28 September 2009
Urquhart Castle sits beside Loch Ness in Scotland along the A82 road, between Fort William and Inverness. It is close to the village of Drumnadrochit. Though extensively ruined, it was in its day one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland, and remains an impressive structure, splendidly situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness. It is also near the castle where the majority of Nessie (Loch Ness Monster) sightings occur. The walled portion of the Castle is shaped roughly like a figure-8 aligned northeast-southwest along the bank of Loch Ness. The main gate is on the inland side near the middle, narrow portion, of the walls. A much smaller gate on the Loch side is located roughly across from the main gate. The castle is quite close to water level and offers little in the way of physical boundaries, but a dry moat was excavated on the inland side with a drawbridge leading to the main gate. There is considerable room for muster on the inland side, and further inland a hill rises quite close to the castle. Most of the remaining built up area of the inner courtyard is on the northeast portion, which is quite close to water level. It is anchored at its northern tip by the main tower house of five stories and an upper castellated wall. The tower's south-west side blew down in a storm in the early 18th century, but the remaining sections can be accessed via the circular staircase built into one corner of the tower. Although no upper floors remain, the cuts for support beams are visible in the stone walls and illustrate construction methods of the era. Below the tower are the Great Hall, kitchen, various trades and the chapel, mostly in ruins. The castle formerly had another built-up area at its southern end, located on a small hill of about 5 meters rise. Opposite this, on the Loch side, was a more recently built smithy and a dovecot. This entire area is now in ruins, and the uppermost portions of the tower house remain the tallest portion of the castle still standing.