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When our bus from Inverness to Drumnadrochit flew right past our stop and started making its way out of town, we knew we had made a BIG mistake. How in the world were we going to get to our hotel to check in? Would we have to walk? It was starting to look like it. But then again, maybe, just maybe, things would turn out okay. And they did!
As it turned out, the bus that we were on went right past Urquhart Castle – the top sight on our list for our short time in Drumnadrochit. This time, the bus stopped. We figured that we might as well get off before we made it any further away from our destination. And, since we were staying just one night and we were only carrying small backpacks, we simply walked on in and bought our tickets.
Exploring Urquhart Castle
After we bought our tickets, we walked through the small gift shop and emerged on the other side to an amazing view of the castle and Loch Ness behind it. Although we were excited to get to exploring, we took a good fifteen minutes to make it down the hill and into the castle. I just couldn’t help but stop every couple of feet to take another photo, and of course we had to check out the giant trebuchet!
After stopping for photos of the trebuchet, we finally made it to the entrance way of the castle. Once again, I made Daniel stop so I could take some pictures.
We snuck a peak into the guard tower, and then it was on and up to the meeting point for the free walking tour!
We were one of the first to reach the top of the castle and meet with our guide Andy. Once it looked like everyone who wanted to take the free tour had made it, Andy started off. He began with an overview of the history of the castle. He would often point to nearby sketches of what the castle probably looked like through the years. I thought these extra visual representations were really helpful, since I always have trouble imaging what ruins would have looked like in their heyday. We heard about the different owners of the castle, what it was used for, and a whole lot more history. Plus, this was all while enjoying some pretty fantastic views over the loch.
It was starting to look like rain though, so Andy decided that it was time to get going. He led us down through the rest of the castle, stopping at various different places to tell us about them.
Finally, we ended up at the Grant Tower – the most intact part of the castle that is left. Our tour finished up outside of the tower, but Andy made sure to give us plenty of tips for when we went into explore for ourselves. He was even around to answer questions if we happened to bump in to him! We ran into him in the basement and he pointed out how much more jagged the rocks in that part of the tower were than those at the top. This was because they built the basement first, and the technology wasn’t as good.
All in all, Andy’s tour was very informative. We were very happy that we managed to arrive on time to catch it. We definitely learned so much more than we would have just reading the signs scattered throughout the castle. Easily the best part of it all though was just how stunning the location of Urquhart Castle was. Overlooking Loch Ness, I don’t think they could have found a better place.
If You Go
From Inverness, the number 19, 917, and 919 buses all take you straight to the Urquhart Castle Car Park after about a half hour ride. These busses also pass through the popular Loch Ness tourist village of Drumnadrochit if you’re staying there. Check the Stagecoach Bus website for bus times.
Urquhart Castle is open from 9:30am every day except for the 25th and 26th of December. Closing times range from 4:30pm to 6:00pm depending on the season. Tickets are £8.50 for adults and £5.50 for children aged 5-15 (children under 5 get in free). If you’re a member of Historic Scotland, tickets are free.
If guided tours are your thing, Historic Scotland offers free half-hour tours throughout the day, which I highly recommend.