Urquhart Castle, Inverness
This is a local and national icon. One of the most photographed...
It is on the west shore of Loch Ness.
We visited on a very cold, frosty, December morning. It was sunny and beautiful, with frost covering the ground and the trees, and mist floating around the nearby hills. Could not ask for better.
It was relatively quiet, but I can imagine it is pandemonium in the tourist season. We paid £6.50 each for entry. The visitor centre (discretely built into the hillside) has a good cafe/restaurant (my home made chilli con carne was perfect for the weather) and gift shop.
Urquhart Castle is one one of Scotland's most visited castles. It is also one of the most exploited. We had free admission via Historic Scotland card, but otherwise I would not have bothered, instead joining the many who just park up, take a few photos for free and move on. I would save my money for the magnificent Fort George, east of inverness.
Anyway, a brief history -
Urquhart witnessed considerable conflict throughout its 500 years as a medieval fortress and its history from the 13th to 17th centuries was particularly bloody. Following Edward I’s invasion, it fell into English hands and was then reclaimed and lost again. In the 14th century, it figured prominently in the Scots’ struggle for independence and came under the control of Robert the Bruce after he became King of Scots.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle and glen were frequently raided from the west by the ambitious Macdonald Lords of the Isles.
In the care of Historic Scotland
Admission Charge - Adults £6.50
Urquhart Castle (pronounced "urkurt") sits majestically on the rocky banks of Loch Ness along the A82 Highway, 2 miles from the town of Drumnadrochit (near Inverness). The castle is one of the largest in Scotland and the third most visited. (It's probably the most photographed of all of them!)
The actual date of construction is unknown. Although written records date a castle on this site since the early 13th Century, there evidence of a fort being on this site as long ago as the Iron Age.
The castle later came under the command of the famous Robert the Bruce during the Scots' battles for independence in the 14th Century. Yep, that was alongside William Wallace "Braveheart".
The castle fell into disrepair during the 1600s and the people of Glen used some of the stones to build their houses. English supporters (three companies of Grant Highlanders) used the castle to successfully fend of an army of attackers in 1690 during the Jacobite uprising. The soldiers eventually abandoned the fortress but blew up parts of it before they left, preventing any future use as a stronghold by the Jacobites. The wind has been blamed for falling over some of the remaining walls and only one of the towers remains. But what a splendid tower it is!
What a breathtaking place to spend a day! There are interpretive displays and presentations in the Tourist Information Centre that document the extensive history of the castle. There's also a large gift shop, and a great cafeteria. Admission was £6 for an adult, less than half that for a child.
Urquhart Castle has a 500-year history. Once one of Scotland's largest castles now has only one of its towers left standing. In the visitors' center we saw a great film (drama re-enactment) of the history of the castle that made the visit well worth the while. After the film is done, the curtains lift and you have a fabulous view of the castle and Loch Ness before exiting the theater to visit the castle.
We understood from the movie that when the castle was in danger of being taken, that those in the castle abandoned it and literally "blew it up" by igniting the kegs of powder in the gate.
Urquhart Castle is a Historic Scotland property and has a 5-star rating. Open all year - summer hours 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.; winter 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Admission (UK pounds): Adult - 6, Child 1.20, Concession (senior, group, student) 4.50.
Urquhart Castle is a huge ruin on the shores of Loch Ness, and with the faible that I have for old stones in all shapes and forms I could not miss out on it, of course. First evidence of the castle dates back to 1230 and it has seen many raids and plunders in its time. Very often it only held out because it could be resupplied by ship.
At the entrance we were greeted by a bagpiper before we started our scramble over the rocks and up the tower. There is also a little shingle beach surrounded by trees next to the castle where you can enjoy the beautiful view over Loch Ness and wait for Nessie to make an appearance. Don’t hold your breath, though. Apparantly there is also a visitor center now nearby which had not been there when we visited it in 1998.
Although Castle Urquhart qualifies as a tourist trap, it is also one of the most magnificent places to view Loch Ness from.
The view of the surrounding countryside is breathtaking. The emerald green of the hillside pastures contrasting with the nearly black depths of Loch Ness. The feeling of wide open spaces begging to be experienced is not only to be found here, but savored here.