Arcarth Castle in Scotland on the shores of Loch Ness

Europe ” Scotland ” Castle Arcarth

Castle Arcart consists of a donjon and the forward fortifications. One may think such scheme is a deviation from the classics, but for Scotland, especially for mountainous area, the composition of the castle is quite appropriate to such standards. The donjon is situated on a steep shore of the lake; to take it from this side is more expensive. From the plain side the walls do not allow to get to the fortification, and if you break through the walls, you will find yourself under crossfire. And economical.

But the great thing about Arcart Castle is the beautiful view of Loch Ness. Even put another way, it’s the only optimal view. The other vantage points are much worse. When Nessie would show herself above the depths of the lake – it would be very desirable to be on the dungeon of Arcart and not somewhere else. By the way, Loch Ness is about 200 meters deep. And the mountains surrounding the lake rise another two hundred meters. Nevertheless, Arcart is not only the beauty of nature and the optimal observation point, but also a place consecrated by History.

Myths and Facts

In the second half of the sixth century, St. Columba went on a visit to the Pictish king Brida. This journey is described in his biography, mentioning the River Ness and an encounter with a monster, which Columba naturally tamed. And also the castle of Airchartdan, which was owned by the noble Pict Emhat. St. Columba converted the noble Pict Emhat and his entire family to Christianity (once again, I wonder how easy it was for the preachers of the time). And a Pictish brooch was found near the modern ruins of Arcart, dating from about this time period. Thus, we can assume that Arcart existed already then. However, nothing of the castle of those times remains, except the brooch and Christianity.

In 1228 there was another rebellion in the province of Mori. The initiators of the rebellion were the MacWilliams, who were also of royal blood, this clan descended from William, Earl of Maury, son of King Duncan II. After the suppression of the rebellion, King Alexander II granted the territory near Loch Ness to Alan Dorward. On the one hand as a reward for his service, on the other hand with the aim of strengthening the strategic direction so that the troubled province was surrounded by the lands of his loyal men. Alan Dorward came from a noble family and held the title of Justiciar of Scotland (protector of royal property). Actually, Dorward means the same thing, in Scottish transcription, but since the title was hereditary, it came to be taken as a family name over time. For a short period Alan Dorward carried the title of Earl of Atholl, it is not clear whether legally or not. In 1244 Alan married the illegitimate daughter of King Alexander II. So Alan Dorward, having obtained the land in 1230, and built Arcart Castle.

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In 1275 Alan Dorward died. Despite his services to the king and the fact that he had three daughters and an illegitimate son, Arcarth Castle was granted by Alexander III to John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (a cousin of Comyn, who was Earl of Buchan). But the Comyns did not own Arcart for long. In 1296 the castle was taken by Edward I’s troops, one of the first in Scotland. Apparently because the Lords of Badenoch were among the most influential and consistent supporters of King John Balliol (John II of Black Comyn was his son-in-law). Incidentally, his son and consequently Balliol’s grandson, John III Red Comyn, was by 1306 one of the main contenders for the Scottish crown and was assassinated personally by Robert the Bruce, at that time still Earl of Carrick.

So Arcart is captured by the English. Sir William Fitz Warren is appointed commandant. However, a rebellion began almost immediately in Maury (it was apparently a tradition in this province to rebel). In 1297 the leader of the rebellion (and the War of Independence in general) Sir Andrew Maury besieged Arcart twice. The first time he had no heavy siege weapons, a night assault was undertaken, but unsuccessfully. Details of the second assault cannot be found, but Arcart was taken.

In 1303 the English recaptured Arcart. Since the Comyns now supported Edward the Longshanks, the castle was returned to them, but not to John the Red (apparently because of his claim to the throne), but to the elderly and positive Alexander Comyn, sheriff of Aberdeen, a rather distant relative already. Alexander died in 1305, who owned the castle is unclear after that, perhaps his only daughter Alice. But in 1308, Robert the Bruce took it under his crown, and sent all the surviving Comyns into exile.

In 1314 the castle was given to Thomas Randolph. Or rather, Randolph was granted the earldom of Maury, and additional lands were added to the earldom, including the area of Arcart. Thomas Randolph died in 1332, the same year his eldest son Thomas died at the Battle of Dapplin More. The younger, John, 3rd Earl of Maury died at the Battle of Neville-Cross in 1346, and Arcarth, along with the whole county, returned to crown rule.

Funds were appropriated by King David II to repair and fortify Arcarth, and these works were done. The commandant of the castle at this time was Sir Robert Lauder, knighted as early as the 1st Earl of Maury in 1329 by Senor Quarrellwood, who was at the same time Justiciar of northern Scotland. After Sir Robert retired (£20 a year) in 1359, his grandson Robert Chisholm, who also later became Justiciar of northern Scotland and also Sheriff of Inverness, became Commandant.

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In 1395 the MacDonald terror began in the region. Who were these MacDonalds who, instead of making hamburgers, terrorized the royal province for an entire century? But by the way, terror is the royalist historians’ version. In the version of the MacDonalds themselves, it was a struggle for the revival of Gaelic tradition and culture, and in general for the restoration of justice.

The MacDonalds. Descendants of Somerled, King of the Isles. In 1266 under the Treaty of Perth the islands were annexed to Scotland on the right of autonomy. In 1299 Angus Og became ruler of Kintyre and the southern part of the Hebrides, providing considerable support to Robert the Bruce in his struggle first for power and then for Scottish independence. MacDonald’s band, led by Angus Og, played a significant role in the Battle of Bannockburn. Another line of Somerled descendants, the MacDougalles, opposed Bruce, were defeated and their lands were given to Angus Og. He thus became the largest baron of western Scotland. His son John proclaimed himself Lord of the Isles (a “can’t be king, don’t want to be an earl” title), quietly increased his territory in various ways and cultivated, as we would say now, separatism. During the Second Scottish War of Independence, John MacDonald refused to help David II, thereby ignoring his duties as a vassal to his liege lord. That is, he no longer considered himself a vassal of the King of Scotland and would not allow royal officials into his territory. Not surprisingly, relations soured.

In 1394 Euphemia, Countess of Ross, died, and Lord Donald MacDonald of the Isles was married to her daughter, and immediately, of course, laid claim to her. The first kings of the Stuart dynasty were weak, and Robert III in particular. Anyway, anyway, in 1395 Donald took Arcart. He then invaded Ross, took Inverness, and advanced almost as far as Aberdeen (it turns out that the Lord of the Isles captured more than half of Scotland, which implies that the king had less left). But at the Battle of Harlow, the Highlanders failed to achieve a decisive victory over the king’s forces. They seemed to have won, but they did not destroy the enemy’s army and were so disfigured that they had to break off the victory campaign and return. The regent of Scotland, the Duke of Albany, took advantage of this and took control of Ross. Apparently around this time the MacDonald’s lost Arcarth as well.

Up until 1493 a real war continued between the Lords of the Isles and the royal house of Stuarts. At least once, in 1451, the MacDonald’s managed to retake Arcarth (along with Inverness and Ballindaloch), but not for long. Gradually the Stuarts grew stronger. In 1490 Agnus Og, son of the last Lord John II, the true leader of the Highlanders, was killed. The army began to turn into separate subversive groups. In 1493 King James IV took control of all Scotland, stripped John MacDonald of his title of Lord of the Isles and sent him into retirement.

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The MacDonalds are now one of the coolest and most numerous clans. Practically an amalgamation of ten clans. Interestingly, the supreme head, Lord MacDonald MacDonald, has no official titles like earl or baron, but is referred to as “Descended from the ancient Kings and Lords of the Isles.

In 1479 Sir Duncan Grant, Lord Fritchey, was appointed commandant of Arcarth. His duties included not only maintaining the castle, but also ensuring order in the surrounding areas. In 1509 his grandson John Grant was granted possession of the lands of Arcarth and Glenmoriston, including Arcarth Castle, with the condition to repair the castle and build a donjon. The MacDonalds, however, though they had lost strength, were not completely pacified; periodic attacks on Arcart’s lands were common and regular. So it was his son, James Grant, who got to building the donjon in 1545. The tower he built has survived to this day, albeit in a somewhat damaged form.

At the beginning of another civil war, in 1644, Arcart was taken by the Conventists. They didn’t really need the castle, so they looted it and left.

The castle was last besieged in 1689. 300 Highlanders, supporters of William III, under the command of Captain Grant repulsed attacks by a Jacobite detachment twice as large. The siege lasted three years, and in 1692, the defenders of Arcart, realizing that they could hold out no longer, blew up the fortifications and abandoned it.

The castle stood abandoned for a long time. The locals slowly removed the stones and used them as building material. Grant’s Tower was still standing for some time until a hurricane in 1715 brought down its wall.

In 1913, the state subsidized restoration works and the castle was restored to its former glory, but it was given a more or less decent appearance.

It could not be ascertained whether William Grant (Whisky) was a descendant of the owners of Arcart, but that he belonged to the same clan – for sure.

An exceptional feature of Arcart is that it is a Scottish castle with no registered ghost. Either ghosts don’t like to settle next door to Nessie, or because Nessie lives next door, ghosts just aren’t needed here.

Urquhart Castle is located 21 km south-west of the town of Inverness and 2 km east of the village of Drumnadrochit. How to get there: From Inverness take a 30-minute bus ride to Loch Ness Visitor Center, then walk about 1.6 km. Another option – most excursions in Highland Scotland include a visit to Arcarth.

Arcarth Castle in Scotland.

There is hardly a body of water in the world that could compete with Loch Ness Lake in the number of mysteries. But not so many people know that on its shores stands Arcart Castle, no less mysterious and steeped in mystical stories.

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This medieval outpost of the Loch Ness legends and a great reason to travel around Scotland.

Construction History

The ruins of Arcard Castle, which today is a popular attraction among other places of interest in Scotland, were once a single grand fortification, for which, incidentally, fierce battles were fought over for five centuries.

Arcart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness

The castle-fortress was erected in the 13th century on a hill, from the top of which the whole territory of Loch Ness and its vicinity was perfectly visible. Chronicles say that in the 6th century there were already towering walls of a fortress on the same place. We do not know for sure, but historians suppose that at least the foundation of that ancient fortification may be the basis of the castle Arcart.

The ruins of Arkart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.

Today, only remnants of the former greatness have survived – a 5-story tower, and in the ruins you can guess the competent design of the structure. There was once an impressively sized water moat and drawbridge. From the side of Loch Ness the castle was enclosed by a double wall.

Bloody Secrets

More than a half of travelers who visit Arcart Castle are attracted by the world-famous legend of the mythical creature living in the waters of Loch Ness since time immemorial. Some people claim that mythical reptiloid dinosaur is more than 10 centuries old (the first mention of Nessie dates back to the 11th century), others are sure it is even more.

Arcarth Castle Legends (Scotland)

But the local place is not famous for Nessie only. People say that from the castle walls one can see another monster – a creature similar to a centaur. Just as sirens lured sailors into the depths of the sea, the Kelpie monster hypnotically makes a man saddle himself, and carries him away under the water.

The Legends of Loch Ness and Castle Arcart

It is said that when it gets dark, locals have more than once witnessed strange sentries on the ruined walls of the castle – they have seen “translucent” sentries in old-fashioned uniforms. The castle, being a majestic citadel for many centuries, stood on a rather “dainty” piece of land – on top of a hill, from which one could observe absolutely all movements on and around the lake. So Arcarth, throughout its more than five hundred years of military history, has been the object of battles and desperate battles, most of which fell in the wars for Scottish independence.

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The castle was first a fortress, but then, recaptured by the Earls of Ross and rebuilt, it became a private estate and passed from one dynasty to another many times.

History of castle Arcart

The last to hold the defense of the fortress in 1692 was Captain Grant’s detachment (his descendants, by the way, owned the castle since 1509). Three years of courage, privation and hunger in the fight against Jacobite detachments… When it became clear that the castle could not be saved, the soldiers blew up the fortifications, leaving the enemy only piles of stones and ash. Most of the soldiers escaped by fleeing through a secret passage beforehand. But those who carried out the bombing bravely accepted their fate. According to legend, the ghosts of these very brave soldiers can still be seen in the castle.

Tourists in mind

The impressive ruins of Arcart, rising on a hill, have been a popular tourist destination for almost 100 years. Excursion guides and local guides vied with each other to tell the impressionable travelers the secrets and legends associated with the castle and, no less darkly known, the lake at the foot of the hill. But not only for creepy stories come here.

Interesting places of Scotland - Castle Arcart on the shores of Loch Ness

Extremes and water lovers alike love to cruise, some even say that sailing in Scotland is the most amazing adventure that can happen to you. What’s more, yachting on Loch Ness Lake is even more of a “scenic” trip! Of course, it doesn’t hurt to look overboard (Nessie isn’t sleeping), but it’s worth exploring the surrounding lake and castle as well. Such a boat trip is a great way to see Scotland’s unspoiled wilderness. This place has not yet reached the hand of civilization, so the bright colors of nature, sparkling in the sun or hiding in the shadows of the clouds, will impress the eye even a seasoned traveler.

Castle Arcart in Scotland on the shore of Loch Ness

Interestingly, the atmosphere around the castle can change in a matter of hours – here just shone in the sun, as suddenly, out of nowhere, came the fog, and then it becomes no longer a joke, even to the bravest and unimpressed tourists. The ruins of Arcart, with Loch Ness in the background, look especially eerie on foggy mornings or in cloudy weather.

Yachting on Loch Ness and visit Arcart Castle

But no matter what weather nature has prepared for your visit to the castle, nothing will spoil the stunning view that opens to you from the main observation deck of Arcard. Above the castle, the flag of Scotland, whose independence was fought for centuries within these walls, unfurls. Walking in the footsteps of five hundred years of history, where, at times, time seems to have stopped and keeps many secrets – are you brave enough to make such a journey?

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