Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
There are quite a few ways you can travel to Skye.
From Inverness by car you have the choice of driving ‘up and over’ via the village of Achnasheen, the location of possibly the remotest roundabout in the country; or down along Loch Ness. It’s a route we know quite well now, having made many a journey to buy shoes for our growing kids. Note to visitors: you can buy tartan wellies and good,solid mountain boots on Skye, but it’s hard to find regular footwear.
Most visitors to Scotland make a bee-line to Loch Ness for one reason. However, after staring at a log floating in the loch for twenty minutes thoughts turn to other pursuits. Even more Nessie-related fun can be had in the village of Drumnadrochit, but for an alternative view of things on the loch we suggest a trip to Urquhart Castle. For the determined, it has the advantage of being one of the best locations for monster-spotting.
And who doesn’t love a visit to a castle? There are so many different kinds to choose from in Scotland. To be fair, some are just a pile of rocks, but others have had starring roles on the big screen. Eilean Donan famously featured in the film ‘Highlander’ and Doune Castle is now the must-see for anyone who has watched ‘Outlander’ (next blockbuster: ‘Islander’? ‘Lowlander’? ‘Moonlander?’)
Urquhart Castle falls into the category of ruins you can go into, which are much more fun than ruins you just walk over. It also has a not-very-secret weapon in the form of a full size, working trebuchet – one of those big wooden catapults that were used to fling rocks at castles in medieval times. It’s a big hit with kids and although it’s not an interactive display (shame!) you get to see it working in a film at the visitor centre. As visitor centres go it’s quite nice; you can’t see it immediately because it’s been nestled into the hillside above the castle. The movie theatre inside gives an informative account of the castle’s chequered history, including the first reported sighting of the famous water beast by St Columba. And for today’s Nessie-hunters, the best place to scan the loch for signs of life is from the castle’s tower. The only problem with this is that you’re always just a bit too far away to get a clear photo of that funny-shaped log.
Urquhart Castle is handily placed on your way to Skye from Inverness along the A82. It’s looked after by Historic Scotland and there is an admission charge (we think it’s worth it).