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.

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

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User Reviews

Tony Carver (2 years ago)
Nice stopping place and historical backdrop. Intestine history.prices nothing unusual for this type of place. Friendly staff. Set on the shores of lock Ness with great views of the lock.
James Grant (2 years ago)
The views are stunning - which ever way you look. The visit was made all the more enjoyable by speaking to Graham - the castle Warden. This is a must see attraction if you are in Loch Ness area, paid £9.00 each and it was so worth the money.
Alexandra Ru (2 years ago)
Amazing Castle and Grounds. Beautiful ground and magnificent views on Valey and Loch. The scenery is fantastic. I will recommend to watch short movie giving the history of the castle and rules. A must see Attraction if you planning Highland Tour
Greg Pryor (2 years ago)
Historic Scotland have this perfectly organized. They set out to tell a story in both broad strokes and fine details. Saying much more would give away too much, but it is worth a visit and very reasonably priced!
Russell Dornan (2 years ago)
We loved it BUT we timed it for the free tour and it didn't happen. But no one said it wasn't happening so we wasted a bit of time waiting as instructed before doing our own thing before getting back on the boat. So we missed out on the visitor center. We had fun reading the panels to each other though and it's so beautiful and magical, even without the tour.
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