The magnificently situated Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, remains an impressive stronghold despite its ruinous state.
Urquhart was once one of Scotland’s largest castles. Its remains include a tower house – the most recent building on the site – that commands splendid views of the famous loch and Great Glen.
Urquhart witnessed considerable conflict throughout its 500 years as a medieval fortress and its history from the 1200s to the 1600s was particularly bloody. Following the invasion of King Edward I of England in 1296, it fell into English hands and was then reclaimed and lost again. In the 1300s it figured prominently in the Scots’ struggle for independence and came under the control of Robert the Bruce after he became King of Scots in 1306.
In the 1400s and 1500s, the castle and Glen were frequently raided from the west by the ambitious MacDonald Lords of the Isles.
The castle’s history is told in the exhibition and audio-visual display in the new visitor centre. The centre features an outstanding array of medieval artifacts found at the castle. It also tells the stories of the noble families who held the castle at different times: the Durwards, MacDonalds, and Grants.
The visitor centre contains a café, a shop, an exhibition and interpretation area, an audio-visual presentation and toilets, all on one level. Its veranda offers stunning views of the loch.
A thousand years of history
Urquhart Castle dominates a rocky promontory jutting into Loch Ness. That promontory has hosted some famous names in its long history.
St. Columba may have visited around AD 580. His intent was peaceful. Not so the English, who seized the castle in 1296. Nor the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles, who stormed through the glen time and again in the later Middle Ages.
In the twilight of its days as a seat of the chief of Clan Grant, Urquhart continued to prove its worth. It was last garrisoned in 1692, and the towering gatehouse was deliberately blown up so that the castle could never again be a military stronghold. Over 1,000 years of stirring history remain to be discovered.
How to Get to Urquhart Castle
From Glasgow (156 miles)
In normal traffic conditions, your car journey from Glasgow to Urquhart Castle should take around 3 hours 35 minutes.
Take the M8 westbound out of Glasgow and follow past Glasgow Airport until Junction 30, where you should leave the M8 and join the M898. This road becomes the A898 and you should follow it across the Erskine Bridge, which is no longer a toll bridge. Follow signs for A82 Crianlarich, and then follow the A82 all the way to Urquhart Castle.
The A82 will take you past Balloch, up the west side of Loch Lomond past Luss, Tarbet, and Ardlui, and up Glen Falloch to Crianlarich. At Crianlarich, you should turn left, still on the A82, following signs for Fort William. The next village you reach will be Tyndrum, where you should follow the road up and round to the right, again following signs for A82 Fort William. You will then pass through Bridge of Orchy and head out onto the spectacular Rannoch Moor, before the road heads down Glen Coe, eventually bringing you out past Glencoe Village. After Ballachulish, take the left at the roundabout which takes you up and across the bridge, which heads over to North Ballachulish – the road can then be followed past Onich and Corran Ferry, all the way to Fort William.
Once in Fort William, follow signs for A82 Inverness. The road will eventually leave Fort William, and take you through Spean Bridge, before taking you past Laggan Locks, Invergarry and Invermoriston. You will eventually come straight to Urquhart Castle, just before the village of Drumnadrochit.
From Edinburgh (174 miles)
Your journey from Edinburgh to Urquhart Castle by car should take around 3 hours 50 minutes in light traffic.
Take the A90 northbound across the Forth Road Bridge, and then follow signs for M90 Perth. Follow the M90 past Perth, and then following signs for A9 Inverness. The A9 should then be followed past Dunkeld, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore, Carrbridge, and all the way to Inverness.
Once in Inverness, follow signs for A82 Fort William. The A82 should then be followed southbound, and just after the village of Drumnadrochit, the turn off for Urquhart Castle will be on your left.
From Inverness (17 miles)
Your car journey from Inverness to Urquhart Castle should take around 25 minutes in light traffic.
Follow signs for the A82 Fort William, and you then simply follow the A82 southbound, and shortly after the village of Drumnadrochit, you will see the turn-off for Urquhart Castle on your left.
From Fort William (48 miles)
In normal traffic conditions, your car journey from Fort William to Urquhart Castle should take just over 1 hour.
Follow signs for A82 Inverness. You should then follow the A82 northbound, past Spean Bridge, Laggan Locks, Invergarry, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, and you will then see the turn-off for Urquhart Castle on your right shortly before the village of Drumnadrochit.
The closest train station to Urquhart Castle is Inverness. You will have to take onward public transport from Inverness to Urquhart Castle, Scottish Citylink currently operates buses from Inverness to Fort William, which stop at Drumnadrochit, however, they do not always stop at Urquhart Castle and you should check locally before traveling. Trains are operated by ScotRail and run to Inverness from Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Queen Street, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, Kyle of Lochalsh, Wick, Thurso and London Kings Cross.
Scottish Citylink operates coach services between Fort William and Inverness. These coaches are scheduled to stop at the village of Drumnadrochit, a couple of miles from Urquhart Castle, but do not always stop at Urquhart Castle itself – you should check locally before traveling.
Inverness Airport is 27 miles from Urquhart Castle, with primarily UK domestic flights and a small selection of European connections.
Aberdeen Airport is 117 miles from Urquhart Castle, with a growing selection of flights throughout the UK and European destinations.
Dundee Airport is a small airport 152 miles from Urquhart Castle, with a limited selection of domestic UK flights.
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