On Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle towers above

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Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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The Scottish Highlands are a wild and beautiful land, with their rugged beauty, hills covered with fragrant heather, rocky shores and a rich and bloody history. From ancient stone rings to medieval castles, to the stories of extinct creatures rising from the depths. of the lochs, the Scottish Highlands are a must-see destination.
Today we are going to visit Urquhart Castle is located on "Strone Point", a triangular headland on the northwestern shore of Loch Ness, overlooking the path along the north side of the Great Glen and the entrance to Glen Urquhart; near the village of Drumnadroch.
The ruins of the Castle can be reached via the A82 and, following it, you will see the rugged hills rise steeply from the dark waters of the lake.

1 day

Of course ? a castle that does not leave indifferent and that is difficult to forget. Walking among its ruins, you will have the feeling of going back in time, will it seem to you? to see the life that comes alive within those now destroyed walls. Echoes of a past life, walking beside you; intrigues, secrets and court life intertwined together in an infinite and timeless story, which you can relive for a few hours. Take all the time to visit it calmly, take a walk, listen to the sound of the water, meet some curious visitors and if you want to scan the horizon, go to the panoramic terrace and take a look at the panorama with the binoculars that you will have available. Silence and sometimes the sound of a faint flute will be the background to your visit. And if you are patient, touching one of those stones immersed in moss and present for 1000 years, you will feel part of history for a moment.

Not ? possible to venture into the ruins of this fortress without knowing ap? of its history, the legends and what made it legendary. Urquhart played several important roles in the Scottish Independence Wars and? been a recurring element in the history of this nation. Was it the focus of a considerable amount? of actions and bloodshed between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Around 580 AD, St. Columba made a long journey from his monastery on the Isle of Iona to the Inverness court of the Bridei, king of the Picts. While traveling on Loch Ness, St. Columba was called to visit an elderly Pictish lord in Airdchartdan (Urquhart). Emchath was near death and Columba baptized? him and his whole family. Emchath's residence may have been on the castle site.
It was conquered by the British after the invasion of Edward I of England, recaptured and seized again, under the control of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland. After Robert's death it was the only Scottish castle to hold out against the British.
It was repeatedly attacked between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, arriving from the west who wanted to expand their domain; this is to briefly summarize his exciting story.
The current ruins are dated to a period ranging from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. It also obtained the title of "Royal Castle" and was used by some kings of Scotland and England; King Edward I of England occupied it? in 1296, King David II of Scotland stayed there. in 1342.
Like so many Scottish castles, Urquhart was also at the center of a tug-of-war between the English and the Scots.
The castle was granted to the Grant Clan in 1509, although the conflict with the MacDonalds continued. Despite a series of further raids, the castle was strengthened and probably it was around this time that the Grant Tower was built. It was then largely abandoned by the half? from the th century.
Later it was held as a royal castle and was more? times plundered by the MacDonald Counts of Ross, one of the most popular great was that from 1545 so much so that this event became known as The great raid. In the image below you can see all this? who raided from the castle.
In 1688, the Catholic king James VII was exiled. Did the crown pass? jointly with her Protestant daughter Maria II and her husband William of Orange.
This "Glorious Revolution" foment? the first of the Jacobite revolutions, a series of armed attempts, to restore the Catholic line of the Stuarts - which continued? for over 50 years. Much of the Jacobite support came from the Highlands and so Urquhart became a garrison for government forces for longer. two years.
It was partially destroyed, during the last historical event that saw him involved in 1692. In the struggle between the groups of William of Orange and the Jacobites, soldiers loyal to William blew up the Gatehouse, to prevent the castle from falling in the hands of the Jacobites.

Urquhart fell into disrepair and was sacked; part of the Grant Tower was destroyed in 1715 during a violent storm. Large blocks of rubble are still visible next to the remains of the gatehouse.
Does the attitude towards the ancient stronghold change? in the nineteenth century and Urquhart became a noble ruin in a majestic setting. Pass? in custody in 1913 and? now one of the most? visited in Scotland. Gift of the last owner's widow, "Mr Chewett", after he was robbed of all his possessions.
Although the stone ruins that remain are only a shadow of its former glory, its present life? as busy as in the past. On some days? It is also possible to enjoy historical re-enactments with costumed actors. There? there is still a lot of life within these walls and Uruquhart seems destined to never die.

Treat yourself to a visit to the visitor center, managed by Historic Scotland where you will find a small exhibition with a model of the castle on display, which depicts it as such how it could have been at its best and, you will be truly amazed at what once was its greatness! You will also have the opportunity? to view an informative film on the history of the castle, from the th century to the th century, when it was demolished.

Let's now enter the castle and start exploring it.

Urquhart, in Scottish Gaelic "Caisteal ainmeil Urchadain", since? it was often involved in the war scenario, hiding its main entrance from the land side (the other three sides are surrounded by Loch Ness); in fact this could only be reached by crossing a drawbridge, necessary for its defense. This drawbridge today? replaced by a wooden footbridge, on which tourists can walk, to enter the site of the ruins (drawnbridge).
Will not forget? never the first time I walked it, the crunching under my feet, the emotion in imagining its majesty? of a time, n? the magnificence that I found myself in front of, once I passed what once would have been the drawbridge! Yes ? an incredible sight opened before me.

During the visit you will be able to see and touch the remains of all these buildings: the drawbridge, the entrance fortress (gatehouse), the North courtyard, the Chapel, the inner courtyard, the Grant Tower, the Great Hall, the large kitchen, the gate to the sea, the southern courtyard, the mound that forms the site of the castle (motte or shell keep), the dovecote, the Forge and of course the wonderful Loch Ness surrounding it. Plus the remains of the stables, the prison, the guardroom, the citadel and much more.

Leaving the visitor center, and before entering the castle site, we found ourselves in a huge meadow. We have cos? had a first view of the fortress as a whole and of the whole panorama that surrounds it. Before crossing the drawbridge, we stopped to observe the wooden trebuchet, which? a reconstruction of 1998, of a truly formidable siege weapon and dating back to the days before the arrival of the guns.
Everything but the arm was made of oak, made from a Douglas log, the 26 foot arm has an 8 ton lead counterweight; this was what allowed him to throw the very heavy stones you see in the photo, weighing 250 pounds. He threw away up to 200 yards. For the reconstruction, which involved dozens of members of the Timber Framers Guild,? The design was adopted from a th century manuscript: a copy of the "Cantigas de Santa Maria", which contains an illustration of the Muslim siege of Constantinople. This was a hybrid counterweight trebuchet, which used both gravity and gravity. of a weight than that of a shooter. The final result of the modifications made was a fixed counterweight trebuchet, which was activated exclusively with the force of gravity? by the rotating mass, falling on one end.
The 30-inch wheels were decorated with Celtic carvings and were added after that? It was discovered that the wheels, on a trabucco with a fixed counterweight, served to keep it stable and extended the launch trajectory.

The castle buildings are arranged around courtyards. The northern courtyard, "Nether Bailey" (or lower Bailey), includes most of the larger structures. intact; the remains of the Guardroom and the 5-story Grant Tower, located at the end? north of the castle. The south courtyard or "Upper Bailey", located on a lot more land. high, includes the few remains of the previous buildings, which survived the bombings and explosions such as the dovecote. It was once thought that there were a considerable number of rooms in the "citadel" on the inner side to house service buildings. like gardens and orchards. And you can still see a beautiful water gate, from which the castle could be refueled in case it was under siege. Even if today only the ruins of this fortress are explored, right? not at all difficult to imagine the magnificence of the past and its enormity. Indeed Uruquhart at the level of magnitude? was one of the most? of Scotland.

There? that remains of the Gatehouse (Fortress of entry), is located within the Nether Bailey. Above the entrance there are a series of rooms that could once have served as accommodation for the castle keeper. Remains of masonry surround it.
Visitors passed through here, like us, who were carefully checked by the caretaker. It was the main defense point, whose entrance was blocked and impregnable. Holes in the structure allowed rocks and objects to be thrown at unexpected visitors. The road was also blocked by iron gates.

Near the Gatehouse, there were once also the stables, where the horses of the visitors and the knights of the castle rested.

Crossing the walkway, we arrived at the Gatehouse of which some parts that survived the bombings remain. When we got to the gate, on our left we found a dungeon which? been used to hold prisoners; it is also said to have hosted the legendary Gaelic poet Domhnall Donn. The story goes that when he was locked up here, by Lord Grant to punish him for falling in love with his daughter, he wrote many songs.
Looking left again and turning south, you will notice a furnace, which is located a few meters from the main ruin. Here the grain was dried for the inhabitants of the castle!

The center of activity? in the castle was anchored to the end? north from the Grant Tower (main tower or keep). Originally of 5 floors, with walls 3 meters thick, remains the most? high of the castle. We entered, crossing another drawbridge, which served as a defense and still offers incredible views of the entire ruin and Loch Ness. This 40-foot-tall stone keep is named after John Grant and was built in 1509 when James IV of Scotland granted Grant a lifetime lease on the property in exchange for its repair and maintenance. It was also supposed to protect themselves from attacks by the Lords of the islands, the Mac Donalds, but John, the son of the Grants, died, followed? a period of chaos, in which the castle fell into the hands of the Lords for 3 years.

South of the Grant Tower are a series of buildings built against the thick th-century city wall. The great hall occupied the central part of this chain, with the lord's private apartments to the north and the kitchens to the south. The foundations of a rectangular building stand on a nearby rocky mound, identified as the remains of a chapel.

Grant Tower was the lord's private residence in the castle. Access to this area of ​​the castle was once very limited. There was a deep stone-lined moat along the two sides facing the interior closure, to increase its capacity. defensive.

Despite the collapse of much of the south wall during a "windstorm" of 1715, the building retains much of the noble residence it once was.
The internal entrance door leads to the second floor. This was the largest room. intimate and the dining room, as well as the Great hall located in the lower courtyard. It was lit by two good-sized windows and heated by a large fireplace in the south wall. A narrow spiral staircase leads to a dimly lit stone-vaulted basement and a well-defended back door. The second spiral staircase leads to the upper floors.
The third floor was probably the gentleman's private room, which served as both a room and a bedroom. Also in this case the space? well lit, although the fireplace, probably still in the south wall,? now gone. The fourth floor room contained two small built-in wardrobes in addition to the main room. All three rooms served as bedrooms. The fireplace in the larger room large was in the north wall. The window beside it has a th century javelin under it.
The plan pi? at the top it has an attic in the main tower and pretty sloping turrets at the corners. Each turret contains a small room, with a fireplace and a window with a cannon underneath. They could be used during the siege to help defend the tower and, in peacetime, to provide a sheltered space from which to enjoy the beautiful landscape. And where everyone stopped to look in admiration, which the visitors of the castle still do today.
We were guided in our exploration of different signs, such as the ones I inserted in the gallery, which always informed us about where we were, what we were looking at and what those rooms were once used for.

The Great Hall in the courtyard was undoubtedly one of the largest rooms. important of the tower. Simao climbed to the top and admire it from above. Staying still for a moment to imagine the wonder of the banquets served in this place. Next to it the large kitchen, also in the courtyard, was the hub of castle life, the wonderful banquets served in the Great Hall were carefully prepared within these walls. It is still possible to imagine it with the cooks in action and the scents of spices, the smell of haggis and steaming stills in the air.

The Grant Tower? the best preserved part of the castle and we were able to explore it entirely, through a very narrow spiral staircase, which gave us views to the south of the castle and to the east and north over Loch Ness. Mi? very much enjoyed wandering among the ruins of this place, where you can still feel its immensity today? of a time. I walked and imagined stories, deceptions, loves and intrigues. Take a few hours to visit it, there will? time to taste it and savor it in all its majesty.

The Upper Bailey instead focuses on the rock mound at the castle's southwest corner. The pi? high of the promontory and site of the first defenses of Urquhart. Much of this part? in ruins.

Adjacent buildings may have housed stables. To the south, the dovecote (dovecote or doocote). All of this? what remains of the structure today? a stone circle, its base and four of its stone nests, no more? busy. An effigy on the dovecote bears these words: "This beehive-shaped house for pigeons was built in the 1500s to provide fresh meat and eggs during the harsh winter months. Four of its stone nests survive."
John Grant was forced to build a "grove of doves" under the terms of Urquhart's concession in 1509. It was well located in what was at the time a quiet and little used part of the castle. Next to the dovecote, the meager remains of the th century buildings, probably once another large hall, but later reused as a forge. You can see the remains from this photo, near the dovecote.

However, as attractive as the ruins of this magical place can be,? impossible to overlook and not be captivated by the magnificent views of Loch Ness, which from the tower are breathtaking.
The blue waters of this lake attract tourists from all over not only for the view, but also for the possibility? to spot the legendary Loch Ness monster, Nessie. The shores of Loch Ness have also been a popular location for the creature's "skeletal discoveries", all the jokes of local youth.

Here are some curiosities? and legends we discovered about Loch Ness Castle:
- After the castle fell into disrepair in the late th century, the locals used the rocks to build and repair their homes.
- At the beginning of the th century, a strong storm blew? on the southwest side of the Tower House, destroying much of it
-? one of the areas around which many Nessie sightings have occurred. The first took place in the th century, when the Pictish legend describes a man killed by a sea monster and Saint Columba is said to have saved a second man from a similar fate. If you want to know more? on Loch Ness, Nessie and all that you can? to do in the surroundings, I refer you to my previous article by clicking here.
-Now ? a picturesque ruin, rising from the lake onto a rocky promontory. The Highlanders call these gray ruins "Strone Castle" and believe that two mysterious and cursed cells are carved into the rock below. One would contain an immense treasure of gold; but in the other a terrible pestilence would be silenced which, if released, would have depopulated the earth with irresistible force. First he would kill the hand of whoever had unfortunately opened the prison door and then all the others. The fear of releasing such a scourge? terrible has curbed greed? and the desire for gold and, the treasury still remains untouched today.
The same story? told in the 1893 book "Urquhart and Glenmoriston; olden times in a Highland parish" written by William Mackay. That there is a real treasure of gold, silver and precious stones under Urquhart Castle, to anyone? given to know; however since the castle? been looted, looted and blown up, there seems to be little room for a secret room that hides a treasure.

-Another legend of a treasure would have to do with Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite gold. It is said that Spain had financed the Jacobite army with the sum of 400.000 tons of gold per month. Seven boxes of these coins arrived after the defeat of Culloden in 1745, and were presumably hidden in the forests near Loch Arkaig, thirty miles from Urquhart Castle. Could someone have found them on the way to Loch Ness?
- There is also talk of a Templar treasure. His treasure? allegedly, brought to Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, but there was also a Templar house near Urquhart Castle (now only remembered at the Temple Pier location)
-The treasure of King Baudouin II (died 1131) In difficult times men of wealth are driven to carefully hide their earthly possessions. The cursed part of the story can? have been a deterrent to treasure hunters, but? possible that some owner of the castle was forced to leave it quickly without his treasure what? remained hidden and his secret died with him somewhere far away?
The level of Loch Ness? increased by six feet with the construction of the Caledonian Canal in the early th century. Perhaps fabulous treasure lies beneath its waters? Or maybe there? a long sealed stone door that lies unnoticed, now overrun by bushes and trees?

The site ? run by HS, so if you get the pass, you can visit it for free. Otherwise the cost of the adult ticket? of 9 ?.
I would say that if you are over there a visit to the castle on Loch Ness? unmissable and unforgettable!

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