Loch Ness (North), Scotland

This morning, we departed our excellent guest House in Inverness, Scottish Highlands and drove south, down the Great Glen with first stop at Castle Urquhart which sits on a promontory jutting into the centre of Loch Ness.

Information on Castle Urquhart

Castle Urquhart from top of the Grant Tower

Castle Urquhart and Loch Ness

There has been a fortification on the site for about 1500 years, dating back to Pictish times. Like the vast majority of surviving stone castles in the British Isles, Urquhart has its genesis in the 13th century. Initially under control of Alan Durward the castle was extended by the powerful Comyns after 1275. Subsequent milestones:

  • Oscillated between English and Scottish control during the 14th century Wars of Independence.
  • Post 1390, the threat came from the MacDonalds, Lords of the Isles in the West of Scotland.
  • Captured by the MacDonalds in 1452 but regained by the Scottish Crown four years later.
  • Plundered by MacDonald clansmen in 1544-5
  • Partly blown up by defenders at time of Jacobite uprising in 1689 to prevent opponents gaining advantage.
  • Subsequently a deteriorating and romantic ruin.

The facilities of this once great castle were extensive and included:

  • Ditch and drawbridge.
  • Gatehouse
  • Guard Room
  • Constable’s Lodging
  • Water Gate
  • Outer Close
  • Chapel
  • Great Hall
  • Inner Close
  • Grant Tower, as shown below. This is the most prominent feature and named after the Grant family who held the castle in the early 16th century.

After visiting all aspects of the castle and benefiting from excellent weather conditions. we moved on South initially tracking Loch Ness and then diverting West towards the Isle of Skye.

Next stop was Eilean Donan Castle on Loch Duich. Here we had lunch with guests availing of opportunity to visit the castle interior.

Information on Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

The site (in medieval times) was ideal for controlling the waterways at junction of lochs Long, Alsh and Duich which provide access to the sea.

A summary history of the castle is provided below.

  • There is a record of a castle on the site from the 13th century. Prior to that there is evidence of fortifications dating back to the Iron-Age, about two thousand years ago.
  • The island and castle take their name from a seventh century AD Christian missionary named Donan who was martyred on the Isle of Eigg in AD 618.
  • Ownership granted to Colin Mackenzie by King Alexander III in mid-13th century.
  • Reached peak size in 13th-14th centuries with two towers.
  • Reduced in size during 15th century.
  • During 16th-17th centuries a modest enlargement occurred, principally to include a hornwork or firing platform for the new technology of cannons.
  • Blown up by Government forces during the Jacobite uprising of 1719 from whereon the castle lay in ruins until early 20th century.
  • Between 1913 and 1932 the castle was rebuilt to a design similar to the original. This  project inspired and managed by Lt. Col, John MacRae-Gilstrap and Farquhar MacRae.
  • The principal aspects of the castle today are: Courtyard, Billeting Room, Banqueting Hall, Bedrooms and Kitchen Range. The interior is of the 1930s period.

Today the Clan MacRae Society  is based at Eilean Donan Castle. At the castle there is a memorial to all those of Clan MacRae who died in the First World War.

The castle has featured as a location in the following films and T.V. productions:

  • Bonnie Prince Charlie starring David Niven (1948)
  • The Master of Ballantrae starring Errol Flynn (1953)
  • The New Avengers (1976)
  • Highlander (1986)
  • Loch Ness (1996)
  • James Bond – The World is Not Enough (1999).

Next, we drove N.W. across the region of Wester Ross pass Loch Carron and then along a single track mountain road through rugged scenery to the coastal village of Applecross where we had a brief stop for refreshments before returning the same way with final destination of Plockton, also on the coast.

Video clips of single-track mountain road to Applecross.

Loch Carron

Wester Ross Scenery

View from Applecross

Applecross Inn

Applecross Pale Ale at Applecross Inn

At Plockton we checked into our harbourside hotel.

Information on Plockton

Plockton gives the appearance of prosperity, with shops, schools and many hospitality establishments which cater for the tourist industry. In a commanding position above the harbour sits imposing Duncraig Castle which dates from the 1860s The mild climate is influenced by the warm current known as the Gulf Stream. Palm trees grow here, on roughly the same latitude as Moscow.

Kayakers at Plockton

Tomorrow, we tour Isle of Skye.

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