One of the things that we will be doing on this trip is acting as a tour guide for the rest of the class at a castle or cathedral. Dr. Lindgren gave us a list of places we will be seeing, and told us where each of them was. Once I heard that Urquhart is in Scotland, I knew which one I wanted. I’ve always had an interest in Scotland, and that interest has increased in the last few years thanks to some books I’ve read. I’m super excited to get to go there, and to share it with you. Now, on to a mini tour of Urquhart.
As stated above, Urquhart is in Scotland. Located 13 miles south west of Inverness, right on the edge of Loch Ness. It actually sits on a rocky projection into the Loch, known as Strone Point. Urquhart used to be known as one of Scotland’s biggest castles, now however, it lies in ruins.
What caused it to decay into its current state is a long episode of history. Urquhart was founded in the 13th century. It was built on the same spot as a previous fortification, which was common to do when building castles. After all, why waste a good site? It became a royal palace, prior to the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. It played a few roles in the Wars, from a home base to being raided, an action that became a common theme for Urquhart. In the 15th century, the castle was held by Clan Grant. However, Scotland was an unstable place at the time, especially for clans. The castle was raided multiple times.
In 1509, Urquhart Castle, along with the estates of Glen Urquhart, was granted to John Grant by King James IV. The property came with a condition of ownership- that the he repair and rebuild the castle. By the close of the 16th century, Urquhart had been rebuilt by the Grant family, who were now a powerful force in the highlands. Repairs and remodeling continued as late as 1623, even though the castle had fallen out of use as a favored residence. In 1692, it was partially destroyed to prevent its use by the Jacobite army. The gate house was blown up, and the rest of the castle was impacted as well, leaving it in a ruined state. Not to leave anything to waste, locals came to the castles remains and plundered stonework and other materials to reuse. In 1715 a storm would hit that would bring down Grant Tower.
Despite its ruins status, you can still see quite a bit and tell quite a bit about the castle. An outer wall gives the castle a figure eight shape. This divides it into two areas known as baileys. The northern bailey is called the Nether bailey. It is the location of the former qate house, which would have had a portcullis and drawbridge. The Grant tower was also located here. The southern bailey is called the upper, as it is on slightly higher ground. It is the location of the earlier fortification, the remains of which are still being found. A Watergate that leads to the Loch is found in the upper bailey.
Urquhart is a location rich in history, surrounded by the natural beauty of Loch Ness, a location that has many stories of its own to tell, that I unfortunately don’t have time to do here. (I’ve been told that no, I am not allowed to bring home a baby loch ness monster if I find one.)