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<   No. 3650   2017-04-28   >

Comic #3650

1 Jamie: I'm beginning to think this castle is more interesting than the Loch.
2 Jamie: It's been the site of many battles and sieges since the 13th century.
3 Jamie: How many souls must have perished within its walls? What terrible secrets does it hold?
4 Adam: And why is there no WiFi?!

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The first recorded evidence of Urquhart Castle appears in 1296, when it was captured by Edward I of England (a.k.a. Edward Longshanks), during the invasions that kicked off the Wars of Scottish Independence. Presumably the castle must have existed for some time before it was captured, and there are some vague accounts of a castle being in this location as far back as a hundred or so years earlier, but nothing considered historically reliable.

For a castle pretty much in the middle of nowhere much, it continued to have an eventful and occasionally bloody history. The Scots laid siege to the castle in 1297, retaking it, but this was reversed in 1303 with English forces again overrunning and occupying the site. Robert the Bruce himself then led a campaign along the Loch and the rest of the Great Glen, retaking Urquhart for the Scots in 1307. In 1333, the English returned in yet another attempt to capture the castle, but the Scots held firm.

For the next while, the English ceased to be a problem, but instead the area was raided by the semi-independent Scottish MacDonald clan known as the Lords of the Isles. Donald of Islay captured the castle in 1395, keeping it until the Scottish crown retook the castle in 1411. Donald's son Alexander attempted to retake the castle for the MacDonalds in 1437, but ultimately failed. Where his father failed, Alexander's own son John then restored his grandfather's pride by capturing the castle again for the MacDonalds in 1452.

John unfortunately decided to sell out his fellow Scots by making a deal with Edward IV of England. When King James III of Scotland heard about this in 1476, he was furious, and had the castle seized and granted to a loyalist who installed Clan Grant, headed by Sir Duncan Grant, to look after the region.

The MacDonalds continued in their attempts to raid and seize the castle, eventually succeeding in 1513. But Duncan Grant retook the castle again in 1517. It remained in Grant hands until Duncan's son James stirred up a feud with the MacDonalds once more, which led to the bloody Battle of the Shirts in 1544, which played out at the northern end of Loch Lochy, just south of Loch Ness. If there's one thing you should be able to tell about the Scottish clans of the time by now, it's that this wasn't end of the matter. The MacDonalds naturally decided to retaliate, launching a huge raid in 1545, recapturing Urquhart Castle again, and laying waste to it by stripping it of furniture, cannons, doors, and gates, before retreating to let James Grant have the resulting ruins.

The Grants rebuilt and remodelled the castle over the following decades of relative peace. The next violence occurred in 1644, when an unruly mob of Presbyterian agitators broke into the castle, robbing and evicting Lady Mary Grant because of her conflicting religious belief in Episcopalianism.

After this incident, the castle appears to have been virtually abandoned, until the Glorious Revolution of 1688 when it was re-garrisoned by Ludovich Grant against the Jacobite forces. Jacobites laid siege to the castle, but the well-supplied defenders held out for two years until the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Cromdale in 1690. The Grants decided not to continue occupying the castle, and so this time when they left they blew up the gatehouse to prevent its occupation by enemy forces.

From that time the castle has been a ruin, with no restoration work or occupation since. And that, in a nutshell, is why there's no WiFi.

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