- Visit Urquhart Castle for a great family day out exploring the history of this great Scottish site, learning about its tumultuous past through immersive tours, exhibitions and more.
- Enjoy the beautiful views over Loch Ness, and take in the unique historic environment Scotland is renowned for.
- Discover the ruins of one of Scotland's most famous castles, which even survived the Jacobite Risings in the 18th century.
- Don't miss out on the the visitor centre at Urquhart, where you can explore the fantastic exhibition, scale model of the original castle and videos and films, before visiting the café with exceptional views.
Discover over 1,000 years of riotous history, right next to the legendary Loch Ness and Great Glen at Urquhart Castle. The magnificently located Urquhart Castle, right beside the mystic Loch Ness, has been home to some of the most fascinating epochs in Scottish history, with many a story to tell and secrets to uncover. The castle, originally built in the 12th century, has a distinctly Highland heritage and just waiting to be explored. The little ones and big ones will love the panoramic view that stretches gently across the Urquhart ruins, and set against the backdrop of the much fabled Loch Ness, as well as the Great Glen.
The name Urquhart is an unusual one, and while it is now a Scottish surname, the word is thought to be made from Celtic Brythonic roots, meaning 'on the thicket' or 'by the thicket'. Perhaps this name is a nod to the iconic Loch on which Urquhart castle resides, or a reference to the surrounding Scottish highlands. Urquhart Castle is said to be the place where St Columba supposedly performed miracles 1,500 years ago, serving as inspiration during the Wars of Independence because of the acts of chivalry and defiance. Urquhart was once one of the biggest and most formidable fortresses in Scotland, and has seen and experienced a lot during its tumultuous history. The castle has had an interesting past, and the English and Scottish both fought for control of the castle for hundreds of years.
After nearly 500 years of war and turmoil, you can still visit the impressive, atmospheric ruin that exists today, history is nestled between the nooks and crannies of this major site. Castle Urquhart was also the site of much fighting between the English and Scottish armies during the Wars of Independence, in which Scotland fought to keep hold of its status as an independent country. The MacDonalds, or Lords of the Isles, attacked Glen Urquhart often during the 16th century, with the scars of such attacks still remaining on the ruins we see today. These power struggles remained a feature of the castle, as the Lords of the Isles often raided both the glen and the Urquhart Castle until the 1500s. The castle ruins have even survived the Jacobite Risings, despite some of the iconic castle being destroyed upon leaving by the troops stationed there.
The Castle is actually owned by the Scotland National Trust, but the visitor access is via the visitor centre that's run by the Historic Environment Scotland, and here you'll find exciting films showcasing the castle and its tumultuous history, along with exhibitions, a shop and restaurant. Urquhart Castle history and stories are told through an impressive collection of fascinating artefacts that have been left by its residents, along with interesting historic replicas, like a a still functional trebuchet siege engine, and the short film which is entertaining for the little ones!
For some fun Loch Ness things to do here, get active and climb the Grant Tower so your little ones can really immerse themselves in the Urquhart history. From this iconic tower you can see over the whole loch. This activity is especially popular with kids who will love clambering up and down everywhere. Sometimes, there are even re-enactment events on if you're lucky and for extra atmosphere, the ruins are floodlit at night. They can peer into a miserable, gloomy prison cells, where according to legend, Domhnall Donn, a Gaelic bard who was accused of stealing, was held, and then eventually put to death at the turn of the 17th century. You can imagine the magnificent banquets that were staged in the great hall, for decadent meals and experiences, particularly after the siege for power was completed.
Within the castle, you and your family can now visit all the remains of the castle, plus guide books are available to buy. These include restoration sketches of what living in the castle was like, how it may have felt and from here, too, it is easy to wander through the ruins and see what you can find. Then, via the water gate you can even head straight down to the sea! Don't miss out on the summer events, where several take place enacting the castle’s dramatic past.
Take the route that leads to the tall tower with another ditch and drawbridge, knowing it was well defended is exciting, letting your imagination run wild with all the possible scenarios of this ruin. You should take the steps down here and see what the store rooms might have been. Take the spiral staircase as you go and stand at the top of this five-storey tower, looking over the glorious historic Scotland sights. It's very likely the Lord had private chamber and a meeting place here in this building.
From the top of the tower, you can get a clear look and be able to see the architecture of the ruins. You can see, on your left, closest to the loch, what once was the great hall, the chambers and the kitchen. A very apparent rectangular ruin on the field is to the right-this was presumably the former church.
Admire the setting of the castle, sitting gracefully on rocky hills, overlooking the Loch Ness. Soak up the atmosphere of one of Scotland’s most famous lochs here and imagine the old stories told over the years. Check out Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition for a scientific insight into the research that is done in regards to the magnificent body of water that is the Loch, with films exhibitions and more regarding what lurks beneath the water. See the Urquhart Ewer and other medieval artefacts and objects that have been left by castle residents and tell fantastic stories about this place by themselves.
Why not visit other great attractions in the area? Many are reached by good transport links or foot, so get active and see what Drumnadrochit has to offer. After, you can then catch a bus to Urquhart Castle, from whatever direction you are coming from, whether it is Inverness or Fort William/Fort Augustus, there's a route you can take. Be sure to walk the 2 miles north to Drumnadrochit, which is downhill, too, so it's quite a pleasant stroll. As so many people walk along this stretch, the road is mostly paved, too, making it easier.
For more historical days out, check out Fort George, a huge 18th-century fortress that is located near Ardersier, to the north-east of Inverness, known as the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain.
What to know before you go
- Urquhart Castle opening times are from 9.30am–5pm.
- When you're feeling peckish, there is food onsite, plus you're more than welcome to bring a picnic with you to take on your journey to the Loch Ness possibly.
- There are toilets, accessible toilets and no baby changing facilities on site.
- The site is wheelchair and pushchair accessible, although as this is an old castle, there are some harder to navigate areas.
- Kidadl Top Tip: get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds as the Castle gets busy.
- Urquhart Castle is located at Urquhart Castle, Drumnadrochit, Inverness, Scotland.
- If travelling by public transport to Urquhart Castle, there are bus routes going to Urquhart Castle. Get to Farraline Park bus station and take the Intercity bus 919 to Fort William to the Car Park stop and then from there it is a short walk to Urquhart Castle.
- If travelling by car from Inverness to Urquhart Castle, take the B861 and B861 till A82 and follow A82.
- There is free parking at Urquhart Castle.