffodils on forest floors to beautiful rose gardens that surround old castles to cascading heather billowing off coastal cliff sides, Scotland is a country of colour. Of course, when Spring comes it can seem that there are way more flowers and colours then any other time of year.

Here, we look at the flowers that create the most splendid, colourful and delicate displays right through to the gritty heart of Scotland’s natural landscape. The variety is vast and the effects are spectacular. Continue reading for some visionary wonders that will really get you in the mood for spring.Holidaying in Loch Ness

Gorse – spectacular hillside hedge-like flower

Gorse is a common type of flower and is widely seen in sandy, coastal soils and thin upland soils. It begins flowering occasionally during the late autumn season and continues to bloom throughout winter until flowering fully in spring. It’s hillside appearance differs from the flower seen up close. All together, gorse has a real shrubbery effect as if covering everything in its vicinity. However, if you look at this flower up close, it really is the most delicate and feminine looking flower. Evergreen gorse is tough, thorny and an excellent windbreak against the cold Scottish sea spray. However, its pretty buttercup yellow petals also makes it the prettiest countryside backdrop.

In Scotland, farmers traditionally use gorse as a winter feed for cows, ponies and other livestock. And its party trick? It exudes a scent similar to that of a coconut when in full flower.

Heather- Ling and Bell have different needs

Looking for that world famous purple spray across wild highland hills? Then you’re best searching out heather ling, also known as the native Scottish heather. This billowing and resilient evergreen mountain plant provides a comforting and nostalgic scene. Despite it seeming tough, the heather ling must be planted in a water-retentive soil and be given an annual trim in order to thrive in all weathers. Heather Ling flowers from July to September making it a Scottish Highlands summer holiday postcard favourite.Holidaying in Loch Ness

The Bell heather has brighter purple/magenta blooms, and is normally found in high and rocky places. It’s more at home planted in thin, gritty soil with high drainage. The Bell Heather normally blooms slightly earlier than the ling variety. In the wild, they often co-exist, with ling lining the damp hollows of rocks, and the bell inhabiting the drier areas. Should your holiday be in the Highlands during winter, rest assured you will be able to find hardier heather varieties that bloom during the cold season.

Cross-Leaved Heath – pretty blooms brighten boggy Scotland soil

Heath is a rarely found relation of heather, even though this flower also thrives in wet soil landscapes. In its ideal setting of soggy and muddy areas, heath produces mid-pink blooms at the tip of the stems. It offers a generous flowering period between June and October. A historic thought? Charles Darwin theorised that this specie might be partly-carnivorous, due to it possessing glands. However, later research suggests that these flowers were more likely to help the heath cling to its exposed surroundings in high winds.

Scottish Bluebell thrives most of the year

The name even sounds beautiful, however, in Scotland the Bluebell is more formally known as the Harebell, and is not to be mistaken for the English bluebell. Aesthetically, it is generally bushier and features delicate, branching stems and larger, bluish-purple bell-shaped blooms. Unlike its English cousin, (which flowers in woodland shaded areas), the Harebell is adapted to poor, moorland soil. It is mostly seen mainly in the dry upland areas as opposed to hidden trails.

Holidaying in Loch Ness

Thankfully, the English bluebell is very common in Scottish woodlands. This benefits those holidaying in Loch Ness who want to appreciate both plants, which are accessible in various tourist spots, including formal Scottish gardens. The bluebell flowers continuously from late spring into autumn.

Interestingly, the harebell is under threat from the introduction of the new Spanish bluebell. The Spanish bluebell is much more aggressive in its reproduction. Conservationists have worked hard in preserving what should really be termed the British bluebell, which is now protected by law.

Scottish Flame Flower

This spectacular climbing flower is thought to have come to Scotland in the 19th century. The Scottish Flame flower has roots that go all the way to Peru. This plant has become so loved here in Scotland that ‘Scottish’ has been added to the name. This romantic flame flower can be found cascading down the walls of old Highlands gardens.

This striking plant can grow up to three metres tall and its extravagant scarlet petals bloom in the late summer season. You can expect this plant to flower from July to September, and during autumn you can expect to see the arrival of  luscious blueberries. A cooler summer is the ideal environment for this Scottish plant and it thrives in shaded, moist, peaty soils. Once it has established itself it is here to stay. The flame flower is edible and would be the ideal addition to Aldourie Castle Estate’s walled garden. Our Chef would love to pick this for his artisan style fruit or green salads.Holidaying in Loch Ness

The Scotch Thistle

Where England has the rose, Scotland’s national flower is the thistle. However less beautiful by far, there’s no denying its resilient and unique nature. It’s a true symbol of Scotland and we are proud to feature it as part of the design on our  website.  The Scottish thistle grows tall, and strong as well as growing up to five feet in height. Once upon a time the thistle was  regarded as a weed, but most gardener’s now recognise it as a flower.

The thistle would be perfectly placed in the Aldourie Estate’s arboretum or woodland, for a wild, fairytale look. The thistle is naturally happiest in poorer soils, waste ground and roadsides. Despite its name, is quite rare in Scotland! There are of course other thistles that can be found more readily in the Scottish Highlands,  and are most commonly known as the Melancholy Thistle. This plant elegantly overlaps purple-edged sepals, with reddish-purple florets. Keep an eye out for these flowers along your Highland country walks.


Revitalised gardens and grounds heighten exclusive use experience

Aldourie Castle and Estate underwent some renovations during 2017. We are always looking to add to the exclusive use experience of our private guests and beauty of the Castle and Estate. We coated the exterior of the Castle with a limewash harl (we’ll cover this more in the next post), revitalised the old walled gardens and carried out further landscaping around the Castle. However, behind reviving this 17th Century exclusive use Estate, there’s a lot more meaning than initially meets the eye.

The gardens design team

The plan was to develop the gardens to create a fitting, high quality setting for the Castle. We employed a head gardener Duncan Hall, who is passionate about innovative landscaping for historic settings. Duncan and his dedicated team have been thrilled to work alongside landscape architect, garden designer and writer Tom Stuart-Smith, an inspirational leader in his field. Aldourie Castle Estate feels privileged to have Tom designing the revised estate including the four main garden areas (detailed below).exclusive use experience

Formal Garden: on the Castle’s doorstep

The main Castle Garden (to the west) creates a formal setting for Aldourie whilst hinting at playful associations with the property. The turret-inspired topiary trees and historic references like the planned fortress-inspired bastions are good examples of this. The already impressive space combines order with fun to heighten the exclusive use experience. The idea is for the garden to be used and enjoyed by private guests, despite its formal layout.

Walled Garden and Glasshouses: for ‘living off the Estate’

This garden has a rugged feel in comparison to the Castle garden and has been restored to a very high standard. It features attractive dry walls made with a local stone. As guests walk into it tey definitely feel as though it belongs in the highlands. Its central area is primarily for vegetable and fruit production (including high value crops and soft fruit). These are used to supply the castle kitchen as well as the other Wildland properties. Do you remember the 18th century glasshouses being restored in 2016? Now they also grow fruit and veg and are open for exclusive use guests to wander through.

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Arboretum: historic discoveries through hard work

This has been a major renovation. The gardening team unearthed a fine tree collection dating back to the 19th Century. The Castle is now committed to nurturing them all. All design elements have been carefully planned, for example, the winding paths and interweaving plant patches at the foot trees. These will, in effect, guide Castle guests from one garden to another allowing no aspect of the arboretum to go undiscovered. The burial ground is also a significant historical feature. Tidying this area has helped to preserve its ornamentation and archaeological relevance.

Parkland: keeping it green

There are further plans afoot to create a landscape of wild meadow and Highland cattle. But for now, the parkland starts to rejuvenate with new trees. Guests will notice that an Estate railing clearly separates the Castle setting from the wider park.exclusive use experience

Head Gardener, Duncan, comments on the parkland design; “The new trees have breathed some life into the park, which is the first part of the Estate that guests will experience as they enter the main drive. Enticing views of different parts of the estate are revealed encouraging guests to explore, as well as stunning views across the wider landscape of Loch Ness.”

Focus is on the exclusive use experience

The landscape of Aldourie Castle and Estate is of outstanding scenic value. It’s therefore vital that the design and gardening work serves to enhance its beauty. It forms an archetypal Scottish Baronial scene highly visible from the northern shores of Loch Ness. One of the key reasons for revitalising the Castle and grounds was to compound the feeling, during an exclusive use experience, of staying in such a historically valued, spectacular location.

The initial warm welcome at the Castle now extends to the entirety of the 500 acre Estate. Guests are now encouraged to really discover the gardens, to explore and play, and feel the heritage beneath their feet. Regular pruning of tree branches in the walled garden will offer glimpses of the estate and wider landscape. This will entice exclusive use guests to wander further afield.exclusive use experience

The ‘farm to table’ aspect of this particular garden will also transcend to the guests’ experience. This will allow them the opportunity to pick their own fruit and veg for the Castle’s chef to cook that day. The idea is to reinforce the exclusive use experience at every opportunity. As a result, exploring the beauty and history of Aldourie Estate becomes an integral part of their stay.

Look out for our next instalment of the Revitalisation of Aldourie Castle & Estate. For more information on exclusive use of Aldourie please visit our Private Hire pages or contact the main office through our online contact form.


Experience the best couples’ holiday on Loch Ness: Part 2

Our last blog post focused on romantic retreats in the Scottish Highlands. This next chapter highlights activities available for a couples’ holiday on Loch Ness during a stay at an Aldourie holiday cottage.  Stretch your legs as well as your imagination with these inspiring Highlands tours and outdoor activities. Then, by the end of the day you’re ready to curl up on the sofa with a glass of wine in anticipation of you next adventure.

Explore another loch

Despite an incredibly scenic and famous lake on Aldourie Estate, it’s always worth broadening your horizons with new scenery. Try a boat ride on Loch Lomond one day during your romantic Highlands trip. Loch Lomond is just as glorious as Loch Ness and here you can experience many types of boating trips. Book onto a fascinating public tour, hire a boat of your own or even try some water sports. The range of boating trips offer different experiences depending on your preferences; feel the rush of adrenaline and see the sights in a flash from a speedboat or indulge in the romance of Loch Lomand with a pedal boat for two.Kayak on loch lomond - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

Visit secret hidden beaches, ancient burial grounds and old ruins off the shoreline of Loch Lomond. Or simply watch the passing scenery from the comfort of your own boat as you make memories to treasure. Loch Lomond is a popular place for couples to visit; many romantic holidays in Scotland have begun on these waters and couples return year after year to celebrate their anniversary in this magical setting.

Boat hire or Loch Lomond activity suppliers include Loch Lomond Leisure and Cruise Loch Lomond. Why not find out even more about how wonderful a day trip on Loch Lomond can be.

Into the wild

Romantic walks around Fort Augustus are another way to enjoy a romantic couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. Within moments of setting off on foot from Fort Augustus up into the hills, you will discover a sense of freedom and peace. As you climb into the scenic wilderness of inclining woodland with trees that reach up to the sky, you will soon realise you are more likely to see unusual wildlife than other walkers. This is because the area is so vast; no matter which route you take it’s likely to be a quiet one.romantic walks in fort augustus - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

Lose yourself in romantic thoughts, your hands folded into each other. Elizabeth Bennett’s flat, open landscapes have nothing on Fort Augustus’s Highlands’s countryside. Wild and remote, it is the perfect place in which to voice your innermost feelings and we don’t doubt that many a Scottish proposal has been carried out in this enchanting setting.

Need a break from the world? The small, quaint villages of the Highlands are hardly overcrowded and overbearing, but you might still need a little more escapism for your couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. To really forget about your busy lives and spend quality time together in beautiful surroundings, lose yourselves in the peaks and valleys of Fort Augustus. Here, wildlife is almost touchable – timid roe deer will rustle leaves and osprey will soar above. So, of course, remember to bring your camera (as if you would forget).

Romantic bike rides for two

Windswept and in love; surely the best way to explore the wild passionate Highlands is in tandem. Ticket to Ride is a great informative website for bike hire and cycling routes around Inverness and Loch Ness. From canal and riverside cycling to exploring the Great Glen Way or the relatively new and exciting North Coast 500, experience an unforgettable cycling holiday, or simply a day of cycling, with your loved one.

Nowhere is unreachable; take a good look at the cycling maps available to download online and choose your most romantic destination – whether you prefer road cycling or woodland routes you can find the best cycling trails for you as a couple to make the most of the romantic views of Ness and surrounding areas.couple cycling in highlands - couples' holiday on Loch Ness

So, as you will have gathered, whether walking, boating or cycling, the romance of Loch Ness and the Highlands is hot on your heels during a couples’ holiday on Loch Ness. You could argue that all your need is each other but we all know that a scenic escape is always more than welcome when it comes to spending quality time alone with each other. The Scottish Highlands and its beautiful freeing lochs are the perfect place to celebrate your love. After all this activity you’ll be ready for a rest in your idyllic holiday cottage on Loch Ness  and a relaxing evening in with your favourite tippled to toast your holiday happiness.

Why not check our holiday cottage calendar for the dates that would suit you best – scroll to the bottom to find it and simply search for your holiday dates! It’s easy to book your couples’ holiday on Loch Ness – just send us an email.