The Castle Trail

Drumnadrochit is ideally situated for visiting some of Scotland’s famous Castles. All within a day’s journey of the Loch Ness area. 2 or 3 may be visited in a day due to their close proximity.

Jump: Urguhart CastleInverness CastleCawdorCastleKilravock CastleBrodie CastleEilean Donan CastleDunrobin Castle

Urquhart Castle


The impressive ruin of Urquhart Castle sits on a rocky promontory with commanding views along Loch Ness.  One of the largest of all Scottish castles, Urquhart has seen many battles and sieges throughout its 500-year history as a medieval fortress.

Evidence of some kind of fortified residence on the promontory goes back to Pictish times. The first record of a castle at Urquhart comes around 1200AD. By the year 1250 A

lan Durward brother-in-law of King Alexander III was lord of Urquhart.  The stronghold that Alan established at Urquhart continued to be of strategic importance throughout the Wars of Independence with England sparked by the untimely death of Alexander III.

Soon after the Wars began in 1296, the English Army captured Urquhart. Within two years, the castle was back in Scottish hands during the resistance, led by William Wallace. Over the next half century it changed hands many times.

Urquhart’s stirring history continued with frequent raids by the MacDonald’s, Lords of Isles in the 15th and 16th centuries.  In 1509, the Chief of Clan Grant was granted the castle.  It was last inhabited by Government troops following the Jacobite Rising of 1689.

Location: A 82, on shoreline 5mins from Drumnadrochit
Opening Times: April to September: Monday-Sunday 9.30am to 6.30pm
October to March: Monday-Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm, Sunday 2.00pm to 4.30pm
Visitor Facilities: Visitor Centre, gift shop, café and toilets.
Further Information: Tel 01456 450551.

Inverness Castle

inverness castleBuilt on the site of an earlier fortress in 1835 and sits on a low cliff overlooking the river Ness.  Today it houses the Sheriffs Court.  The statue of Flora MacDonald stands prominently looking west in the Castles forecourt.  It is thought that 11th-century castle which featured in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth was in fact located to the east of the present castle.  Originally built of wood, it was replaced by a fortress of stone on Castle Hill.

At the Castle Garrison Encounter you can journey back in time to 1745, enlist in the Regiment and meet some of its other characters live.

Visits take about 40 minutes.

Location: Prominently situated overlooking the River Ness in the City of Inverness. 20 Minutes from Drumnadrochit
Opening Times: Daily during the tourist season from 10.30am to 5.30pm.
A piper plays every evening from June – September from 7pm to 7.30pm on the Castle Hill.
Castle Garrison Encounter Tour
Further Information: Tel: 01463 243 363 / Fax: 01463 710 755

Cawdor Castle

cawdorCawdor had been an ancient Earldom long before the castle was built.  Set in wooded grounds, the present buildings date from the early 14th century.  An entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1398 refers to an outlay on `Cawdor Castle’.  The castle and its owners enjoyed the lawlessness that is associated with the Highlands; both the 4th and 11th Earls were murdered.

In 1454 the Earl of Cawdor received a royal license to build a new castle.  The castle was built around a holly tree by a burn, which can still be seen in the vaulted cellar of the keep.  The present keep dates from 1454, and is typical of 15th century Scottish architecture.  The entrance door has a huge iron bolt across it, which came from nearby Lochindorb Castle around 1455 when the Earl of Cawdor was instructed to dismantle Lochindorb after the Earl of Moray had forfeited it.  Around 1660 Sir Hugh Campbell, Earl of Cawdor, extensively remodelled the castle. Two ghosts are said to haunt the premises, a lady in a blue velvet dress and John Campbell, the first Lord Cawdor.

Location: 12miles east of Inverness, off the A96. 35 Minutes from Drumnadrochit.
Opening Times:
May – mid Oct. 10am – 5.30pm
Visitor Facilities: 
Tearoom, Gift Shop and Gardens.
Further Information:
Tel. 01667 404615.

Kilravock Castle

KilravockAncient home of the Rosses of Nairnshire who came here in the 13th century and were authorised by the Lord of the Isles to build a tower in 1460.  In the 17th century a 4-storey mansion was added to the 5-storey tower, which overlooks a steep drop to the River Nairn. The castle was again remodelled in the 18th century.

Famous visitors include Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562, Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Duke of Cumberland (the day after the Prince’s visit just before the two men fought the Battle of Culloden) and also the poet Robert Burns.

Location: 10 miles east of Inverness on B9101 between Croy and Cliphanton.  2miles East of Cawdor Castle

Opening Times: April – October: Mon – Sat; 10am- 5pm,
Castle guided tours Wednesdays only; 11am, 2pm, 3pm & 4pm.
Gardens open; May- September; closed Sundays
Visitor Facilities: Gardens, Tea Room; 2pm – 4pm
Further Information: Tel. 01667 493 258.

Brodie Castle

brodieSet in parkland, Brodie Castle is old but the family association with the area is even older.  The Brodies were first endowed with their lands by Malcolm IV in 1160 and a Thane of Brodie is recorded in the reign of Alexander III.  The castle was damaged in 1645 during the Montrose campaigns. : The oldest part is 16th-century ‘Z’ plan, with additions made in the 17th and 19th centuries.

The house and its collections demonstrate an impressive continuity, which bears witness to Brodie’s long history.

Woodland walks have been laid out in the surrounding grounds and a pond with access to wildlife observation hides is also to be found.

Location: Off A96, 24m East of Inverness. 45 Minutes from Drumnadrochit.
Opening Times: 25 Mar to 29 Sep, Thu-Mon 11-6. Grounds, all year, daily 9.30-sunset.
Visitor Facilities: Tearoom, open 11am – 5pm (Sun 1.30pm – 5pm),Shop.
Further Information: Brodie, Forres, Moray, IV36 2TE.
Tel. Brodie (01309) 641371.
Fax. (01309) 641600.

Eilean Donan Castle

EileanAlthough the island of Eilean Donan has been a fortified site for at least 800 years, the present building largely dates from the early 20th century. Today’s castle, which rose from the ruins of its predecessor, was re-built between 1912 and 1932 by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap.  The name Eilean Donan (island of Donan) was established in the late 6th, early 7th century.

From the early 13th century it was held by Kenneth Mackenzieof Clan Mackenzie.  Despite many disputes, the Mackenzie’s held Eilan Donan until the 16th century, when as protectors of the Clan Mackenzie the Clan Macrae became constables of the castle and surrounding area.

In 1715 the Castle was garrisoned by Government Troops but later retaken by the Jacobites.  In 1719 the Castle was attacked by Government warships and abandoned in ruins after the bombardment.

In 1911 it was bought by John MacRae-Gilstrap, who began to restore the castle and who finally completed the task some 20yrs later.  It is now in the care of The Conchra Charitable Trust set up by the Clan MacRae.

Location: Situated in Loch Duich near Dornie about 8 miles from Kyle of Lochalsh on the A87 road to the west coast of Scotland.  1 Hour from Drumnadrochit.
Opening Times: 1 April to 1 November, daily from 10am until 5.30pm.
Visitor Facilities: visitor centre, gift shop, toilets and a cafe.
Further Information: Tel. 01599 555202 / Fax 01599 555262

Dunrobin Castle

DunrobinDunrobin is the most northerly of the great houses of Scotland.  It is a private house, seat of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland, and owned by the Countess of Sutherland.

The Earldom of Sutherland was created in 1235, and a castle appears to have stood on this site since then.  The early castle was a fortified, square keep, looking out from its cliff top position.  Sir Charles Barry was retained in 1845 to completely re-model the castle. To change it from a fort to a house in the “Scottish Baronial” style that had become popular among the aristocracy. There are 189 rooms, making it the largest house in the northern Highlands.  There is a decided French influence to the whole project, including the gardens, based on Versailles. It has a distinct air of “French Scottish”.  A fire destroyed the interior in 1915. The interior you see today is mainly the work of the Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer.

The 5th Duke died in 1963, and with the convoluted way of British nobility succession, the Earldom and the house went to the current Countess of Sutherland, the Dukedom to somebody else.  The Dukes of Sutherland were part of Scotland’s bloody past, playing their part in the Highland Clearances.

Location: Off A9 just north of Golspie. 1 Hour 15 Minutes from Drumnadrochit.

Opening Times:

April, May & Oct;
Mon – Sat; 10.30am – 4.30pm.
Sun; 12noon – 4.30pm.  Last Adm. 4pm

June – September;
Mon – Sat; 10.30am -5.30pm.
Sun; 12noon – 5.30pm.  Last Adm. 5pm.

July – August
Mon – Sun; 10.30am – 5.30pm.  Last Adm. 5pm.

Visitor Facilities:  Museum, Falconry, Gardens, Tearoom & Gift Shop.
Further Information:  Tel.  01408 633177/633268