Urquhart Castle is one of the largest castles and strongholds of Medieval Scotland, and it has a long (and bloody) history.
As with so many Scottish castles, Urquhart has a magnificent setting and is strategically placed in terms of defense.
It sits perched on a rocky peninsula, high above, and on the very edge of, Loch Ness (home of the fabled 'Nessie' or Loch Ness Monster).
Excavations have provided evidence of settlements in this area going back to as early as 2000BC, and it seems that during the 6th or 7th century, a simple fort may have existed at the location of the present castle.
However, the first records of the stone castle indicate it existed in the early 13th century, probably built by the Durward family.
It gained the title of a 'Royal Castle', and was used by Kings of both Scotland and England - King Edward I of England occupied it in 1296, King David II of Scotland stayed there in 1342.
As with so many Scotland castles, Urquhart was at the center of a tug-of-war between the English and Scottish, in this instance lasting from the 14th to the 17th century.
This castle has a very active military history, and was also fought over by the Crown, the Clan MacDonald and the Grant family.
After several turbulent centuries, the castle was abandoned in the early 1600's, and was nothing more than ruins by the end of that century.
Now, there are ruins and there are 'ruins' - and Urquhart Castle falls into the second category. If you can call ruins 'spectacular', that's what these are.... and the backdrop of the mystical and enigmatic Loch Ness doesn't hurt either!
The unique setting of this castle and the meticulous maintenance make it easy to get an idea of how impressive it would have been in its' prime.
From the remains of the kitchen, to Grant Towers' narrow, spiral staircase and incredible views, this is one of the Scottish Highlands 'Must See' castles.
A personal recommendation here would be to take one of the boat trips that you can find offered at the nearby village of Drumnadrochit.
To feel the movement of cold waters of Loch Ness under you as you see the formidable ruins of Urquhart Castle rising from the rocky shoreline is an incredible experience.
It gives you a feeling that I can't explain - but one that I can highly recommend!
Interesting facts about this castle.....
The castle is open daily to visitors from March through October. And don't miss the boat trips and Loch Ness Visitor Center in nearby Drumnadrochit.