The HighlandsRegions of Scotland

Urquhart Castle Visitor Guide

Urquhart Castle, nestled on the shores of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, is steeped in history. Its strategic location has made it a vital fortress since the 13th century, and though now in ruins, the castle’s remnants, including its iconic keep, echo tales of medieval battles and clan warfare. It offers panoramic views of the Loch, and if rumours are to be believed, a vantage point to spot the elusive Loch Ness Monster.

urquhart castle
IV63 6XJ
Opening Hours:Apr, May and Sept: Daily, 9.30 am to 6 pm, last entry 5.15 pm
Jun to Aug: Daily, 9.30 am to 8 pm, last entry 7.15 pm
Oct: Daily, 9.30 am to 5 pm, last entry 4.15 pm
Nov to Mar: Daily, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm, last entry 3.45 pm
Admission Price:Adult (16-64yrs): £13.00
Concession (65yrs+ and unemployed): £10.50
Child (5-15yrs): £8.00
Family (1 adult, 2 children): £25.50
Family (2 adults, 2 children): £37.50
Family (2 adults, 3 children): £44.50
Parking:Free on-site car park
Contact:01456 450 551
Facilities:Toilets, disabled access, cafe, shop, bike rack, guided tours, picnic area, drinks machine, water refill
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Urquhart Castle is one of those tourist attractions that seemingly everyone in the world has heard of. The castle is situated on the western shore of Loch Ness and is the perfect location to soak up the atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands.

Although it’s a popular tourist destination today thanks to its beautiful setting, in another life the castle played a pivotal role as a defensive position for both the Scots and the English where bloody battles eventually led to its partial demolition during the Wars of Independence.

In fact, its age is far greater than the current ruins would have you believe and it’s known that a fortification of some sort existed on the site as far back as the 6th century. These days you’re more likely to see busloads of invading tourists than invading armies descending on Urquhart Castle, but it’s well worth visiting, especially if you have an interest in history.

The views across Loch Ness from the castle walls are superb so if you visit this attraction make sure your camera is in hand. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a coffee and cake in the café – they sell seriously good food there and the view of the loch from the terrace is fantastic.

urquhart castle

The Highlights

1: There are gorgeous views looking out from the castle across Loch Ness, but even better is looking back at Urquhart Castle from a boat cruise. Most cruises operate from Fort Augustus.

2: The castle ruins are an interesting place to explore but you’ll only really understand the role Urquhart played in Scotland’s history by taking a guided tour. Ask at the visitor centre for details.

3: The visitor centre is one of the best features of Urquhart Castle as it features an interesting exhibition, a gift shop, and a cafe with terrace seating.

Visiting Tips

1: If you want to sit on the café terrace you’ll have to get there before the crowds start massing at midday. Forget it if you arrive at the weekend in summer.

2: The cheapest way to explore Loch Ness from dry land is to drive or cycle the A82 which follows the loch its entire length on its western side. There are a couple of lay-bys on the A82 where you can get off the road and down to the water’s edge.

3: If you’re on a sightseeing tour, consider joining Historic Environment Scotland as membership allows free entry to hundreds of historic sites across Scotland. Discover more free attractions in the Highlands here.

Loch Ness

Tourist Information

Due to the close proximity of both Inverness and Fort William, Urquhart Castle is easily accessible from either town and provides the perfect stopping-off point for visitors who want to experience Loch Ness in all its glory from both the northern and southern ends.

Once at the site, you’ll find a sizeable car park with accessible footpaths leading through the visitor centre and out into the grounds surrounding the castle ruins, while the castle itself can be explored in nearly all areas, with the gloomy prison cell and the imposing tower being particular highlights.

The castle is now a ruined shadow of its former glory, partly due to weather erosion and partly due to the English army garrison that was stationed there in the 17th century. At the time, the castle had been conquered alternately by the Scots and the English several times, but when the English troops finally left in 1692 they decided to prevent the fortress from being subsequently used by Jacobite forces by demolishing most of the castle walls with explosives.

However, a large part of the structure remains intact and there’s plenty to see and do at the site. In particular, the maze-like warren of walls and corridors that extend from the original great hall are fun places for children to explore.

urquhart castle

Mums and dads will love the view stretching across Loch Ness from the battlements of Grant Tower and the kids will be fascinated by one of the few working stone-throwing trebuchets in Britain.

Perhaps the best way to see Urquhart Castle is from Loch Ness, and if you take one of the many loch cruises from Fort Augustus you’ll be able to see the castle from an entirely different perspective as the tour boat sails past the ruins.

The castle’s popularity with tourists means that it has been re-designed to be accessible for all ages and easy-access paths run throughout the site so even those with limited mobility will be able to enjoy the attraction.

The visitor centre is first class and features an extensive gift shop, exhibitions explaining the castle’s history, and a restaurant serving food and drink both inside the centre and outside on a terrace overlooking the loch. If you intend to spend any time at Loch Ness then a visit to Urquhart Castle has to be at the top of your list of places to visit.

Urquhart Castle

Things to Do

Historical Exploration: Walk around the castle’s various rooms, from the Great Hall to Grant Tower and immerse yourself in medieval history. The castle’s rich history spans more than 1,000 years of conflicts, intrigue, and political drama. As you navigate through the ruins you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, making this a must-do activity for history buffs.

Guided Tours: Participate in a guided tour to dive deeper into the story of Urquhart Castle. The guides will share fascinating tales about the castle’s past events from its many sieges to its strategic importance during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Loch Ness Monster Spotting: Since Urquhart Castle overlooks Loch Ness, it’s a great place to try and catch a glimpse of the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Spend a quiet afternoon by the water’s edge with binoculars (link to binocular reviews) in hand, hoping to spot Nessie. Even if you don’t, the beauty of the loch is a sight to behold.

Photography Sessions: With its picturesque location on the shores of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle offers stunning views that make for amazing photo opportunities. Capture the panorama of the loch, the surrounding mountains, and the atmospheric ruins. Get there early morning or evening during the golden hour for a photo you’ll be proud to share online.

Picnic by the Loch: Pack a picnic and enjoy a leisurely lunch on the castle’s expansive grounds. The views are exceptional, but if you’d rather have someone else do the cooking I recommend finding a seat on the cafe terrace in the visitor centre (avoid the midday rush, though).

Loch Ness

Things to Do Nearby

Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition. Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6TU. 6-minute drive.
A museum and exhibition centre that aims to educate and entertain visitors with displays and exhibitions about Loch Ness, the monster and the surrounding landscape. There is a café on-site and loch cruises can be booked from the centre.

Loch Ness. 1-minute walk.
The largest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Ness is famous for sightings of a mysterious monster that is yet to be proven. The loch is fed by the River Ness to the north, beyond which is the city of Inverness. To the south is the tourist village of Fort Augustus which operates daily cruises up and down the loch.

Urquhart Bay Wood. A82, Inverness IV63 6XN. 3-minute drive.
An alder woodland located on the shore of Loch Ness with footpaths throughout it. This is one of the few remaining wet woodlands in Scotland where the entire woodland becomes flooded after a rainfall.

The Garden on Loch Ness. Kilianan, Loch Ness Side, Inverness, Highlands and Islands IV3 8LA. 14-minute drive.
A plant nursery and woodland garden that has an array of native and exotic plants.

Craig Monie. Inverness IV63 6XD. 4-minute drive plus a 30-minute walk.
A hill to the south of Drumnadrochit that provides uninterrupted views across Loch Ness. Note that the hill is open to the public but it is covered in managed fir trees which can be forested at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Urquhart Castle worth visiting?

Urquhart Castle is definitely worth visiting. The castle is one of the most picturesque in Scotland and offers stunning views of Loch Ness.
The viewpoint of Loch Ness with Urquhart Castle in the foreground is one of the most photographed scenes in Scotland.

In addition, the castle ruins are fascinating to explore and are especially exciting for children, while adults will enjoy the romantic atmosphere of it.

The Historic Environment Scotland visitor centre is particularly good as it features an extensive Loch Ness exhibition, a shop, and a café with terrace seating overlooking the loch.

What is Urquhart Castle famous for?

Urquhart Castle is famous for its location on the banks of Loch Ness. The castle is one of the most scenic and most photographed in Scotland.

During its 1000-year history, the castle was known as one of the most strategically important in Scotland and was fiercely fought over by the Scottish and the English.

What was filmed at Urquhart Castle?

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), Loch Ness (1996).

Who blew up Urquhart Castle?

Urquhart Castle was destroyed by British government soldiers in 1692. Due to the fact the Scottish Highlands were a stronghold for the Jacobites, when government soldiers departed Urquhart Castle for the last time they demolished it with explosives so that it could not be used again.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.