Location: Loch Ness
Ticket Prices: -
Urquhart stands on a sandstone promontory jutting into Loch Ness from the north-west, overlooking Urquhart Bay. The site was defended from attack from the landward side by a ditch up to about 30.5 metres (100 ft) wide and 4.6-5.2 metres (15-17 ft) deep, and this was crossed by a bridge with high walls on either side of the path, broken in the middle by a drawbridge. This bridge led out from a massive twin-cylindrical-towered gatehouse in the length of the high stone curtain wall that skirted the west side of the castle. The curtain followed the contour of the irregular rocky ground of the promontory, and it survives in part, although not to its full height. At the north-east end of the curtain is the ruined shell of the great tower which has its south wall missing, and which is built of rubble with freestone dressings. Its walls are 3-3.6 metres (10-12 ft) thick and it rises to tour stories.
The period of the tower seems to have been three-fold: the basement is fourteenth century; the next storeys arc sixteenth century (probably rebuilding of older work destroyed); and the top is seventeenth-century. Gun-ports were inserted in the sixteenth century.
To the south of the great tower is a semi-hexagonal-plan range of buildings skirting the top of the promontory containing the great chamber, hall and kitchen, now all ruined. The southern end of this range forms one side of an inverted V-shaped inlet for the loch water, and a landing place. At the apex of the `V' is a water-gate, built in a length of curtain that continues along the promontory and round to join up with an irregularly shaped, polygonal, thick stone-walled enclosure which skirts the top of a natural mound. This mound was once a Norman-style motte, which centuries earlier had been the base for an Iron Age vitrified fort. The curtain continues north-eastwards out of the polygonal enclosure to join up with the western gatehouse, thus completing the circuit of a substantial enclosure castle with buildings whose ground-plan is roughly in the shape of a figure-of-eight, like Prudhoe. The motte enclosure remains to about 5.5 metres (18 ft) tall, and contained buildings inside, of which traces can be seen.
The beginnings of Urquhart as a motte castle were probably mid-welfth-century. It passed to the powerful Durward family, and thence to the Comyn family. Edward I of England put it under English control, but it was retaken by the Scots in 1303, changed hands twice more, and in 1313 became the property of Randolph, Earl of Moray, one of Bruce's three greatest friends and counselors. Thereafter it had a turbulent history in the struggle between the kings and the Lords of the WPC.
John Mchardy, 32, from Scotland, wrote:
I feel I must correct a previous review, Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson and directed by Franco Zefferelli was filmed at Dunnottar castle adjacent to Stonehaven on the East coast of Scotland. I cannot argue that Urquhart is a beautiful and historic place.
Jennifer Allen,29, from Boise, Idaho USA, wrote:
My husband and I were recently married at Urquhart Castle. It was a dream simply to visit Scotland, but to be married in one of it's castles was like a fairy tale. I certainly felt like a princess as we were piped down the hill to the castle for the ceremony. It was a beautiful day, and the castle and the loch are a stunning backdrop for wedding photos. We will always have such special memories of one of Scotland's most magical castles
Janet, 51, from Australia wrote:
Scotland is so “picture postcard” you can hardly believe it. Loch Ness is glorious. There was a piper playing on the castle walls, but the day was too beautiful to be very mournful. You need to be reasonably fit to explore a castle - lots of stairs. I hope I'm fit enough to jump over the fence next time. We certainly are aiming for a next time.
Robert F. Churchward (Grant), 48, from Northern Oregon, wrote:
I visited the Urquhart Castle about 10 years ago, This castle was in my family line (Grant) back in 1550's (James I, King of Scotland), and they keep it up and build it up to keep the British out, But this castle is a must to see, not just for the history by the story of the Loch Ness Monster. I know others said to jump the fence, but remember the money's goes to keeping up the site so others down the road can come and see this Castle, and other upkeep. Who know you may even see the Monster at the Urquhart!\ Elisabeth Gessell, 57, from AUstria wrote:
We have been visiting this place 19 years ago. originally we wanted to go to Asia, but due to the fact that I was pregnant we decided not to travel so far. Did not regret it at all. What a wonderful country and so different to the rest of Europe. And Urquart was definitely one of the highlights. Not only because of its history but also of the circumstances. When we entered we saw structures which looked like movie requisites. So we asked at the ticket counter and received as an answer: Yes they do shoot a movie here with Sean Connery. Its called HAMLET, do you know it by any chance? We could not believe that anyone would think one does not know HAMLET. It turned out to be a great movie. With Mel Gibson as HAMLET and Sean Connery as his ghost father.
Elinor Kerklingh Svihla, from Arizona, wrote:
While standing in the ruins of Urquat Castle overlooking the Loch Ness, I could feel the wind and cold seeping through my entire body. I pictured the people living there, huddled up trying to stay warm. It made me realize how fortunate we are living with all our modern conveniences. I had a preconceived notion that the Loch Ness was this small, blue lake. Looking at it from the castle, I could picture sea monsters living there. For me it was beautiful yet very forbidding. The fact that it was cold and rainy added to my impressions.
Mark Eggleston, 43, from Canada wrote:
My father's mother was an Urquhart. Her family came to Canada in the mid 19th century. I was determined to visit this castle. Myself and a companion camped overnight in some bushes adjacent to the castle. We hopped the fence and did a midnight tour. It was a great way to tour this castle. It was special knowing that a part of me had a link to this castle somewhere in the past. Well worth the visit.
Priscilla, 39, from Nevada, wrote:
How does one describe this castle? Maybe “eerily magical?” I was there late winter '99, snow lightly dusted the castle and greenery, the icy blue water shimmered in the sunlight and in the distance a rainbow hooked across the horizon. Gorgeous! I was so enchanted by this castle and its history I am taking my two children there this year for a few days. Scotland is the most beautiful place, with lovely scenery, people and culture, don't allow yourself to miss it. Visit once and you will be back.
Maira M. Senick, 40, from Northeast, USA, wrote:
During our last visit to the extraordinary region of the Highlands in Scotland, this was the one castle where I actually felt the presence of its past history in every step. The castle stands eerily silent over the, even more eerie, mysterious Loch Ness. Its strategic position is quite apparent given the commanding panoramic views of the lake. We climbed the 16th Century tower and had chills down my spine (still have no idea why…). I don't want to scare anybody away from a magnificent castle. If anything, the experience was unforgettable as it truly made me realized this is a magical place!!
Emily Morgan from Texas wrote:
This castle sits in a commanding position overlooking the beautiful Loch Ness. It was an ideal base location to maintain authority in the Highlands. The Red Comyn inherited the castle after the death of the Earl of Atholl. He is supposedly responsible for rebuilding the castle in stone around 1275. This castle is beautiful when the sun sets over Loch Ness. The ruins just add to its picturesque beauty. Often times the sky will be a violet color during sunset-don't forget your camera. WARNING TO TOURISTS—do not get caught paying several pounds to see this one. The locals advise just hopping the fence after hours, this way you get to see this great castle when the sun sets. Don't be a pansy-you won't get caught. This was one of my favorites. On a scale of 1-10, I give it an 8. If you can fit this one in, I highly recommend it.