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Trail Mission: Spying for the MacDonalds

COMPLETE the trail mission, DISCOVER the answer to the question, WIN your badge!

Urquhart Castle was owned in the 1500s by the Grant family. They had been given the castle and its land by the King. The MacDonalds had tried to gain control of Urquhart in the past and were not happy when the Grants moved in. In 1545, after the two families had fought a battle, the unhappy MacDonalds planned a great raid on Urquhart Castle. In order to do this they needed to know all about the castle, its defenders, what they could take and how they could attack.

Your mission is to go back in time and become an Urquhart Castle spy to help the Clan MacDonald raid the castle.

Don’t forget to collect a copy of your spy report at the visitor centre reception which you will need to complete your mission.

Explore the castle’s defences → Discover what riches they could take → Plan the raid!

Tip: The castle is very old so it doesn’t look exactly as it did in 1545. The pictures on the information boards will help you imagine what it used to be like.


The defences of the castle are what kept unwanted visitors out. There were three main things at Urquhart that the MacDonald’s need to know about – the gates, the defenders and the look out. Follow these five steps and use your spy’s report to show the MacDonald’s what to look out for.

1. Find the Gatehouse. Mark where it is on Map 1 of your spy report.

2. Find the Castle Defenders. There are two people in the gatehouse who help defend the castle; the porter and the constable. On Map 1 write two things the porter does and draw a picture of the constable.

Tip: You can find out about the porter in the guard room while the Constable lives on the floor above.

3. Find and mark the watergate on Map 1. There is a second gate into the castle – the watergate.

4. Now head up into the Citadel and find the look-out post where people can see who is coming to the Castle. Mark the look-out post on Map 1.

Tip: There is a telescope there today.

5. Draw a picture of Lord Grant on Map 1. You will have to travel all the way across the Castle to the Grant Tower. The tower was where Lord Grant would stay - you can even go upstairs to the Grant’s Private Chamber.


The lands surrounding Urquhart Castle were very rich.The MacDonalds wanted to strip those lands of everything of value. In those days wealth wasn’t just gold and silver; it was also animals and food.

Go to where the ‘Great Raid of 1545’ board is marked on Map 2 and complete the tasks below on your spy report.

1. Write on the pictures around Map 2 how many animals and objects could be taken according to the ‘Great Raid of 1545’ board.

2. Draw a line from the animals and objects to where they can be found in the castle on Map 2. The first one has been done for you.


Now you know the where the defences are, who is defending the castle and what the MacDonald’s could take, it’s time to plan the raid! You can find somewhere quiet to sit back at the visitor centre or on one of the many benches.

Draw or write on Map 2 and, if you need, the back of your spy report to show the MacDonald’s how to raid the castle.

You should tell them:

· Where they should come in from – the loch or the land?

· How they should travel – on foot or by boat?

· What they should do first – capture the porter or the constable or go straight for Lord Grant?

· Show them what you think they should take - cattle, horses, oats? Write on the pictures around map 2.


These missions were created in partnership with Historic Scotland.


How many horses did the MacDonald’s actually take in the Great Raid? (write the number e.g. 121)

Complete this mission, answer this question, win Urquhart Castle Spy badge.

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Urquhart Castle Spy

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More Missions & Location info

For More Missions and information on how to get to this location, opening times and safety tips visit the:

Urquhart Castle location page

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Discover Explore has been built by The Workshop. It is part of Discovering Places which is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor

Discovering Places is delivered in partnership between The Heritage Alliance and London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Original artwork by Tom Morgan-Jones & The Geography Collective.