Between Fort William in the east and Inverness in the west lies the geological fault of the Great Glen – a deep, diagonal slash in the land. 62 miles in length, it cuts Scotland in half separating the Grampian mountains from the northwest highlands.
Lying within this glen is Loch Ness and on the shore of the loch about halfway along you will find the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Close to the village of Drumnadrochit and located 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 this legendary creature isn’t the only reason for visiting Urquhart Castle.
Now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland the castle is steeped in history – there is evidence of a castle of some description on the site as far back as the reign of King Alexander II (1214-1249). One of the largest castles in Scotland in total area Urquhart Castle is easily accessible from the main A82 road which runs alongside the loch. The castle has witnessed some of the most significant chapters in the history of Scotland and, with a wild natural beauty and centuries of history behind it, 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.
Be sure to visit the cafe for the views from the outside terrace are quite spectacular which is why it was once a popular wedding venue. Sadly, weddings are no longer conducted at the castle but happy couples are quite welcome to take photographs. Once into the castle grounds proper there is much to see including a full-sized replica trebuchet (a bit like a catapult), a fine example of a truly impressive siege weapon from a time before gunpowder.
Also in the extensive grounds you will find the remains of several buildings including those of the kitchens and the great hall. The Grant Tower, the best-preserved part of the castle, can be explored by a narrow and rather restricted spiral staircase. At busy times this can be quite congested and you may have to wait your turn but the view from the top over Loch Ness makes it worthwhile.
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 which proves that a certain mythical creature does in fact exist. Can you imagine a wedding photograph with the Loch Ness Monster in the background?
All photographs on this page were sourced from Pixabay
And a Youtube video