Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is a ruin that sits beside Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. You’ll find it on the A82, 13 miles south-west of Inverness. The surviving ruins originate from somewhere between the 13th and 16th centuries, though the site originally existed as an early medieval fortification.

It is known that Urquhart Castle played a part in the Wars of Scottish Independence of the 14th century, after which it was used as a royal castle. Though it was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, there was an ongoing conflict with the MacDonald Earls of Ross, who raided it many times in an ongoing effort to claim it as their own. By the middle of the 17th century, Urquhart was abandoned, and it was partially destroyed in 1692 amid fears Jacobite forces might make use of it.

In the centuries since, Urquhart has decayed significantly. The state took it into their care in the 20th century and it has become one of the most-visited sites in Scotland. It stands on a headland with stunning views of the iconic Loch Ness. It would have been approached from the west, defended by a ditch and drawbridge. Two main enclosures made up the castle’s buildings and the Nether Bailey has more intact structures remaining.

In the northern enclosure of the Nether Bailey, you will find the remains of the gatehouse and the five-storey Grant Tower. In the southern enclosure of the Upper Bailey, which sits upon higher ground, you will find the scant remains of buildings from an earlier era.

A visit to Urquhart Castle is an opportunity to discover centuries of drama. It is a window into medieval life with breathtaking views of Loch Ness. There are artefacts of the castle’s residents to discover, along with historic replicas and information points.

Getting there and things you should know

Urquhart Castle is accessible via the A82. Drivers and cyclists can access the site’s car park and there is a bus route to the castle. Whilst COVID-19 restrictions are in place, you must book ahead to access the car park and visit the castle.

What to see nearby Urquhart Castle

Being right beside the famous Loch Ness, you can see the Loch and walk to its shores. There are many other things to see nearby as well. The Beauly Priory, an ancient church of an order of monks, is close by. So too is the Corrimony Chambered Cairn – a remarkable passage grave that dates back 4,000 years. If ancient civilisations are of interest, you’ll enjoy the Knocknagael Boar Stone which features an early Pictish carving.

Other nearby highlights include:

  • Bridge of Oich
  • Clava Cairns
  • Fortrose Cathedral
  • Fort George
  • Ruthven Barracks

Where to eat nearby Urquhart Castle

The Urquhart Castle Cafe is a nice place to grab a bite to eat during your visit. There are other places nearby if you want to find something a little different. Cafe Eighty2 is a popular choice just over a mile away, where you can get a range of traditional cafe meals. There is also the Loch Ness Inn Restaurant if you want something with a slightly more diverse menu. If a pub meal is more up your street, the Fiddler’s is a fantastic option that serves traditional Scottish dishes alongside a range of other choices.

Did you know…

The legendary Gaelic bard Domhnall Donn is said to have been held in Urquhart Castle’s prison cell. He was accused of stealing cattle and, after a spell in the castle’s cell, was executed. The legend states that his real crime was that he fell in love with the laird of Grant’s daughter. He composed several moving songs during his incarceration here.

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