Today being our last day in Inverness, Cassia, Julia, and I decided to visit the famous Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. Yesterday we explored a bit of the town and visited Inverness Castle, so we were excited to cross another castle off of our bucket list.
I chose to do the self-guided tour because it looked like it would rain at any moment, and I did not want to wait under a possibly heavy downpour. Upon leaving the tour building, I was greeted with quite a steep slope – easy enough to slowly walk down, I suppose, but walking back up would be a problem. There were informative plaques stationed at each point of the walk (and inside the castle), which allowed me to understand exactly what was being shown. Because sometimes you really don’t want to try and figure out what a certain rock wall is supposed to represent.
The castle was actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still pretty impressive. The walk to the actual castle formation took around 10 minutes, mainly because I was stopping every once in a while to take photos. I really enjoyed seeing a trebuchet up close, since the one stationed by the Tower of London was quite far from all the crowds. The view from the entrance of the castle was particularly inspiring – a hint of the fabled Loch Ness could be seen.
One of my favorite parts was the Doocot, a beehive-shaped home for pigeons built in the 1500s to provide fresh meat and eggs during the harsh winter months: only 4 of the stone nesting boxes survived. Turning around to face the castle gave me a wonderful view of Urquhart, with the Loch Ness acting as a foggy backdrop. Unfortunately it was at this point in time when the rain really started to pour, so I had to quickly take photos and leave instead of enjoying my time with a piece of ancient history.
The rest of the castle tour was spent inside Grant Tower, a tower built after King James IV gave the castle to John Grant of Freuchie in 1509. The tower was a reward for supporting the monarch in his struggle against the MacDonald Lords of the Isles. The way up the tower was quite tricky, because as everyone knows, rain and winding staircases are not necessarily the best combination. Nevertheless, I persevered and luckily made it back to ground zero with nary a scratch on me.
The rain slowly came to a stop by the end of my tour, and I was greeted with the sight of a rainbow upon exiting the tour building. If only the sun shone a bit earlier…
So what do I think about the overall experience?
- There are guided and self-guided tour options, for people who want a guide and for those who want to venture out on their own.
- Combined with the mini-movie, visitors really get a sense of history and understand the importance of the castle in Scottish history.
- The castle is open all year: at 9:30am until 6:00pm from April-September, 9:30am until 5:00pm in October, and at 9:30am until 4:30pm from November-March.
- The ticket prices are a bit much, in my opinion (£7.90 for adults, £6.40 for reduced prices, £4.80 for children age 5-15, free for member/explorer)
- The weather can change immediately, so be prepared and bring a rain coat/umbrella – and try to rainproof your camera!
- I wasn’t able to find the Loch Ness monster 😦