Scotland is a wonderful area to visit. Thus far I’ve only been there once unfortunately, in July 2006. I guess I was lucky with the weather. I started in Edinburgh, with 18C and rain, and ended up with at least 25C in Glasgow. On the way – by bus and train – I visited Dunfermline, Linlithgow, Glamis Castle, Balmoral and Inverness. There were so much more places I wanted to visit, but it turned out from Inverness it was still four hours by train to the coast in the north. Well, maybe I make it one day.
The good weather made it possible for me to really enjoy a few tours by boat around Inverness. I can’t remember I did see much of the city itself. Never go on dolphin cruises, because I never saw one. I however toured Loch Ness by boat. I never saw the monster, Nessie, but it was lovely at the time being on the water. I took a tour to Urquhart Castle near Drumnadrochit.
Although nowadays the castle is an impressive ruin dating from the 13th to the 16th century – built on the site of an earlier fortification from the Middle Ages – along the banks of Loch Ness, Once upon a time it was one of the largest castles in Scotland. Around 1229 King Alexander II granted Urquhart to Thomas de Lundin, and after his death was inherited by his son Alan Durward. In 1275 Urquhart became the possession of John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. In 1296 the castle itself was mentioned for the first time, when the English King Edward I captured it.
The Scots had taken control of the castle again by 1298. Around 1307 Urquhart became a royal castle. However the only Scottish king who ever stayed at the castle seems to have been David II in 13432. In the 14th century the fortification was raided several times by the MacDonald clan (Earls of Ross). Finally John, Earl of Ross, in 1452 managed to seize Urquhart, only to be stripped of his titles by King James III in 1476. The new owner was the Earl of Huntly. The Clan Grant became the owner of the castle in 1509, the conflict with the MacDonalds continued. The last raid took place in 1545 and the castle was badly damaged. The Grants rebuilt the castle, but by 1647 the castle was almost empty and no longer a residence. In 1692 huge parts were destroyed to prevent the Jacobite forces to use it. Grant Tower collapsed after a storm in 1715. By the 19th century it had become a ruin.
Caroline, Dowager Countess of Seafield inherited the castle in 1884. She died in 1911 and in her will she entrusted Urquhart Castle into state care. It was turned into a monument and opened to the public. It is nowadays owned by Historic Environment Scotland. When the weather is nice you have a lovely view from Grant Tower, overlooking Loch Ness. There also is a gate house and a visitor centre. The castle is nowadays one of the most visited sites after the castles Edinburgh and Stirling.
If you come by boat from Inverness you get sufficient time to walk around and have a good look. Of course you can take all the time you want when coming by car, but then you won’t be able to enjoy Loch Ness and try to spot Nessie.