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The Chatelaine's Scottish Castles

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness near Inverness

The picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle are situated 2 miles from Drumnadrochit on a rocky peninsula on the banks of Loch Ness. After a chequered history, the building was blown up in 1692 to prevent it becoming a Jacobite stronghold. The castle was purchased by a Mr Chewett in the 1930s and in 2003 was gifted by his widow to The National Trust for Scotland.

Although the castle is owned by The National Trust for Scotland, visitor access is via the excellent visitor centre run by Historic Scotland which includes an exhibition, film show, shop and restaurant.
The castle is open daily 1 April to 30 September 9.30 am to 6pm; and also daily 1 October to 31 October 9.30 am to 5pm, and 1 November - 31 March 9.30 am to 4.30pm. Tel: 01456 450551. Admission charge. For disabled access, check with Historic Scotland.

Photo of Urquhart Castle Photo of Urquhart Castle

You cross over a wooden gangway which now lies in place of the original drawbridge across the defensive ditch. First you pass through the main gate-house - look for door on the left leading to a small exhibit about Historic Scotland - go up a couple of steps and you can peer into the tiny prison cell which was guarded by the gate-keeper. In the other (south) lodge of the gate-house, you can see the remains of an old kiln where grain was dried.

Now inside, you can explore the whole of the castle ruins! Guide books can be purchased. These give reconstruction drawings of how the castle would have looked when lived in and it is easy to walk around the ruins and see which bits were what. You can also go right down to the shore via the water-gate (directly opposite the gate-house) which is how most people would have entered the castle when it was in use.

Take the path which leads to the tall tower which was well defended with another ditch and drawbridge. Here you can take the steps down and see what would have been the store rooms. Take the spiral staircase up (and up!) and you can go and stand at the top of this 5-storey tower! It is highly likely that the lord would have had his private chamber and meeting hall here in this building.

Urquhart Castle

You will get a good view from the top of the tower and be able to see the layout of the ruins. To your left, nearest the loch, you will see what was once the great hall, chambers and kitchen. To the right is a very obvious rectangular ruin on the ground - this was probably the old chapel. At the far end of the site you can clearly see a circular stone base - this was the dovecot which provided the lord with his supply of pigeons for his dinners! Next to it is what may have been the smithy.

Urquhart Castle Urquhart Castle

It is amazing how uneven the ground of this site is. Despite the difficulties of building, it was a prime strategic location sitting as it does surrounded virtually on three sides by the cold waters of Loch Ness which would have been a main route through the Great Glen of the Highlands.

It's great for kids who will enjoy clambering everywhere and it's not expensive for them to get in. A piper is often on hand to lend even more atmosphere to the place and there are sometimes re-enactment events. The ruins are floodlit at night.

Urquhart Castle

It is easy to reach on your way to or from Inverness - many buses pass by each day. If you are on foot and want to combine this with a visit to the Loch Ness exhibitions at Drumnadrochit, then take the bus to Urquhart Castle first (from whatever direction you are approaching - Inverness or Fort William/Fort Augustus) and then walk the 2 miles north to Drumnadrochit (it's downhill that way!). Most of this stretch of the road is now paved since so many people walk along it.

A visit to Urquhart can be incorporated on your customised itinerary with ClansandCastles.com who offer personal guided trips from Inverness. You can also visit Eilean Donan in the same day or head east and go to Cawdor for example. Just contact ClansandCastles.com with your requirements.

Learn about the Urquhart clan.


Photo copyright Joanne Mackenzie-Winters 2008

Want to get married here?

Contact Historic Scotland

Make sure you book award-winning Spud the Piper for your wedding
Winner of the 2005 VOWS Awards
in the category for Wedding Music & Entertainment

Spud the Piper
Photo Copyright Mike Phimister Photography

Travel Info
Recommended Accommodation

Wide selection of accommodation around Loch Ness & Inverness:
B&Bs - Hotels - Self Catering Cottages

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