Located on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of the more popular Scottish castles, with visitors combining an exploration of the ruins with a bit of monster spotting from its walls.
In 1288 the ‘Men of Moray’ rebelled against their king, Alexander II. By 1230, the king had crushed the uprising and brought in men he could trust to control the rebellious region. One such man was Sir Thomas Durward who was granted the lordship of Urquhart. It was probably his son, Alan, who built the first castle on a promontory on the banks of Loch Ness. The natural defences provided by the Loch were supplemented by a rock-cut ditch on the landward side. When Alan died without a male heir in 1275, the king granted the estate to John Comyn.
In 1296 Edward I of England invaded Scotland and Urquhart was one of the castles that his men captured. After the English defeat at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Urquhart was once more back in Scottish control, only to be retaken by the English in 1303. By this time the Comyn family had sided with king Edward I and Sir Alexander Comyn was put in charge of the castle. When Robert the Bruce drove the English out of Scotland he also defeated the Comyns who fled into exile. Urquhart Castle was now a Crown property.
Throughout the 15th century Glen Urquhart was terrorised by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles who repeatedly raided the region. In 1479 Sir Duncan Grant was brought in to try and bring some stability to the area. He, and his grandson, John, had some success and as a reward the Lordship of Urquhart was granted to them in 1509. Part of the King’s charter stipulated that they repair the castle and build a tower. However they were still not at peace with the MacDonalds and construction at the castle had to wait until after the last MacDonald raid in 1545.
The tower that the Grant family built is the best preserved part of the castle and a climb to the top offers spectacular views across the Loch. During the 17th century the castle went into decline. In 1644 it was attacked by a group of Covenanters who robbed the building of most of its contents. The castle had its last lease of life in 1689 when it was garrisoned by three companies of Grant Highlanders. In 1690 they managed to withstand a siege by a Jacobite force of more than twice their number. When the last soldiers left in 1692 they blew up parts of the castle to prevent any further use.
- On the shore of Loch Ness near Drumnadrochit on the A82, 16 miles (26km) south-west of Inverness.
- Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, Inverness, IV63 6XJ
- Historic Scotland. Open to public. Entrance fee for non-members.
- For further information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
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