The skies were dark and ominous, with thick brown clouds hovering just overhead, the day we went from Skye to Inverness. Then again, this is Scotland—they almost always are, which only makes the bluebird days even more precious.
Besides, it wouldn’t be right to visit Urquhart Castle on a sunny day anyway, as bad things once happened here. After you pay your admission (£7.20 for adults, £5.70 for seniors, £4.30 for students) at the visitor’s center, you’ll be ushered into a small theater and shown a movie, a reenactment really of the bloody battles that happened here long ago.
The castle was built in the 13th century, perched atop Loch Ness (yes, that Loch Ness, home to Nessie). According to Visit Scotland, Urquhart was then “seized by the English in 1296, sacked by the MacDonald Lord of the Isles in 1545 and left to fall into decay after 1689.” Now, it’s just a pile of dilapidated rocks fringing the shoreline.
You only need an hour, tops, to explore the ruins, as there’s not a whole lot to see, though if you’re a history buff, you might want to allot a bit of extra time to read through all the material on the walls in the visitor’s center.
As we were leaving a funny thing happened: A bumbling Frenchman approached us with his camera. He didn’t speak a lick of English, so I assumed he wanted us to take a photo of him and his buddies. But no, he wanted us in the picture with him! I’m used to this in Asian countries, as I’m sure any Westerner is, but not in Europe where I more or less look like everyone else (OK, maybe marginally tanner). He was cute, and the whole thing was funny. Not sure why he didn’t ask Mom to be in the photo, as well! Maybe he just saw Kari and me dancing around like idiots on the lawn and figured we’d be game. (We were, of course. Always.)
The castle is about 17 miles outside of the town, on the western edge of the loch. From Inverness, you can take boat tours out to Urquhart Castle, let passengers off to mill about for a spell and then return to town. You’ll also be able to keep your eyes peeled for the Loch Ness Monster on the ride. Due to the weather, we didn’t opt for this route, but I did it once, back in 2003, and it was a great way to pass the time. Either way, I encourage you to take a day and poke around Inverness while in the area, as it really is a cute, hip town.