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Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle Review
The Loch (Lake)
Loch Ness is one of the most beautiful Lochs (Lakes) in Scotland. Although Scotland does have many Lochs, this one stands out for both beauty and legend.
We had the opportunity to explore the Loch on a tour boat. I highly recommend anyone going to Loch Ness or Urquhart Castle (pronounced Ur-Kit) to take the boat tour. You will have a nice view of the castle from the water, and the bonus of a guided tour while cruising on the Loch.
For starters, NO, we did not see Nessie the Loch Ness Monster in the Loch. For curiosity, we did look in the waters around our boat the entire time just in the event we too could have spotted a strange water pattern near by.
The local residents obviously did not want to let us go without seeing a Nessie. There were two fake versions available, one outside the gift shop where we purchased our tour tickets, and the other one at the boat dock.
The Loch is 28.1 square miles of freshwater, with the deepest point being 755 ft. At this deep point is recorded the most frequent sightings of Nessie in the water beside the Castle. During the boat tour, the guides pointed out that most of the Nessie sightings over the years have been close to the castle. People believe that no one can find Nessie as she hides out in an underwater cavern in the deepest part of the Loch.
Important Loch History
People like to try to set world records on the Loch.
In 1966 a woman became the first person to swim the length of the Loch in 31 hours and 27 minutes.
In 1974 a water skier became the first person to ski the length of the Loch.
On a sad note in 1952 John Cobb, a well known British race car record holder, attempted to break the world water record for a jet speedboat. To set the record, Cobb had to set his speed record on the first lap, then repeat it on the return lap. After completing the first lap with a top speed over 200 mph, Cobb's boat flipped while making the turn-around.
He died during this accident. His required second lap to meet or exceed the first was never completed, so the record was not officially broken.
Some people say that his jet speedboat was hit by a rogue wake during the turn, which caused it to flip over. Some Nessie believers say that the wake was caused by a large animal in the water.
We had also heard that Cobb's fans and followers built a memorial shrine for him at one end of the Loch. The memorial shrines we did see later on our trip included a series of round stones of different sizes, stacked with largest at the bottom and smallest at the top. it is interesting to note that these "memorial stone stacks" did not appear to be affected by the wind or weather. As we walked around them we could tell by the ground that they had been there for years - fully exposed to the elements..
Nessie's Favorite Castle
Urquhart Castle sits in ruins overlooking the impressive Loch Ness. This Medieval castle survived about five hundred years of sieges and attacks. The earliest record of people located at the site was around the 6th century when St. Columba visited the area.
There is evidence that people lived at the site as early as 460 A.D. No one knows exactly when this castle was built, but the best estimate is during the 13th century. The Durward family acquired the property in 1229, and the castle itself was captured by British King Edward I in 1296.
The Ruins of Urquhart Castle
The castle exchanged hands between the British and the Scots again before finally being gifted to the Grants in 1509.
It was captured by the MacDonald Clan in 1545, then by the Covanter Force in 1644.
In 1692 the castle was destroyed from within by the Williamite troops to prevent the Jacobite troops (supporters of Scotland's King James VII) from capturing it again. The Williamite (supporters of British King William III) troops placed all of their black powder explosive munitions in one room and blew it up.
The Grant Clan still had ownership of the castle and its property until the death of the widow of the seventh Earl of Grant in 1911. She willed the castle to the care of the state.
Items Taken During the 1545 Raid
1,700 Sacks of Oats
750 Sacks of Barley
One of the Top Tourist Attractions
The castle is Scotland's third busiest tourist site. It was definitely busy the day we were there. We saw the reconstructed medieval Trebuchet and were entertained by a bagpipe playing Scotsman (known by locals as a Celtie).
The Trebuchet is the large wooden slingshot device used to hurl large rocks and boulders at castle walls.
The visitor center also has a nice cafe with outside seating overlooking the castle and Loch Ness. The day we were there, they held a Scottish Whisky sampling day that also included fine chocolate tablets (bars) for sale as well. While one of the men ran to purchase a chocolate tablet, the ladies tried a few samples of whisky. I must say the whisky is far too strong tasting for me. It is not blended or diluted like the whisky in America normally is.
July 2017 visit update:
We had the opportunity to revisit Urquhart Castle ruins and gift shop again on our second trip to Scotland. This visit was more enjoyable as the crowds were fewer and we were able to spend more time exploring the castle ruins tower area.
The sandwiches we ordered in the cafe, along with the potato salad, were very tasty and filling. I was standing next to some ladies in the order line (queue) and noted they did not speak English and were looking confused at the food items. I was able to use my limited Spanish to help them understand Chicken (Pollo) and the potato salad.
Castle View from the Visitors Center
View of Loch Ness from Castle Window
Loch Ness Monster Sighting
Fun Fact: as of 2008, Scotland has a total land mass (Mainland and Islands) of 30,409 square miles and total population of 5,062,011 (less than 1/3 of the total population for the Los Angeles metropolitan area - 17,877,006 - 2010 Census).