Friday, 17 October 2014

The Treasure of Urquhart Castle




Strange creatures in Loch Ness are not the only legend to be associated with this dark stretch of water. During my research for "The Water Horses of Loch Ness", I found various stories which, though unrelated to the Kelpie legend, proved interesting nonetheless.

One of these concerned Urquhart Castle, as I found when looking at "In the Hebrides" authored by Constance Gordon-Cumming in 1883. 

Taking passage by the steamer, we sailed up beautiful Loch Ness, taking a farewell look at Castle Urquhart, once an old holding of the Clan Cumming, and in later days one of the royal forts of Scotland, besieged by Edward I in 1303. Many a hard tussle with the English did it witness, but for the last three hundred years there has been no mention of it in any chronicle of fight or fray.

It is now a picturesque ruin, rising from the loch on a rocky promontory. The Highlanders call these grey ruins Strone Castle, and believe that two mysterious vaulted cells are hollowed in the rock below. The one contains a countless treasure of gold; but in the other a fearful pestilence is sealed up, which, if once released, would stalk forth in irresistible might and depopulate the land, having first slain the rash hand that opened its prison door. So the dread of liberating so dire a scourge has even subdued the covetous craving for gold, and the treasure-chamber remains inviolate.

The same story is told in the 1893 book, "Urquhart and Glenmoriston; olden times in a Highland parish" written by William Mackay:

It is believed in the Parish that there are two secret chambers underneath the ruins of the Castle — the one filled with gold and the other with the plague. On account of the risk of letting loose the pestilence, no attempt has ever been made to discover the treasure. This myth, in various forms, and associated with various places, is as old as the classic fable of Pandora. 

Looking at this story, one is reminded of similar treasure curses, such as the tomb of King Tut. But one wonders if there is any truth behind this legend. Just as many believe there is a real creature behind the poetical Each Uisge, could there be a real trove of gold, silver and precious stones under Urquhart Castle? Given that the castle was raided, pillaged and finally blown up, there would seem to be little room for hidden treasure.

But there is another legend of a local treasure hoard, and that is the Jacobite gold of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It is told that Spain had financed the Jacobite Army to the tune of 400,000 gold livre a month. Seven boxes of these coins had arrived after the defeat at Culloden in 1745 and they were reputedly hidden in the forests not far from Loch Arkaig, over thirty miles from Castle Urquhart as the crow files. Could some of this have found its way to Loch Ness?

We could speculate further on the Templars and the treasure of King Baldwin the Second (died 1131). His treasure was allegedly taken to Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh, but there was also a Templar house near Urquhart Castle (now only remembered in the location of Temple Pier). This one is a bit of a longer shot.

In general, troubled times usually impel men of wealth to carefully hide their worldly goods and so I would not entirely dismiss the story out of hand. The curse part of the story can be seen as a deterrent to treasure seekers, but is it possible that some owner of the castle was forced to leave the castle in haste without his hidden treasure and his secret died with him in some distant place?

Who can tell, but it is to be noted that the level of Loch Ness rose by six feet with the building of the Caledonian Canal in the early 19th century. Perhaps our fabled hoard is now only accessible to divers? Or perhaps a long sealed door of stone lies undetected, now overrun by bushes and trees?

Today, a kind of modern combination of plague and treasure may be argued for the castle. With record numbers paying record prices to visit the site under the aegis of Historic Scotland, the uncovered treasure is certainly there to behold. On the other hand, some locals certainly regarded the plans to expand the site some years back as a plague of sorts upon the landscape. 

All in all, a fascinating story, but one beyond verification; until someone stumbles upon a strange looking rock one day ...



54 comments:

  1. Slightly off topic... Tonight 17/10/14 at 9pm 'Quest' channel on Freesat 'The Loch Ness Monster Reviled' Organized by Philippe Cousteas son of the famous Jacques. It might also be aired on SKY Not sure if this has been broadcast before.

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    1. I watched this. It said no creatures have long necks any more, well what about turtles and terrapins, girraffs okapis and komodo dragons. And reptiles being unable to live in the cold is the biggest myth going.

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    2. Agreed tim! I spent the day at chester zoo yesterday and read about how tuataras from new zealand are now living on diffrent islands in cold temperatures as little as 5 o !!! And of course we have our council ponds terrapins that have survived our freezing cold winters for over 25 years !!!

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  2. GB,
    How long has Castle Urquhart been a ruin and has there ever been a proposals to restore the castle and grounds?

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    1. Over 250 years I would suggest.

      I don't know about rebuilding proposals over the decades, but certainly putting a roof over some areas would help.

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    2. It was blown up in 1692 by Williamite forces and crumbled further in the early 18th century.
      And apparently it has a "water gate" giving access to the loch.

      *AnonStg*

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  3. Mmmm might be worth me bringing my metal detector on my next visit :))

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    1. To tell you the truth, Jake, I was considering getting one myself. Not much use for Nessie research but looks like fun. Any success with yours?

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  4. Bought it 3 years ago but not used it much! Just planning on getting it out again. Found a couple roman coins and an old spear head plus bits n bobs coin wise. Half the trouble is gettin permission on the farms etc so will prib be same in scotland. Just read of a viking find in dumfries recently. Im sure loch ness area would be good. Yeah its good fun and great on a nice day!

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    1. And metal detecting has the added advantage over Nessie hunting in that metal actually exists :)

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    2. Yup, looking forward to digging up some mithril!

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  5. Ya never know GB you might find summit lost by a nessie hunter over the years lol but if u go to whsmiths or menzine shop they have good magazines on metal detecting that advertise places that sell them and even get good second hand ones at a decent price@

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  6. Maybe stevie feltham could take up metel dectecting: he needs a new hobby now i think he has given up on the monster after his embarassing claim that George Edwards photo was the best he has ever seen . Lmao poor guy: what a way to end his monster career :

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    1. I am sure the end of Steve's monster career in firmly not in sight.

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    2. I think Steve was pressed into making a comment on that image before he had time to fully take in all the facts. He quickly corrected himself.

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    3. What facts trevor? Nobody else believed George's ridiculous story and details about the photo so why did he ? And people say he is a nessie expert ? Dont make me laugh.

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    4. I believe his initial comment was a result of the image being put in front of him with no back-story whatsoever, and him being immediately asked for a comment. He then revised his opinion once the context became clear. I think that's fair enough.

      It was Steve who debunked the image.

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    5. No it wasnt steve who debunked the image it was a friend of his who showed him the model hump. And until this steve still said it was what he had been looking for all his life. And by this time steve had seen the whole story just like everybody else. He is no more of an expert than you or I. In fact it shows how easily fooled he is even with 20 years experience.

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  7. A very interesting story indeed.

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  8. I remember reading a story about loud noises ("roars"?) being heard on occasion drifting up from beneath Urquhart Castle. Wish I could remember which LN book that story came from. I always had that story in the back of my head when getting ready to climb those stairs.

    Michael A./Portland

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    1. Tim Dinsdale reported hearing sounds of tortured men when moored at Fort Augustus, and put it down to ghostly echoes of the '45 rebellion. We now have a more probable explanation. Could this be the episode you are thinking of?

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    2. Ghosts from '45 is a detail that would have stuck with me. No, this was just some comment about hearing strange noises from under the castle and wondering if something was stirring in a cave.

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    3. It was just some religious rites and sacrifice s going on.not ghosts;0)

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  9. I'm not sure but I think the 1976 documentary 'The Legend of Loch Ness' mentioned how prisoners in the castle dungeon would complain of thumping noises that seemed to emanate from under the dungeon floor!

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    1. jimmy-sher72 - the dungeon in the basement of the Grant tower is only a few metres from the water so thumping noises would most likely be waves crashing on the rocks.

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  10. Ah - beg your pardon Dick, but I'm sceptical of this claim myself even though it is a bit creepy. Thanks for your reply!

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  11. Could also be the Great Glen fault system acting up.

    Michael A.

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    1. This made me wonder about something. I had a look at some of the more promising parts of the papers of D. Murray Rose (newspaper letter writer and antiquarian extraordinaire) in the National Registers of Scotland. Sadly no "smoking gun" re early sightings. But it seems as though he took the monster seriously and wasn't on a wind-up when he wrote to the "Scotsman". One private letter suggests that those watching for the monster should pay particular attention to the vicinity of Urquhart Castle. Why? Could he have seen some historical references to "thumpings" heard in dungeons? For all I know it could be an urban/rural myth, but if something has survived then I'd suggest that it could be from between 1545 (when a great raid resulted in the contents of the castle being stripped) and 1692.

      *AnonStg*

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    2. Ah, you were down looking at Rose's personal papers. I saw nothing as well, how much of the collection did you cover?

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    3. I've got 19 items marked off. Incidentally there were a couple of photos of a gent with thick white crinkly hair and small oval specs in the collection. Funny – I'd always thought of him as being bald for some reason.

      *AnonStg*

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    4. Are you local AnonStg? We should meet up (if we haven't already!).

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    5. I'm not based in Edinburgh but I have occasionally been known to surface in the NLS Cafe of a lunchtime.

      *AnonStg*

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  12. Could be ghosts . Im sure i saw 2 ghosts when staying at fort augustus chalet park. Very eerie.

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    1. Could even be ghost yetis.

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  13. So.... let me just lay out the chain of events again, for those who are finding it hard to follow.
    On the thursday lunchtime val sweeney from the inverness courier phoned me to ask if I would look at a photo that george had sent her, I would need to look at it immediately as they were going to print that afternoon.
    I went to the dores inn, for its wifi, looked at the picture. Thinking that I knew george, and that he would be a reliable witness due to his years on the loch, and never at this point having seen the fake hump, I had no reason to think george was at it.
    next day the courier ran the picture, with my indorsement.
    On the saturday the nationals picked the story up, the daily express filled a whole page with it, along with my opinion.
    I was at Belladrum with ronald mackenzie of 'cruise loch ness'. I showed him the photo, he told me it was infact a fibreglass hump that he owned, and that it was made for a documentary about 10 years earlier.
    I went away and located that documentary and a copy of the programme that george had borrowed the hump for. I spoke to george, I contacted the film crew that were on his boat with him when he took his picture, and I borrowed the hump from ronald.
    I then instigated a double page exclusive in the daily mail, where george was exposed.
    George continued to stick to his story for quite some time, until I was behind tipping off the courier that he had told an american journalist from the wall street journal that he had faked the whole story, the courier then got his confession before the americans went to print, and exposed the truth.
    I ve since met george at a social occasion and we are both very happy with the chain of events, he is quite happy to be in the rogues gallery, and I am quite happy to have played a major part in putting him there.
    As to ending my career any time soon, I have no intention of that, in fact I have gone on to expose other cheats and liars since.
    (As i sit here in the cab of my home it is incredibly rough on the loch today, otherwise I would not have found the time to write this.)

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  14. You exposed the liars and cheats? What a fibreglass hump and a rock in another loch? Next one please Watson :-) seriously though if people want 2 do hoaxes or play tricks on their friend that is up 2 them. Not exactly criminals are they.The loch is open 2 anybody and is not owned by you Steve.

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  15. Deary me. Steve - you have no need to explain yourself to any of us. tiM - why the needle? Who's pee'd on your cornflakes?

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    1. Agreed, "tiM" is skirting the edges of Trolldom.

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  16. Sorry guys i just cant sit back and listen to the bull that comes out :-)

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  17. is there anything else that you can tell me about the loch ness monster because im doing a project on it.

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    1. Hello, explore the blog, check the various options on the right hand side.

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    2. and make sure you google Loch Ness skeptic otherwise you might start believing these made up critters are for real!!!

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  18. Just found this site. Labour of love for someone. Nicely put together. One problem. . All these sightings, photos and discussions, they don't addup to make me think theres something in there.shame, I would like to believe.

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    1. Wow,being new to this site I am impressed with how well done it is,very scientific.After reading for hours I can only say that its obvious to even the most obtuse dullard that there's an unknown giant animal in loch ness.I am now a believer,well done!!

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    2. Our conspiracy theorist posts again :)

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    3. Is it not trolling to label all skeptics as obtuse dullards? Actually he's labelling 95% of UK adults as obtuse dullards.

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    4. Burton Caruthers26 October 2014 at 06:14

      It's clearly trolling. I don't think it takes Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the two contrary anonymous posts just above were posted by the same person.

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  19. Anonymous the only conspiracy is the skeptical agenda as evidenced by the last two posters.nobody posts so ademantly about something they DONT believe in unless something else is going on.And don't.trot out the well worn excuse that you are trying to "help" the readers of this blog- blimey!!

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    1. Anonymous, you'll find a mix of reasons why sceptics bother turning up here. Some want to try and lord it over you in an intellectually arrogant way. Some regard you as deluded and want to "re-educate" you. Some regard this as a debating competition and want to win points. Others just like to discuss the Loch Ness Monster in a wider context.

      You decide on how these reasons work out in terms of proportions.

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    2. I think anonymous is right. There's a race of human-lizard hybrids who run the Illuminati. These controllers know that civilisation itself will collapse if a large animal is discovered in Loch Ness, so they pay the skeptics to come on here and post red herrings. It's to throw the masses off the scent. Once a LNM is discovered, the Illuminati will lose all their power. It's obvious really if you think about it.

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    3. I think your tongue is firmly embedded in your cheek.

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    4. Stephen Pratt (Andrew's brother)28 October 2014 at 03:52

      Well come on, this dude who keeps saying skeptics are being paid as part of a big conspiracy?? How totally ridiculous. What would be the problem to anyone on earth if a monster was discovered in Loch Ness? Would we see headlines like "NEW SPECIES DISCOVERED IN SCOTTISH LOCH. WESTERN CIVILISATION NOW IN PERIL." ??
      I don't think the discovery of the duck billed platypus or the ceolocanth caused any issues for the "secret powers" who apparently run global affairs, so why would the discovery of an unknown animal in a lake cause any trouble?
      Please can we just move on from this conspiracy theory nonsense now.

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    5. Many the Scottish Rite Freemasons don't want Nessie publicised,and maby for religious reasons??:-/

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    6. Why on earth do you think that? Please explain the logic behind your theory.

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