History of Urquhart Castle
The early history of the castle is lost in the mists of time, but may begin in the time of St. Columba in the 6th century, when the predecessor of the castle seems to have been mentioned in Adomnán's Life of Columba, though the reference is ambiguous.
One of the radiocarbon dates obtained during 1983 excavations within the castle was in the range 460-660 AD so t is probable that there was a fortified settlement on Strone Point during the time that Columba visited the area. No other noble is mentioned in this episode, so it is probable that Columba stayed at Urquhart Castle on his way to visit Brude at Craig Phadraig, Inverness.
It is not known precisely when the castle was built, but records show the existence of a castle on this site from the early 1200s.
The area had been granted to the Durward family in 1229, and they were probably the builders of the castle. It was certainly in existence in 1296, as it was captured by Edward I of England at this time.
It was besieged by Sir Andrew de Moray in the course of his clearing the English from northern Scotland.
Sir Robert Lauder of Quarrelwood was Constable of Urquhart Castle in 1329, and his grandson Robert Chisholm succeeded him in 1359.
The castle was seized in the mid-fifteenth century by the Earl of Ross, but recovered shortly afterwards.
In 1509, it was given as a gift to the Grants, whose ownership lasted until 1912,. although the MacDonalds captured the castle in 1545, and a Covenanter force captured it in 1644.
The castle was slighted in 1692 by Williamite troops who had been holding the castle against Jacobite forces. This slighting was to ensure that the castle could not become a Jacobite stronghold. The castle was never repaired and remained as a ruin. Subsequent plundering of the stonework for re-use by locals, and natural decay, further reduced the ruins.
The castle is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, having been given as a gift to NTS in 2003 by Mrs Eila Chewett of Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, and run by Historic Scotland as a site within the Guardianship of Scottish Ministers.
In 2000-1, Historic Scotland undertook a major construction programme to create a visitor centre at the site, and to improve the parking. The visitor centre includes a display on the history of the site, including a series of finds from the medieval period, a cinema, a restaurant and shop.