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Ardvreck Castle: Ruins & Waterfalls On Loch Assynt, Scotland

Ardvreck Castle: Ruins & Waterfalls On Loch Assynt, Scotland

Ardvreck Castle is a wonderful ruin that stands watch over the beguiling landscape surrounding Loch Assynt, making it easily one of the most beautiful castle ruins in Scotland. Sitting atop a small promontory of land jutting out into the southeast corner of the loch, Ardvreck Castle enjoys a rich and colourful past, easily imagined during a visit to the crumbling ruins of this once grand Keep. But, it isn’t just Ardvreck Castle to enjoy along this NC500 stop. There’s also Calda House and a pretty wonderful waterfall at Ardvreck Castle too.

So, is Ardvreck Castle worth a stop along your North Coast 500 road trip? You betcha. And below, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting.

Read 25 Epic Beaches To Visit On The NC500 and Complete Guide to Hikes Along the NC500 guides.

About Ardvreck Castle

Ardvreck Castle, Scotland (AKA Castle Ardvreck) was built in the 15th century by the Clan Macleod of Assynt. Its tower shape is quite traditional of Scottish castles, with Ardvreck’s position on Loch Assynt strategic in terms of defence.

Ardvreck Castle made it into the history books when James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, sought refuge with Neil Macleod, the laird of Assynt, after suffering defeat at the Battle of Carbisdale. Montrose was a Royalist and had lost to the Covenanters.

But, James Graham was to be betrayed. Now, there are two theories as to what happened. The first is that the laird’s wife, Christine Macleod, welcomed Montrose into Ardvreck, but then tricked and trapped him in the castle dungeons, before sending word to the Covenanters. The second theory is that Neil Macleod himself betrayed Montrose, in return being rewarded with a handsome sum for his troubles.

Montrose was then taken to Edinburgh for trial, where he was executed. Macleod vehemently denied his involvement, which would be seen widely as a betrayal of Highland hospitality. It’s possible the theory was spread by the Clan Macleod’s rivals, the Clan MacKenzie as a way to ruin the family. Either way, the fortunes of Ardvreck and the Macleods of Assynt began to wane after this event.

In 1672, the MacKenzies attacked Ardvreck and came out victorious. They took over Ardvreck Castle until a century later, when it was hit by lightning and destroyed. So, the MacKenzies decided to build the Calda House manor house nearby as a replacement. A decade later, the more modern Calda manor house burned down, and, before the clan had a chance to rebuild it, the house was seized by the Crown.

Ardvreck Castle and Calda House have been ruined ever since, standing eerily on the banks of Loch Assynt.

Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt Scotland near Calda House

Where Is Ardvreck Castle?

Ardvreck Castle sits on the eastern banks of the beautiful Loch Assynt in Sutherland, Scotland. It’s an easy stop along the NC500 drive as the A837 road passes right by. South of Ardvreck Castle is the large Highland town of Ullapool, whereas driving west will bring you to the pretty coastal town of Lochinver.

Feel free to click on the interactive Google Map below to see where Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt is located.

How to Get to Ardvreck Castle in Scotland

It’s easiest to reach Ardvreck Castle, the waterfall and Calda House with your own set of wheels. Loch Assynt is fairly remote and public transport isn’t ultra reliable. It’s around 40km (25 miles) and a 40 minute drive north of Ullapool. From Lochinver, Ardvreck Castle is a closer 20 minute drive and 18km (11 miles) away.

Public Transport to Loch Assynt

The #809 bus runs between Lochinver and Ullapool, stopping at Ardvreck Castle. But, please note that this bus only seems to operate on a Tuesday, so using public transport is fairly inconvenient. To that end, we can only really recommend having your own vehicle.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Visiting Ardvreck Castle

A visit to Ardvreck Castle, the waterfall and Calda House is very straightforward. There are at least five pull-in car parks located next to Ardvreck Castle, just off the A837. You’ll see all located on Google Maps and as such, would be highly unlikely to not find some form of parking as you pass by.

From any of the parking spots, it’s a short walk down onto the grassy embankment at the side of the road, across to the promontory Ardvreck Castle sits on. You’ll immediately fall in love with this most beguiling and wild setting. Ardvreck Castles pops perfectly against the backdrop of captivating Scottish mountains. There’s an air of mystery to the place and wonderfully, it’s completely free to explore.

Passing through a small stone wall, you’ll enter the grounds of this once-grand tower house. The remains are small but they allude to its past just enough to conjure romantic images of yesteryear. Exploring the castle grounds won’t take long. Take care as you scramble around – this is a crumbling ruin after all.

After exploring Ardvreck Castle, you must find the Ardvreck Castle Waterfall.

Ardvreck Castle Waterfall

Heading back to the parking areas, cross over the A837 and head into the grassy land beyond. You’ll roughly follow the small stream, that runs into Loch Assynt, into the hillside beyond. Soon, you’ll spot the Ardvreck Castle Waterfall. It’s a pretty cascade that’s a definite surprise to the Ardvreck Castle stop. But, it makes sense that such a lovely waterfall would be here, since the whole landscape is just so wonderful.

The trail leading to and from the Ardvreck Castle Waterfall can be quite muddy and slippery, so decent footwear is a good idea.

Ardvreck Castle Waterfall close to Calda House

Calda House

After visiting Ardvreck Castle Waterfall, you can head down to check out Calda House. You’ll find Calda House sits south of Ardvreck Castle along the banks of Loch Assynt. This now ruinous stone house once belonged to the MacKenzie Clan. It was named after the nearby Calda Burn and is said to have been built after the lightning strike that destroyed Ardvreck Castle.

In addition, there are theories suggesting that when Kenneth MacKenzie brought his new wife, Frances, to Ardvreck Castle, it was not to her liking. And so, Calda House was commissioned. Calda House wasn’t cheap to build though, and among other things, the expense caused the MacKenzie family to fall into debt. They were forced to sell to their rival, the Earl of Sutherland. Ardent supporters of the MacKenzie Clan, who were not keen on a Sutherland living in Calda House, determined to burn the house to the ground. And in 1737, they did.

Attractions Close to Ardvreck Castle

Assynt is one of the wildest and most remote sections of the NC500 and the Scottish Highlands as a whole. So, as you can imagine, there are plenty of natural attractions to explore beyond Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt. Below are some of our favourite places to see nearby.

  • Wailing Widow Falls: a wonderful waterfall drops from Loch na Gainmhich surrounded by mountain peaks.
  • Eas a Chual Aluinn: hike to Britain’s highest waterfall.
  • Quinag: an incredible hike overlooking the beautiful Assynt wilderness.
  • The Bone Caves: just south of Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt is a series of epic caves.
  • Falls of Kirkaig: if you love waterfalls, this one is a must with wonderful views of Suilven.
  • Kylesku Bridge: one of the most photographed bridges in Scotland.
  • Suilven: a full-day hike to a truly iconic mountain in the Highlands.
  • Achmelvich Beach: discover a world-class beach on the NC500.
  • Clachtoll Beach: the white sands and turquoise waters at Clachtoll will leave you astounded.
Dan hiking Quinag in Assynt, Scotland

Other Castles on the NC500

If Scotland does one thing well, it’s castles. Below are some of the epic castles you can explore along the NC500.

  • Strome Castle: pretty ruins on the banks of the wonderful Loch Carron.
  • Castle Varrich: a small castle ruin perched on an exposed hilltop overlooking the Kyle of Tongue.
  • Old Keiss Castle: take a short walk along the rugged coastline to this castle, surely about to drop into the sea at any moment.
  • Castle Sinclair Girnigoe: on the Noss Head headland, with views across Sinclair’s Bay, is a quick and easy walk to a history-filled Scottish castle.
  • Dunrobin Castle: perhaps the most popular Highlands castle on the NC500, and for good reason.
  • Castle of Mey: a perfectly positioned castle on the northern shores of Scotland with views to the Orkney Isles.
  • Inverness Castle: a worthy stop as you begin or finish your NC500 road trip.
  • Urquhart Castle: not strictly on the NC500, but just south of Inverness on the eastern banks of Loch Ness is this splendid castle ruin. It’s also one of the largest castles in Scotland.

Nearest Accommodation to Ardvreck Castle

Below, we’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options close to Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt.

  • Budget: the Inchnadamph Explorers Lodge is a fantastic hostel option on the shore of Loch Assynt. There’s free private parking and guests can relax in the shared lounge after a day of exploring.
  • Mid-range: you’ll find Newton Lodge in nearby Ullapool. The views of Quinag and Assynt from this picturesque white house are completely staggering. Plus, you’re close to Kylesku Bridge, so it’ll be super easy to visit this fantastic attraction too.
  • Luxury: over in Ullapool, Ardvreck House is a popular stay. The spacious rooms come with awesome views, the breakfast is yummy and ultimately this hotel makes a great base from which to explore Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt and all the other attractions we listed which are nearby.

Camping Options

  • Ardmair Point Holiday Park: Dan and I camped for a few nights at Ardmair Point Holiday Park. The facilities are great, there’s plenty of space and it’s just a 40-minute drive to get to Ardvreck Castle and Calda House.
  • Achmelvich Beach: you’ll find the majority of other campsite options at Achmelvich Beach. It’s just a quick 15-minute drive from Lochinver and not too far from Loch Assynt. Here, you can happily pitch up practically on the beach. Top options include Shore Caravan Site and North Coast 500 Pods.

Wild Camping

Of course, wild camping is permitted in Scotland. However, campers need to follow a standard set of guidelines. These rules revolve around respecting the countryside and ultimately staying safe. Tents should also be out of view from the roadside, where possible. Also, if using a car park with your camper, don’t linger too long into the day or arrive too early in the evening.

Beware the Ardvreck Castle ghost if you choose to camp here. Well, if you believe in that kinda thing anyway.

Ardvreck Castle and waterfall on Loch Assynt

Travel Insurance For the NC500

Whether you’re from the UK or further afield, travel insurance is a necessary evil, especially if taking on a road trip like the NC500.

Heymondo is one of the best budget travel insurance providers on the market. They provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance that won’t break the bank. Whether it’s single trip insurance, annual multi-trip insurance or long stay insurance, Heymondo offers affordable travel and medical insurance to suit all of your needs. Personally, we use Heymondo travel insurance and highly recommend it. To find out more about Heymondo travel and medical insurance, read our Heymondo travel insurance review.

Travel Insurance

Heymondo Travel Insurance

Don’t leave for your trip without booking travel insurance. We all know accidents can happen and having Heymondo travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong. Click the button below to receive a 5% discount!

Travel Essentials For Ardvreck Castle

These are our travel essentials for visiting Ardvreck Castle on Loch Assynt, Scotland. You should also pack water, snacks and sunscreen. And of course, your camera!

Anker Portable Power Bank
Anker Portable Power Bank

Keep your phone, laptop and other accessories charged while you’re on the go with the Anker Portable Power Bank. We wouldn’t travel without this high-quality portable charger.

Sea to Summit DryLite Towel
Sea to Summit DryLite Towel

The Sea to Summit DryLite Towel is the best quick-dry microfibre towel. This compact, lightweight and super-absorbent towel is perfect for travel.

EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter
EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter

Having an EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter is one of the best accessories to travel with, especially if you’re travelling to multiple continents during your trip.

Noise Cancelling Headphones
Noise Cancelling Headphones

If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly yet high-quality noise-cancelling headphones for travel, then look no further than the Anker Soundcore Space Q45.

Wise Multi-Currency Card
Wise Multi-Currency Card

We use the Wise Multi-Currency Card to pay online and when we travel abroad. It’s really easy to use and a lot cheaper than using bank cards. To order a free card, click the button below.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite travel gear, camera gear and hiking gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

Ardvreck Castle ruins in Scotland near Calda House

Bonus Tips

  • Weather: you can’t always rely on the weather to behave in the Highlands. But, it turns out visiting castles and waterfalls is a great thing to do on wet weather days, and Ardvreck has both! You can be prepared and check the local forecast for Loch Assynt here.
  • Tours and Activities: for some hassle-free tours of the wider Highlands, GetYourGuide offers some pretty excellent trips around the Scottish Highlands.

Share this post with your NC500 road trip buddies!

Beck Piggott

With an art and design based background, Beck uses photography and writing to help inspire readers to climb mountains, hike coastal trails and chase waterfalls around the globe.

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