This was the second time we've driven down the A82 down by Loch Ness and this time we took a small detour to see Urquhart Castle. As you'll see in the pictures, we had incredible weather and the Loch was so, so blue. Sadly, no signs of Nessie, but there are plenty of stuffed Nessies in nearby gift shops, if those are what you fancy.
If we had to choose our favourite castle, it would probably be a toss-up between Urquhart and Stirling Castle. Both have such incredible views, and while Urquhart is ruined, the ruins made it almost more picturesque. Also, I was rather impressed with the presentation that we watched before we walked down to the castle that explained some of the history. Overall, it's beautifully situated and really fun to explore.
Urquhart is one of the largest castles in Scotland, just in area. The castle was originally built between the 13th and 16th century, mostly destroyed in 1692 and never used again as a fortress before eventually it was opened to the public again in the 20th century. Records indicate though that there was a medieval fortress in this location from at least the 12th century.
Due to it's rather important location right on Loch Ness, the castle changed hands multiple times and was vital in the Wars of Scottish Independence. It was frequently raided by the MacDonald Clan, who oversaw the Great Raid in 1545 and successfully stole over 2,000 cattle and completely stripped the castle of anything of value. After the raid, the castle fell into semi-use, but was ignored by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, who instead built forts at either end of the Loch. By the late 1700s, the castle was missing a roof and was viewed as a picturesque, romantic locale. It was eventually owned by Caroline, widow to the 7th Earl of Seafield who gifted the castle to state care upon her death in 1913 and eventually Historic Scotland took over the upkeep and repairs necessary to ensure visitors' safety.
The sheer size of the castle is almost overwhelming, but the views are spectacular, especially on a clear day. It is relatively easy to lose someone if you're not paying attention (or if they start chatting with a tour guide and disappear) and the ground is rather steep in places so that's something to keep in mind when visiting.
Overall, this is a definite must visit castle in Scotland. There is so much to see and explore and you could even have tea out on the veranda overlooking the castle ruins if that's suitable. Because, it doesn't get anymore Scottish than visiting castle ruins on the famous Loch Ness, does it? :)