Catching a Glimpse of Nessie from Urquhart Castle

There is no better place to wait in hope of catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, than the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Built on an uneven rocky promontory on the edge of Loch Ness, the castle stood just two miles outside Drumnadrochit in the north of Scotland. Its strategic location guarded the major route to the Highlands.

The picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle are all that are left today after the castle was destroyed in 1692 in order to stop it from being overrun by the Jacobites. In order to reach them you have to walk across a gangway of wood that bridges the defensive ditch instead of the original drawbridge. Near the main gatehouse is a small prison cell guarded by the gatekeeper. In contrast, the south lodge of the gatehouse holds an old kiln that was used to dry grain.

Another ditch and drawbridge defend the five-storey tower that can still be climbed via a spiral staircase. The view from here of the loch on three sides is spectacular and provides a perfect location for Nessie spotting. One also gets a bird’s eye view of the ruins. The remains of the great hall, chambers and kitchen lie to the left, nearest the loch. The chapel was probably to the right and at the far end the dovecote and smithy. The castle was at different levels and oddly shaped because of the irregularities of the rocky surface. A water-gate opposite the gate-house leads you to the shore, the main way of accessing the castle in the past.

Built in 1230 by Alexander II, Urquhart castle passed between the Scots and English several times during the turbulent past. For 150 years from the 1390s it was crucial in the defense of the Scottish Crown against the Macdonalds, the Lords of the Isles. Later, in the mid-sixteenth century it was attacked by the western clans. After it was blown up in 1692, the locals continued to vandalize it as a quarry.

The ruins of Urquhart Castle were purchased in the 1930s by a Mr. Chewett and gifted in 2003 to The National Trust for Scotland by his widow.

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