Between Fort William and Inverness there lies a Great Glen. Running for 62 miles like a long, thin, diagonal sword-slash struck into the land it bisects the Scottish Highlands into the Grampian Mountains to the southeast and the Northwest Highlands to the northwest.
Within this Great Glen can be found Loch Ness and on the northwest shore of the loch, about halfway along its length, you will find the ruins of Urquhart Castle. A few miles from Inverness and close to the village of Drumnadrochit (home to the Loch Ness Exhibition), Urquhart Castle is easily accessible from the main A82 road which runs alongside the loch.
Situated in a prominent position surrounded on three sides by water Urquhart Castle is famous for being the place from which the Loch Ness monster has most often been seen and photographed and, perhaps for this reason, it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland but the existence or otherwise of a semi-mythical monster isn’t the only reason for visiting Urquhart Castle.
With a wild natural beauty and 1000 years of history behind it Urquhart Castle – one of the largest castles in Scotland in total area – offers a taste of the Highlands at their most dramatic giving a glimpse of life in a medieval castle complemented by stunning views over Loch Ness.
Overlooking the castle and the loch and discreetly hidden by the sloping hillside below the main A82 a new, modern visitor centre was opened in 2002. Accessed from the car park by steps or elevator the visitor centre comprises three main areas: the shop, leading to the viewing terrace and the path to the castle; an exhibition area which includes a large model of the castle and an audio-visual theatre.
The large cafe is also in this area. Be careful not to miss it for the views from the outside terrace are quite wonderfully romantic which is why it has become a popular wedding venue. Once into the castle grounds proper there is much to see including an actual working trebuchet (a bit like a catapult), a fine example of a truly impressive siege weapon from a time before gunpowder was invented. Sadly, this weapon is rarely fired nowadays.
There are also parts of various buildings to be found in the extensive grounds including the remains of the kitchens and the great hall. The best-preserved part of the castle, the Grant Tower, can be explored by the very narrow and quite claustrophobic spiral staircase. Unfortunately, at busy times this can be quite congested and you may have to wait your turn.
Even though there are many castles in Scotland larger or more complete than Urquhart Castle there are few with quite such a depth of history and even fewer located in such magnificent surroundings nor is there the possibility anywhere else, however unlikely, of taking a photograph that proves that a certain mythical creature does in fact exist. Can you imagine the wedding photograph with the Loch Ness Monster in the background!
TAKE A LOOK AT URQUHART CASTLE
A Scotsman born and bred I love to roam Scotland’s hills and wild places taking photographs and writing about my travels around the country and all things to do with my homeland.