The Tower House

Urquhart Castle - Tower
Tower House

The most prominent feature of the entire castle is the tower-house at the northern end of the promontory. It is also almost the only part of the complex retaining distinctive architectural detail. Because of this it is more closely dateable than the rest of the castle.
The massively thick basement walls probably belong to the late fourteenth century.
The tower-house itself dates to the sixteenth century and was probably the "tower" which King James IV instructed John Grant of Freuchie "to repair or build at the castle" in 1509. The parapets and turrets at the top, later alterations, may be the work of the master mason James Moray, who was carrying out major repairs to the castle in 1623.
The tower-house was the lord's private residence in the castle. Access was very restricted. A deep, stone lined ditch along the two sides facing onto the inner close (that along the south side was later filled in) increased the tower's defensive capability. The weakest part of the tower-house, its entrance doorway midway along the west wall, must have been reached by a drawbridge. It was further protected by a defensive platform at the wall-top directly over it. The four great stone corbels projecting out from the wall which carried the platform can still be seen.

Despite the collapse of much of the south wall of the tower-house, probably during "storme of wind" in February 1715, the building retains much of its sense of space as a nobleman's residence.
The tower-house is five storeys high. The entrance door from the inner close leads into the second of these. This was the hall, a more intimate reception and dining place than the great hall in the nether bailey. It was lit by two good-sized windows and heated by a large fireplace in the south wall. A narrow spiral stair leads down to a dimly lit stone vaulted basement and a well defended postern gate. A second spiral stair leads to the upper floors.
The third storey was most likely the lord's private chamber, serving both as withdrawing room and bedroom. Here again the space is well lit, though the fireplace, again probably in the south wall, has now gone. The space on the fourth storey contained at least two small wall closets in addition to the main room. All three rooms may have served as bed chambers. The fireplace in the larger room was in the north wall. The window beside it has a gunloop of sixteenth century date below it.
The topmost storey has a garret in the main tower and pretty, squared gabled turrets at the corners. Each turret contains a little chamber, with a fireplace and a window with gunloop below. They could be used during siege to help defend the tower-house, and in peacetime to provide sheltered space from which to enjoy the marvellous scenery. And where lords and ladies once stood and stared in admiration, now countless visitors do likewise.



Map Page

History of the Castle

Drawbridge and Bailey

In War and Peace

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