Urquhart Castle

A82, Drumnadrochit near Inverness.

Having driven past these iconic ruins many times and noticing the hordes of visitors on each occasion, now wondering what took me so long to pop my head around the door.

Steeped in more than 1000 years of lively history, this castle has been seized often over the centuries, passing back and forth between crown and clan. Dominating from its rocky promontory, whilst strategically set to overlook Loch Ness. Be sure to visit the cinema and watch the free ten-minute introductory film depicting the castles’ violent past before entering the ruins.

With so much military action, one of the great castles taken by the English when Edward 1 invaded in 1296. As one threat faded another emerged and garrisoned for the last time in 1689 following the exile of King James V11, sparking the Jacobite struggle to return him and his sons to power. In 1692 the gatehouse, the weakest point in a castle’s defences, was deliberately blown up so it would never be a military stronghold again. Sadly, falling into decay, while in the 1800’s this once ancient bastion came to be seen as a noble ruin in a majestic setting, centred on the Great Glen. Locals plundered the fortress for building materials, ten tonnes of stolen lead from the roof were discovered in nearby barns and cottages. Passing into state care in 1913 and now one of the most visited sights in Scotland.

Stand in awe, at the full-sized replica Trebuchet. The most powerful catapults used in the Middle Ages, and an important weapon during a military siege. Using a counterweight, its long arm was used to propel a heavy projectile hundreds of metres, causing great damage.

Imagine the banquets that took place in the Great Hall, with the familiar sound of the harp entertaining guests with flamboyant shows of dancing and storytelling, boasting the Lord’s wealth and status, while the kitchen bustles with sights and aromas, cooking venison, beef and mutton. Beer brewing was vital as everyone, even children, drank ale.

The ruins are scattered over a distance, accessible by many steps, so parts are not suitable for wheelchair users or buggies. Heed our advice and book in advance online to secure a parking place, as the car park attendants constantly turn visitors away. Open daily throughout the summer and at the time of our visit a single adult ticket cost £13, under 7’s free and family tickets and concessions available. We used our English Heritage passes to gain free entry; they have been a boon. However, no four-legged friends except assistance dogs are allowed. Check website for entry times and prices.

A busy café with seating indoors and out, looked inviting, along with a heaving visitor’s centre and shop with many souvenirs and information. Enjoy your day and soak up the history while immersing yourself in the glorious spectacle that is Loch Ness. Finish off with a cruise, affording fantastic photo shots of the castle. Good day had by all.

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