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The History of Aldourie Castle

Aldourie Castle is one of Scotland’s most beautiful buildings.  Designed in the Baronial architectural style, this castle is situated between the southern shore of Loch Ness and the Glen leading up to Drumashie Moor, and is the only habitable castle on the shores of Loch Ness.


Aldourie Castle was founded in 1626 as a laird’s house and has been used for a number of purposes since then.  The castle is now an exclusive use venue and is represented by Elysian Estates. The property has been thoroughly renovated in recent years, but the history of the place remains very apparent when you walk through its doors.  Over the past 389 years, Aldourie Castle has been central to some significant historical events and represents an important part of Scottish history.  This article will explore this incredible building’s past.


The Castle is Established

The earliest part of the castle was built in 1626 by Scottish laird Alexander Macintosh of Kyllachie.  His family’s clan had significant land holdings within 12 miles of the Aldourie and Macintosh found a beautiful new location for his home.


It was built during a peaceful time in Scotland, although some of the clans did have violent disagreements over land holdings and boundaries.  Land in the highlands was controlled by the clan chieftains and the English rarely ventured into this wild part of Scotland. Macintosh was fiercely protective of his property and had gone to war on several occasions to protect his clan’s land holdings.


The castle was first established as a two-storey stone building with an attic — very simple compared to the grand building that visitors see today.  The mansion survived the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a violent civil war that impacted the area.


After Macintosh died, the property was inherited by a series of relatives including William VIII of Kyllachie and Donald IXth of Kyllachie,  The building stayed relatively untouched over the next one hundred and fifty years as it passed through the hands of each relative.  At this stage the mansion house was still fairly simple and featured a rectangular block of rooms with a single round tower to the south-west.


By the middle of the 18th-Century war was upon the highlands again, with the British government attempting to subjugate the rebellious north.  After a long-fought and difficult war culminating in the Battle of Culloden, the British were successful.  They banned the highlanders from keeping weapons and wearing traditional clothing.


The Transformation Begins


In 1754 the mansion was sold to the Fraser family.  The property eventually became the property of William Fraser, a Lieutenant in the Bengal Army and Sheriff-Deputy of Inverness-shire.


During this period (1750-1800), this part of the Highlands began to attract some famous visitors including the well-known writers Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.  Their work helped to create more interest in this beautiful part of the world.


In 1839 Aldourie Castle was extended with a two-storey wing to the West.  The largest expansion of the castle occurred in the 1860s when William Fraser hired Mackenzie & Matthews to extend the house in a number of directions in the 17th-Century Baronial style.  The new work included ornate oriel windows, candle-snuffered turrets, gunloops and a balustraded round tower.


The landscape was also altered, adding canals, drainage for the castle and small cascades.  A series of enclosed dells and a long terrace set were added on the north-east of the grounds.  These features are still enjoyed by visitors today.


A house of substantial size was required by William Fraser-Tytler, because his marriage to Mary Grant produced 11 children!  Many of those children went on to join the army or work for the East India Trading Company.


The property was taken over by their son Charles who went on to raise his family there.  Notably, one of Charles’ daughters, Mary, married famous English Victorian painter George Frederick Watts.  Mary Seton Watts was also an accomplished artist, working in ceramics and watercolours.  Her art was greatly influenced by Aldourie and she painted many landscapes of the area.


A Favourite Location for Royal Holidays

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were among the royals who began to holiday in the Highlands.  They enjoyed visiting Scotland so much that they bought Balmoral castle in 1848.  Modern day royalty continue to enjoy visiting the Scottish Highlands.


In 1893, a British military regiment called the Lovat Scouts were formed at Aldourie Castle by another of Charles’ children, Edward Fraser-Tytler and Lord Lovat.  This Scottish Highland yeomanry regiment went on to fight in the Boer war.


Today, Aldourie Castle represents the perfect location for a holiday, wedding or other special event.  It is an authentic Scottish castle with a rich historical past, set within the beautiful Scottish landscape — the perfect location for any event.