The Scottish Highlands are a wild and wonderful land, with their rugged beauty, heather-strewn hillsides, rocky shorelines, and a rich and colorful history that spans for centuries. From ancient stone rings to medieval castles to stories of long-thought extinct creatures rising for the depths of lochs, the Scottish Highlands are a destination worthy of every traveler’s bucket list. And it’s where we are off to today.
Come along with us to one of the most photogenic destinations in Scotland. Follow our trail in search of ancient castles and prehistoric creatures as we explore the medieval ruins of Urquhart Castle, along the shores of Loch Ness, in the Scottish Highlands.
⇒ Calling all Outlander Fans! This is Jaime and Claire Fraser land! One can almost imagine kilted Scottish clansmen like Jaime passing through on his way to Inverness.
Urquhart Castle- Scottish Castle Ruins Found
Perched high upon the banks of Loch Ness, this once mighty Highlander stronghold now sits in ruins. But oh, what ruins they are! So amazing that Urquhart Castle has become one of the most visited castles in all of Scotland. To spend a day exploring these nearly 800 year old ruins is like spending a day in medieval Scotland. Whether you are 5, or 85, a day at Urquhart Castle is day that will be thoroughly enjoyed.
Some say that humans lived and explored these very lands as far back as 4000 BC, though today’s ruins date to the 13th century. Some even say that back in the 12th century, William the Lion had a royal castle here at Urquhart. Though that piece of history may be disputed, there’s no disputing that one’s imagination will surely run wild about which famous historical figures across the centuries might have once stepped on these lands.
Explore the very grounds where medieval Scottish highlanders once roamed, where generations of kilted clansmen fought for control over the surrounding glen. With such an extensive history, one thing’s for sure. These grounds have witnessed centuries of humans who have lived, worked, and fought along these paths. At least until the 17th century, when the castle lands were abandoned, left to become the ruins they are today.
Exploring The Ruins of A Scottish Medieval Castle
With it’s commanding hilltop views across Loch Ness and Great Glen, the ruins of Urquhart Castle’s Grant Tower are still an imposing structure. Traverse the tower’s ancient staircase as high as it goes. Look out across Loch Ness, much like the castle’s medieval inhabitants once did, as they kept an eagle eye out for possible invaders. Who knows? Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of Nessie, the infamous Loch Ness Monster!
Imagine yourself a member of Clan Grant, for whom the tower is named, purveying all that the clan claimed as theirs. Gaze across the Glen. It’s not hard to envision these hills as they existed nearly 500 to 600 years ago. Though time has marched forward, it’s as if time has stood still on the grounds of Urquhart Castle.
Stand next to ancient stone walls. One can almost see members of Clan McDonald standing proud, standing strong, as they protected and controlled these lands during their tenure as lords of Urquhart Castle. Due to it’s strategic location, the castle changed hands multiple times over the centuries. Like the McDonald Clan, who besieged the castle multiple times in the never-ending control for Urquhart Castle.
Continue exploring the castle grounds. Walk next to the remains of an ancient drawbridge, through ruinous buildings, past crumbling entryways. Stand beneath the arched walls of an ancient guardhouse, wondering just how tall – or short – these medieval guards were!
Check out the replica of an ancient siege weapon, the trebuchet. Imagine yourself a medieval warrior, preparing the trebuchet for the next siege to set upon your lands, preparing to defend your castle! With it’s spectacular views and highly strategic position on Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle certainly saw it’s share of bloody battles and raiding reivers over the centuries.
And don’t miss the garderobe, especially if you are traveling with kids! What’s a garderobe you ask? Why, it’s a medieval toilet, often found tucked into a corner of a castle. Hey, no matter the century, every one’s got to go! A glimpse upon this medieval toilet is sure to have you appreciate your modern plumbing. And sure to make your kids laugh!
After an epic battle for control in 1692, much of the castle and it’s out-buildings were decimated, and left for ruins. The castle fortress was abandoned altogether, a product of the ravages of one too many battle. Nobody returned to reinstate this once medieval stronghold to it’s former glory. Until recent time, that is, when it was reborn as one of Scotland’s most famous castles!
In Search of Loch Ness Monsters
Oh the tales the infamous Loch Ness has spun over the years! Is there really a Loch Ness Monster lurking beneath these waters? Could it be that an ancient creature somehow managed to escape extinction as was it’s brethren’s fate, and still lives on today?
Urquhart Castle is the ideal location to begin a search for Nessie, the Loch Ness monster. Gaze out upon the waters from the hilltop fortress. Hike along the nearby rocky shore, ever scanning the horizon. Board a cruise in search of this elusive, shy creature. Visit the Loch Ness Exhibit in the nearby village of Drumnodrochit to learn about how the Loch Ness Monster became the story it is today.
Search high and low though we did, sadly no Loch Ness Monster made his murky appearance for us on this day. Though we did see images of Nessie at the Loch Ness Exhibition! Well worth the stop, and perhaps a souvenir or two.
Have You Explored Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle?
Though we set out in search of the mysteries and myths of the Loch Ness Monster, we found instead a land rich in centuries of Scottish history. What we found transported us back in time, let our imaginations soar, and helped us better understand life in these rugged lands so many years ago. And it was just plain fun!
Have you gone in search of the Loch Ness Monster? What did you find? Have you explored the ruins of an ancient stronghold? Wandered along the walls of Urquhart Castle? Do share your experiences with us!
Oh look! Is that Nessie I see behind the castle? Hmmmm. Myth? Or not? Your thoughts!
Learn more about Urquhart Castle and how to plan your own visit at Historic Scotland. Learn more about Loch Ness mysteries at the Loch Ness Center & Exhibition.
Read more about our adventures in Scotland:
- Cawdor Castle – A Living Legend in the Scottish Highlands
- Culloden Battlefield – Haunting Reminders on a Scottish Moor
All images by C.Biederman.