|Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness|
This is my first post of many from my trip to Scotland in May. Urquhart was one of the few castles I visited when I earned my MBA from Heriot-Watt University in 1995/96. Standing atop Grant's tower which overlooks the loch, I got a sense of power, a sense of deep honor and kinship that comes with belonging to a clan and residing within the walls of a mighty fortress built strategically upon rocky outcrops.
Urquhart, like most of the castles in Scotland, has a past fraught with violence. They have found evidence that a Pictish fort once stood on the site. Around 580 AD, St. Columba visited what is now thought to be the site of Urquhart, baptizing a dying Pict king, Emchath. In addition, Pictish artifacts have been found near the site to support this theory.
Further progression of events at Urquhart are recorded as follows:
1230 - King Alexander II grants the lordship of Urquhart to Sir Thomas Durward, one of several nobles brought to the region to help maintain royal authority.
1231 - Sir Thomas Durward dies and is succeeded by his son, Sir Alan Durward, who is thought to have built the first stone castle walls.
1275 - With no male heir, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Lochaber receives the estate of Urquhart following Sir Alan's death.
1297 - Sir Andrew Moray besieges Urquhart Castle and it falls into the hands of the English.
1307 - King Robert the Bruce's forces recapture Urquhart Castle and use it as a power base to bring the north-east under his control.
1312 - Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray receives the castle and barony of Urquhart as an honor from his uncle, Robert I.
1342 - King David II visits the castle, becoming the only monarch ever to sleep within its walls.
After the Wars of Independence, Urquhart was a royal castle, held for the Crown by a succession of constables.
1384 - Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, known as the "Wolf of Badenoch" acquires the castle.
1390's - Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles stakes a claim to Ross. In 1395, his brother seizes Urquhart.
1411 - Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, subdues the Lords of the Isles temporarily at the Battle of Harlow, but he is unable to reclaim Urquhart.
1462 - Edward IV of England agrees to a secret treaty with John, Earl of Ross, and Lord of the Isles, granting him control of the Highlands in return for support of the English cause.
1509 - James IV charters the lorships of Urquhart to the Grant family, requiring them to build a stronghold and exert control in the region.
1513 - The Battle of Flodden wipes out James IV and his supporters, leaving the Great Glen again vulnerable to attack by the Islesmen.
1528 - Hector Boece laments the "ruinous walls" of Urquhart Castle in the aftermath of renewed raids by the Islesmen.
1545 - MacDonald raiders carry off every vestige of portable wealth from the castle, though this marks the end to their forays up the glen.
1637 - Marie Ogilvy, newly widowed mother of the 7th Laird, moves into the castle, becoming its last high-status resident. In 1644, she is robbed and driven out by Covenanters.
1689-92 - Government forces garrison Urquhart Castle for more than two years. Upon leaving the castle, they destroy the gatehouse with gunpowder.
1715 - Grant tower is partially destroyed by a violent February storm.
1884 - Caroline, Countess Dowager of Seafield takes ownership of Urquhart Castle. The site is entrusted into State care upon her death in 1911.
|View from Grants Tower|
In my mind, this is a tragic story for such a mighty fortress. Civil war and mindless vandalism brought Urquhart Castle to ruin. In my opinion, many castles began their demise after James VI of Scotland (1567-1625) also became James I of England. He relocated to London, and many State owned sites fell into ruin as Scotland merged with her sister country to the south.
|Trebuchet Catapult replica at the Urquhart Castle site|