Interested in taking an Urquhart Castle shore excursion from Invergordon cruise port?
Want to know if it is suitable for you?
Check out this guide for the practical information you need to decide.
This guide is based on visiting Urquhart Castle on one of the ship’s excursion tours.
Urquhart Castle Shore Excursion
Visiting Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness is one of the most popular shore excursions available from Invergordon.
Generally, cruise companies offer this as a half day tour. A half day tour is 4.5 hours total time including travelling.
How Long Does It Take to Visit Urquhart Castle?
To see the film, use the cafe, browse the gift shop and walk around the castle ruin you will need around 2 hours. This depends on your level of interest, how many photographs you take etc. 1.5 hours is generally a good amount of time for cruise ship guests.
Meeting For Your Excursion on Board Your Ship
Your ship will give you details of the meeting time and meeting location for your excursion.
This is often in the theatre area of the ship.
Some ships give guests stickers showing the number of the coach they are assigned to, some give tickets, and some load by language spoken by guests.
There is no shelter, shade or facilities at Invergordon cruise port coach park – not even benches. If you arrive too early you will have to stand outside. It can often be very windy at the coach park too.
Most ships will not let guests board early to make it fair for everyone.
Most ships will also keep the front seats for guests with limited/reduced mobility.
Leaving the Ship to Go to the Coach Park
When you leave the ship head down the gangplank and turn left.
You will see the coach park ahead of you.
Security operatives will keep guests back until their coach is ready for loading. This is to keep the number of guests moving around the coach park area to a minimum for health and safety reasons.
There are green pathways which you should follow to ensure you are not near any moving vehicles.
Travelling from Invergordon Cruise Port to Urquhart Castle
The route you take to Urquhart Castle varies. This is to ensure that all the coaches leaving the port don’t arrive at Urquhart Castle at the same time, as there is a restriction on the entry numbers at the castle.
The quickest way to reach Urquhart Castle is through Inverness. Some cruise ships include a short stop in Inverness. This is generally near the River Ness, beside the cathedral. It is around 45 minutes travel time to Inverness and then another 15 minutes from there to Urquhart Castle itself.
The other route to Urquhart Castle takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes. This route travels through Dingwall and Beauly.
Generally, tours to Urquhart Castle will take one route on the way out and a different route on the way back.
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Arriving at Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle site is set into the side of the hill on the edge of Loch Ness.
The coach parking area is at the very top of the site and Urquhart Castle itself is at the very bottom of the site.
To reach Urquhart Castle all visitors have to go via the ticket office and main entrance.
The main entrance is reached by taking a footpath from the coach park that slopes downhill. The entrance to the visitor centre is on the far side of the building when you first approach it from the footpath.
If the distance is too far for guests to walk Urquhart Castle has mobility scooters. Ask your guide to contact one of the parking stewards who will get a mobility scooter brought up to the coach park.
Entering the Visitor Centre
Once the guide has sorted out the entry for the group guests will be invited to enter the visitor centre. The main entrance is at the top of the building.
You need to take 3 flights of stairs down to reach the main part of the visitor centre.
There is also a lift – take it to floor -1 (minus 1) to get to the visitor centre main facilities.
Visitor Centre Facilities
The first thing you will come to at the bottom of the stairs or the lift is the toilets.
There are ladies toilets on the left hand side of the visitor centre and gents on the opposite side of the building.
You will see the tills for the shop on the right hand side as you enter the building.
There is a fabulous film show, which does a great job in explaining the history of Urquhart Castle in around 8 minutes in an easy to understand way – no mean feat given the complexity of the subject!
The film show runs throughout the day and the TV monitor near the entrance will show you how long until the next film starts.
There are steps into the theatre. If you need a step free entry to the theatre just ask your tour guide or a steward who will direct you to this.
Once the film is finished the curtains of the theatre open to reveal a stunning view of the castle. Well worth seeing!
There is a cafe at the castle which serves drinks, sandwiches and cakes. Guests can pay with contactless or card (not usually American Express).
There is seating inside or outside on the terrace.
The centre of the visitor centre is a gift shop. Often there is someone doing sampling of products in the shop too. There are books, fridge magnets, postcards and some cute Highland cow shortbreads too.
Visiting Urquhart Castle
To get to Urquhart Castle from the visitor centre you need to walk outside onto the terrace.
On the left hand side you will see a series of steps leading down to the path which then heads to the castle drawbridge.
To the right of the terrace is a ramp if you would prefer to avoid the steps.
Simply follow the path all the way down to the castle.
When you reach the castle itself there are guides from Historic Scotland to give you more information and there are also interpretation boards around the site. You can climb up the tower for great views over Loch Ness.
You need to allow plenty of time to get from the castle ruins to the coach park – and it is uphill all the way. I usually advise 20 minutes from the castle ruins to the coach park.
When returning to the coach park pass through the visitor centre and take the stairs or the lift to the top level. When you exit the main door at the top of the stairs there is a handy reminder of the route to the coach park.
Then follow the path along to the end of the car park
Then take the ramp back up the hill to the coach park
Urquhart Castle Shore Excursion Pros
- Convenient way to get to Urquhart Castle – making own way from Invergordon is time consuming and complicated
- Half day tour gives time to relax and also see some of Invergordon
- Local guide will provide and interesting commentary throughout the tour
- Mobility scooters make the site accessible to those with reduced mobility. They can take a little while to arrive to the coach park if the castle is busy. Guests cannot access all of the castle ruins on a mobility scooter.
Urquhart Castle Shore Excursions Cons
- Depending on the cruise company guests can sometimes only have an hour at Urquhart Castle, from arriving to leaving. This is most common likely when there is a stop for 30 minutes or more in Inverness.
- For most guests moderate levels of fitness are required to explore Urquhart Castle ruin including being able to get up and down the hill.
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