24 July 2013

A castle... at long last!

No "Wordless Wednesday" today ~ Urquhart's story (I think) is too fascinating not to be told ~ after all, there's over 1000 years of history, many consider it the greatest and most magnificent of the Highlands', and the castle overlooks the beautiful (and sometimes mysterious) Loch Ness.

More than 1,000 years of Highland drama centered around this structure.

According to records, St Columba visited Loch Ness around 580. He travelled through Glen Urquhart, pausing to banish a marauding ’water beast’ and to baptise a Pictish nobleman as he lay dying in his fort. Although there is no concrete evidence to link this fort with the site at Urquhart, archaeological remains confirm that the highest part of the castle was a well fortified site at this time. 
The castle surfaces from obscurity more than five hundred years later, around 1230, when Alexander II granted the Urquhart estate to Sir Thomas le Durward. His son, Alan, constructed the first castle on the south of the promontory at Urquhart. 
Holding a key strategic position in the glen, the castle suffered during the 
Wars of Independence. Captured by Edward I of England in 1296, it was surrendered to the Scots in 1298. The castle soon changed hands again when 
in 1308 Robert the Bruce took control of Urquhart for the Scottish Crown. 
From the end of the 14th century, the focus of conflict shifted to the west. The new enemies were the MacDonald clan, the Lords of the Isles. In 1395 the MacDonalds seized the lands and castle of Urquhart and for the next 
hundred years the castle and glen were tussled over. In 1470 Sir Duncan Grant was appointed to try and control the situation. His grandson gradually restored order and as a reward was given the title to the estate and castle by James IV in 1509. The Grants built themselves new living accommodation at the north of the promontory.
The castle inmates could not yet relax, however. In 1545 the MacDonalds cleared out the castle in their final ‘Great Raid’ and in 1644 the castle was gutted once again and the Grants driven out, this time by a posse of Covenanters who objected to the Grants’ support for Charles I. 
The final attack came in 1690 when after resisting a siege by Jacobites, soldiers garrisoned at the castle blew up some of the buildings as they left. The damage was never repaired and you can still see parts of the shattered walls in place where they fell. (copied and pasted from "Investigating Urquhart Castle")
Loch Ness was, in fact, one of my biggest surprises in Scotland. I never imagined it was so BIG! Maybe because it is long and narrow and in most of those fuzzy "Nessie" pictures published any and everywhere you can almost always see the far side, I had this image in my mind that though it may be deep, it wasn't expansive. Driving along the shoreline rapidly corrected that thought! Deep was a correct impression however. One of the placards we read stated that Loch Ness was, on average, deeper than the average in the North Sea!

But back to Urquhart... we were finally ON. OUR. WAY. FOR. REAL!

Some sights along the way ~

another CLB was spotted

Loved the reflection off the water

Loved being "off the beaten path" for a bit!

Stone walls, wildflowers, rugged hills, stormy skies with blips of brilliant blue and vivid greens... all that is missing are some sheep!

Look at that color...

An old church building

and yet another CLB

finally back to Loch Ness

in the gardens, by the parking lot for Urquhart Castle

waiting for the film that told all about the castle to start

exploring the museum and interpretive center... before going into the castle itself

model, imagining what the castle might have looked like... once upon a time

Urquhart, finally!

the path down to the castle

a trebuchet

loved the detail on this wheel

what was the moat

completing the "fact scavenger hunt" provided for kiddos up at the museum

looking down at where the drawbridge would have been

Oh wait! What's that mysterious creature swimming through Loch Ness?

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