Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle is set on the banks of Loch Ness and one of the most spectacular castles in the Highlands. It is sited on Strone Point, a triangular promontory protruding from the northwest shore of Loch Ness about 13 miles southwest of Inverness. The existing ruins owe their origins to the 13th century although it is believed that castle was built on the location of an early medieval settlement, possibly dating from the 6th century.

The Picts, Nessie and St Columba

Nessie swimming past Urquhart Castle

Legend has it that St Columba visited a Pictish fort which was located on the present site of Urquhart Castle around AD 580. Columba is reputed to have made the first siting of the Loch Ness Monster while in the locality!  The site was the seat of Bridei son of Maelchon, a Pictish king who was visited by Columba, possibly with the intention of converting him. Columba is also reputed to have converted a nobleman called Emchath who is believed to have resided at Airdchartdan, the word from which Urquhart derives.

The Medieval Fortress

Motte and South Shell

The site of the medieval castle was granted to Thomas de Lundin by Alexander II around 1229. When Thomas died the lands passed on to his son Alan Durward who may have built a castle in the current location. The castle then passed to Lord of Badenoch in 1275. The early castle is believed to have focused on the motte and shell keep at the south end of the existing complex.

Reconstructed trebuchet in the grounds of the castle

The castle was captured by Edward I of England at the beginning of the Wars of Independence and changed hands between Scots and English on a number of occasions until 1306 when it was taken by Robert Bruce from which time it became a royal castle. The MacDonalds Lords of the Isles took the castle on a number of occasions between 1395 and 1476 when Urquhart became a possession of the Early of Huntly.

In 1509 the castle was granted to John Grant by James IV on condition that he rebuilt the castle. The MacDonalds continued to contest ownership of Urquhart and occupied it between 1513 and 1517 and again briefly in 1545. However the Grants appear to have been dominant in this long running conflict and continued to maintain the defences up to 1623.

Visitor Experience

I visited the site while Covid was in full flow but even with the Covid restrictions it was an excellent attraction. The setting is stunning with amazing views of Loch Ness. I was particularly drawn to the reconstructed trebuchet with is located on the path down from the visitor centre to the castle entrance. I will definitely be returning in the future.


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