Urquhart Castle

Highland, United Kingdom

Urquhart Castle dominates a rocky promontory jutting into Loch Ness. That promontory has hosted some famous names in its long history. Around AD 580 St Columba was making the long journey from his monastery on the island of Iona to the court of Bridei, king of the Picts, at Inverness. As he was passing up Loch Ness, he was called to the residence of an elderly Pictish nobleman at Airdchartdan (Urquhart). Emchath was close to death, and Columba baptised him and his entire household. We cannot be sure that Emchath’s residence was on the site of the castle. However, the discovery of a fragment of Pictish brooch (dating from the late 700s or early 800s) strongly hints that it may well have been the location.

From the 1200s until its demise in 1692, Urquhart saw much military action. In 1296 it was captured by Edward I of England, ‘Hammer of the Scots’. Thereafter, the stronghold passed back and forth between Scottish and English control. In 1332, in the dark days following King Robert Bruce’s death, Urquhart remained the only Highland castle holding out against the English.

Soon after the English threat evaporated, the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles arrived. Time and again, they swept through Glen Urquhart in their quest for more power. The castle passed back and forth between the Crown and the Lords of the Isles like a bone between two dogs. Their last raid, in 1545, proved the worst. The Islesmen got away with an enormous hoard, including 20 guns and three great boats.

James IV had given the barony of Urquhart to the Grant family in 1509, together with instructions to rehabilitate the castle and the estate. At some point during the 1500s, the Grants built the five-storey tower house known as the Grant Tower.

In 1688, the Catholic King James VII and II was driven into exile and the crown passed jointly to his Protestant daughter Mary II and her husband William of Orange. This ‘Glorious Revolution’ prompted the first of the Jacobite Risings – a string of armed attempts to restore the Catholic Stuart line, which continued for over 50 years.

The Jacobites commanded much of their support in the Highlands, so Urquhart was duly garrisoned with Government forces. They remained for more than two years, and when the last soldiers marched out in 1692, they blew it up.

The castle soon fell into decay. Part of the Grant Tower crashed to the ground in 1715 during a violent storm. But attitudes changed, and during the 1800s the ancient stronghold came to be viewed as a noble ruin in a majestic setting. It passed into State care in 1913, and is now one of the most visited of all Scotland’s castles.



Your name

There are 16 wolves for the kids to find all around the castle - be sure to find them all!


Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Gary King (7 months ago)
We've been before several times, and it's always a beautiful place to stop. The castle ruins are worth a look on their own, but the real joy is the views you get up and down the loch. The backdrop of the castle and especially on a gloomy day like when we visited, it sets your imagination on fire. There's a decent cafe, a good gift shop and nice toilet facilities. All you need really.
Billie Attwood (7 months ago)
The only castle ruin we visited in Scotland. It is hidden from the street side but full view from river. It has a interesting history and you can walk through without a guide. It’s worth the trip!
Hashim Fakhreddin (8 months ago)
Stunning castle with views beautiful views to the loch, highly recommend visiting as you can get some amazing views and photos. Also it is a historic landmark that you can walk within and imagine what life could have been like. Keep in mind there is a bit of stairs involved in going up and down.
Reed B (9 months ago)
After a fabulously done introduction video you walk outside and quickly realize this isn’t a castle - it’s ruins. While hopefully you realize that before you arrive due to research, it’s still a slight letdown as there isn’t a ton to see, few artifacts, etc. That all being said, it’s a very interesting piece of history, the views are amazing and it’s worth a 90 minute stop or so. There is ample parking, clean toilets and a well appointed gift shop and cafe. Be prepared to take a lot of photos, but just know what you are getting into.
Sarah Chalmers (10 months ago)
Absolutely stunning, not only the castle but the views as well. We'll worth a visit. Do pre book parking as parking is very limited! I suggest getting a historic Scotland membership if you are going to visit more than one of their properties.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

The Church of the Holy Cross

The church of the former Franciscan monastery was built probably between 1515 and 1520. It is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Rauma. The church stands by the small stream of Raumanjoki (Rauma river).

The exact age of the Church of the Holy Cross is unknown, but it was built to serve as the monastery church of the Rauma Franciscan Friary. The monastery had been established in the early 15th century and a wooden church was built on this location around the year 1420.

The Church of the Holy Cross served the monastery until 1538, when it was abandoned for a hundred years as the Franciscan friary was disbanded in the Swedish Reformation. The church was re-established as a Lutheran church in 1640, when the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed by fire.

The choir of the two-aisle grey granite church features medieval murals and frescoes. The white steeple of the church was built in 1816 and has served as a landmark for seafarers.