Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle, Inverness-shire

~ History ~

590's - Saint Columba travels from his home in Celtic Dalriada, in the west of Scotland, to visit Brude, a Pictish king who resides along the banks of the River Ness. During the course of the journey, Columba calls at the home in Glen Urquhart of an elderly noble Pict named Emchath and converts him and his household to Christianity.

1228 - Revolt breaks out in the province of Moray against King Alexander II. Within two years the revolt is crushed and lordship of Urquhart is granted to his trusted son-in-law, Alan Durward, who himself is from a wealthy Anglo-Norman family who has served as the kings usher or door-ward (hence his surname). He is already earl of Atholl and claimant to the earldom of Mar and the holder of extensive estates in Angus and the Mearns. For many years, the real power behind the throne. The first castle was is built during this period.

1275 - Alan Durward dies without a male heir. His estates are granted to another Anglo-Norman, John Comyn.

1296 - King Edward I, 'Hammer of the Scots', crosses the River Tweed and slaughters the townsfolk of the border town of Berwick, Urquhart Castle, along with many others throughout the land falls into English hands.

1297 - Andrew Moray, heir to the large Moray estates and recent escapee from Chester Castle, spearheads a night attack on the castle. Although the attack fails Edward gives orders that the castle should be strengthened.

1303 - Upon Edward's second march into Moray, Urquhart Castle is held by Sir Alexander de Forbes for the Scots. The Scottish garrison surrender after a long hard battle.

1306 - Robert the Bruce is crowned King of the Scots at Scone. By the summer he has retaken Urquhart Castle.

1333 - Following Bruce's death in 1329, Edward III again marches on Scotland and in the battle of Halidon, defeats Bruce's son and heir, David II. Urquhart is one of only five castles to keep alive Bruce's cause thereafter.

1346 - John, 3rd earl of Moray and lord of Urquhart dies, the castle reverts to the crown.

1390's - For the next 80 years Urquhart is continually invaded by the fiercely independent Lord of the Isles, the cruel Macdonalds.

1497 - The glen is reported to be utterly devastated in people, property and live-stock.

1476 - The authority of the Lord of the Isles is dealt a hammer-blow when John Macdonald is forced to resign the earldom and withdraw to the west. The king restores order with his most powerful and influential ally, George Gordon, 2nd earl of Huntly. He in turn leases the lands in Glen Urquhart to Sir Duncan Frant.

1509 - The castle is granted to Duncan's grandson, John Grant, in direct holding to King James IV.

1513 - The King is killed on the battlefield of Flodden. The new Lord of the Isles, Sir Donald Macdonald, once more pours his clansmen into Glen Urquhart, looting and killing the inhabitants and capturing the castle.

1545 - King Henry VIII of England attempts to force the marriage of his son and heir, the future Edward VI, to marry the infant Mary Queen of Scots. This infuriates the Macdonalds who join with their allies the Camerons, to take the castle again, and loot once more the homesteads of the glen.

1600's - The strategic importance of Urquhart and the castle as a noble residence are drawing to a close. The threat from the Lord of the Isles is gone forever and peace under King James I of England provides new stability to the entire country. The Grants of Freuchie carry out major repair work to the medieval castle and build new accommodation.

1640's - Urquhart plays no part in the Civil War and by 1647 is described as 'utterly spoiled and plundered'.

1689 - The Revolution in which the last of the Stewart kings, James II, flees into exile and is replaced with the protestant William and Mary, sees the castle garrisoned for the last time by 200 poorly armed Highlanders for the new king and queen. The 600 strong attacking Jacobite army are beaten off.

1692 - The garrison finally leaves but not until they have blown up parts of the castle to render it untenable.


15 miles from Inverness




IV63 6XJ

Urquhart castle stands on a rugged and irregular sandstone promontory jutting out into the ice-cold waters of Loch Ness.

The landward side, most vulnerable to attack, is defended by a great rock-cut ditch, 100 feet long and 17 feet deep, and this is crossed by a bridge with high walls on either side, broken in the middle by a strong drawbridge. Beyond that the great gatehouse with curtain walls up to 12 feet thick, rising four storeys high.

Today, although ruinous and beautiful in its tranquil yet spectacular location, Urquhart Castle in its day was indeed an important and powerful stronghold.

Access to the castle is very easy with plenty of parking available. Visiting this site you will quickly become aware of how popular and busy it gets with tourists, so worthwhile also getting away from the castle itself to the shoreline of loch ness below the castle where you can get some great photo's and take the time to take in the atmosphere of this great location.