10 Amazing Facts About Urquhart Castle On Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is one of the most historic sites in Scotland, and should not be missed on your trip to Loch Ness. We recently stopped by this amazing fortress and witnessed firsthand the impact it had on the Scottish Highlands. Join us as we share the most unique Urquhart Castle facts, and the best tips from our own visit. 

How to Get to Urquhart Castle Scotland

Urquhart Castle is located right on the shores of Loch Ness making it a popular attraction for visitors to the area. While there are a few different options to get there, the best way is to rent a car. 

Most travelers pick up a vehicle from Edinburgh or Glasgow and include Urquhart Castle in a longer Scotland road trip. It’s also easy to start in Inverness and take the A87 road.

Here’s our complete guide to this exact route! This will take you through Loch Ness and past the Eilean Donan Castle on the way to the Isle of Skye.

Public transport would be our last choice for how to get to the castle, but know there are bus routes available. Be sure to check out Discover Cars to compare rates and companies to find the cheapest rates. 

9 Easy Tips to Know Before Renting a Car in Scotland

How to get to Urquhart Castle Scotland

What is Urquhart Castle Famous For?

Prior to getting into all our fun facts about Urquhart Castle, you should know a little bit of the backstory. Before it would go down into Scottish lore the site had humble beginnings as a Pictish fort. 

St Columba was said to have visited a residence on the site of Urquhart Castle in the year 580 to work his miracles. It wouldn’t be until the early 13th century after King Alexander II granted the Lordship of Urquhart to his son in law (Alan Durward) when the fortress was most likely built. 

Urquhart would play a big part in the Wars of Independence and change hands many times over the next few centuries. The MacDonald Clan would come into the picture in the 1400’s to repeatedly attack and plunder the castle. The final days of Castle Urquhart would be during the first Jacobite Rebellion and it was eventually deserted from 1692 on.

While it has a wild history, it’s recognition mostly comes from the location in the Loch Ness area. Urquhart has become a massive tourist attraction for those visiting the Isle of Skye and somewhere you should definitely stop on your trip!

What is Urquhart Castle Famous for

Buying Your Urquhart Castle Tickets

If you’re visiting in the busy summer months we recommend buying tickets beforehand online. You can do so on the official Urquhart Castle website. Pick out a time slot and then go between the hours you’ve booked. 

You are also able to buy them at the ticket office after you arrive. Just know that you may be risking missing out if you don’t pre-book in July and August. Also, be sure to pay for parking at one of the designated electronic booths around the car park. 

Another way to visit the romantic ruin is to do so as part of a Loch Ness boat cruise. These tours leave from different areas of Loch Ness and pull up right on the shores of Urquhart’s rocky peninsula. Tickets are included with the boat tour, but just know this may give you limited time to explore.

We actually decided to drive and visit Castle Urquhart on our own so we wouldn’t be rushed. However, we still took an amazing Loch Ness Cruise as a separate experience which you can read about here.

Book a Loch Ness Bus Tour With a Visit to Urquhart Castle!

Urquhart Castle Loch Ness Tickets

Urquhart Visitor Center, Cafe, and Gift Shop

Make a trip inside the modern visitor centre before or after your visit to the Loch Ness Castle. You will pass through this area on your way outside to see the epic fortress.

This is a great spot to grab a bite to eat or have a tea on a chilly day. Also, be sure to check out the large gift shop on your way out to pick up a souvenir. 

10 Fun Urquhart Castle Facts

1. Ruins of Urquhart Castle

The first fact about Urquhart Castle you should know is that it lays in ruins. Unlike some of the other Scotland castles which have been rebuilt or maintained over time, Urquhart was abandoned in the end of the 17th century. 

Don’t worry though! There’s still so much to see at the Loch Ness Castle. Much of the curtain wall still stands and there are informative placards with pictures all around the grounds describing the history. At some spots, you’ll just have to use your imagination to understand what it must have been like hundreds of years ago. 

Urquhart Castle Scotland

2. Wars of Independence

We mentioned this in our quick history breakdown, but it’s important to understand the integral role this castle played in the Wars of Scottish Independence. It would be taken by King Edward of England in 1296, only to be recaptured back by the Scots 10 years later. 

After the death of the legendary Scottish King Robert the Bruce, it would be the only castle in the Highlands to hold out against the English in the early 14th century. As you’ll see though, the conflicts would only continue in the centuries that followed.

Urquhart Castle in Scotland

3. Urquhart Castle Gatehouse 

One of the first parts of Urquhart to experience is the ruins of the Gatehouse. This once massive structure was its most important defense protecting the main entrance.

Anyone planning to attack the Loch Ness Castle would have to make it over the rocky ditch which a bridge crosses in present day. Intruders would also have to deal with rocks and other weapons being dropped through the wooden ceiling onto their head if they made it this far.

After seeing the Gatehouse it’s easy to understand how hard it was to both defend and overtake this castle. It would ultimately be blown apart by an explosion during the Jacobite Rising in 1692.

Loch Ness Castle in Scotland

4. Link to the Sea

During the times when roads were few and far between, the water would link Urquhart to the rest of the world. Although Loch Ness is a fresh water lake, it is connected to a series of other Loch’s, rivers, and the North Sea. ​

At the bottom of the old fortress you will see a small water gate. This was where imports would come in from all over Europe, especially fruits and wine. It was also a weaker spot that could be attacked by boats passing by. 

Loch Ness Castle Urquhart

5. Grant Tower at Urquhart Castle

The Grant Tower is the most impressive and in-tact structure at Urquhart Castle in Scotland. The 40 foot tall stone tower was named after John Grant of Freuchie and built in the 16th century after ownership of the castle was passed to him. This large estate was a gift from King James IV for Grant’s support against the MacDonald Clan. 

The five storey house included a basement to keep provisions, 1st floor to entertain guests, and bedroom on the 2nd floor. Be sure to climb the spiral staircase to the top for beautiful view of Loch Ness and Urquhart Bay.

Loch Ness Castle

6. The 1545 Raid

Speaking of the MacDonald Clan, they would attack Urquhart Castle unrelentingly from 1451 on and even controlled it themselves a number of times. The Macdonald’s were known as the Lords of the Isles and one of the largest Scottish Clan’s of their time. 

Their most daring raid came in 1545 where they looted the entire property and carried it away down the Great Glen. When we say they took everything, we mean everything!

This included livestock, food, beds, cooking instruments, tables, and even the doors. Here’s a short recap of their plunder below, which is easily one of the most interesting Urquhart Castle facts.

  • 3,377 Sheep
  • 2,355 Cattle
  • 2,204 Goats
  • 1,700 Sacks of Oats
  • 750 Sacks of Barley
  • 3 Boats
  • 371 Horses
  • 122 Pigs
  • 64 Geece
  • 2 Oxen

Urquhart Castle Tickets

7. Urquhart Castle Great Hall

This is a section of the Urquhart Castle we would’ve loved to see back in the day! The Great Hall was where guests were entertained from around the Scottish Highlands. 

Here they would hold large banquets with dancing, food, music, and plenty of drinking. It was place to show off the Lord’s great wealth in the 1300’s and somewhere powerful bishops and earl’s would enjoy dining.

Now this isn’t to say life was easy living during these times on the banks of Loch Ness. However, they still found time for music, poetry, and sports. Board games like chess were common, bagpipes and the harp were played, and John Grant was even considered a famous poet of his time.

Urquhart Castle Great Hall Scotland

8. The Doocot 

One of the most fascinating parts of the Loch Ness Castle was the Doocot. In its full form, it was a beehive-shaped home for pigeons which were kept on the grounds. 

The pigeons were important for their meat and eggs during the cold winter months. This is another sign of the harsh conditions the people of Urquhart Castle had to endure.

9. Urquhart Castle Trebuchet

On your walk down from the visitor centre you will pass an astonishing piece of weaponry before entering the castle. A replica of a full-sized trebuchet sits facing the fortress to show how difficult it must have been to attack.

The giant weapons were used to breach walls of castles like Urquhart, tossing stone boulders hundreds of feet in the distance. Although there is no actual evidence of them being used at this location, English Kings were known to use them often during the Wars of Independence. 

Urquhart Castle Trebuchet

10. Jacobite Rebellion

So how did the Urquhart Castle in Scotland come to lay in the ruins you see today? The Jacobite Rising was felt all over Scotland from the the Dunnottar Castle on the Northeast Coast to the Western Highlands. 

Essentially, it was a movement to return the House of Stuart to the British throne. The Jacobites were angry with the monarch being removed in 1688 and argued that King James VII was appointed by God. The rebellion timeline is complex and involved different parties, with many groups fighting for their own personal gain. 

The Jacobite’s had a lot of support in the Highlands and Urquhart Castle became a stronghold for them in the late 17th century. Ultimately though, this led to the demise of the fortress. As the government forces marched out of the castle in 1692 they decided to blow it up.

Loch Ness Castle

Is Urquhart Castle Worth Visiting?

Yes! After hearing all our Urquhart Castle facts, it’s easy to see that it’s worth a stop.

Even though much of the castle ceases to exist, it was so interesting to discover its past and important place in Scottish history. The most unique part about it is that it sits right on Scotland’s most famous loch.

Honestly, the views of Loch Ness from here are worth seeing from here alone. Whether you’re doing it as part of a Loch Ness boat trip or driving there yourself, Urquhart Castle should be on your Scottish Highlands itinerary. Be sure to check out more of our favorite castles in Scotland in the article below.

5 Magical Castles in Scotland That Completely Blew Us Away!

Is Urquhart Castle Worth Visiting

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own fun facts about Urquhart Castle in Scotland? Leave us a comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Pin for Later ↓

Urquhart

Scotland Travel Planning

More Posts: Stonehaven  – Fairy PoolsBalmoral Castle  – ObanOld Man of Storr 1 Day Isle of Skye Eilean Donan CastleNevis RangeScotland Food Edinburgh Castle  – Royal Mile Isle of Skye Ferry

 Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Scotland Travel

*We receive a commission for purchases made through links in this post. This allows us to continue our travels and keep providing great content to our readers! Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
Share:

2 Comments

  1. Cassandra
    February 21, 2024 / 8:51 am

    I’m traveling with my husband this month to Scotland and I am excited to ride a cruise to visit Urquhart Castle! Thank you so much for this information! I’m sure we’ll love it there!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      Author
      February 21, 2024 / 9:15 am

      One of our favorite castles in Scotland! Urquhart is definitely a must on your visit to Loch Ness (-:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *