The Black Isle
The Black Isle is situated near Inverness, the ‘Capital of the Highlands’ in Northern Scotland. Contrary to its name the Black Isle is not an island but a peninsula. The Cromarty, Moray and Beauly Firths frame the majestic scenery of this vast wedge of land.
We were fortunate to be House Sitting in an area that had views overlooking the Cromarty Firth and the snow-capped mountain of Ben Wyvis. We called it Gods Country because of its beauty.
The drive to Ullapool is just as impressive as the charming fishing village. Nothing prepared us for the spectacular scenery along the way, mountains, lochs and glens unfolded before us as we drove along the highway.
At Dunrobin Castle we enjoyed exploring the grounds and learning the history of this stunning castle, the home of the Earls of Sutherland.
As much as we loved these trips we soon came to realise that there was so much to see on our own doorstep, the Black Isle.
Discovering the Black Isle
Following the road signs to the village of Cromarty. We passed farmhouses and fields which made their way down to the banks of the Cromarty Firth.
Unexpectedly the Firth opened up to an expanse of water with Oil Rigs taking centre stage as they wait to be either repaired or decommissioned. Nothing prepares you for the size of these massive structures, such an impressive sight to see.
Driving along the shoreline of the Firth we were amazed at the abundance of seabirds and wildlife. The Cromarty Firth is home to seals, dolphins and porpoises.
There are small beaches along the way to go beach combing. Being April we enjoyed the chill against our face and the wind in our hair, just be sure to rug up and keep warm.
Cromarty’s mix of Georgian merchants houses and traditional fisherman’s cottages take you back to the boom days of this fishing villages’ past. The hard working folk of Cromarty have endured many hardships, always reinventing themselves by changing industry.
Cromarty’s past economic booms have included herring fishery, hemp manufacture, rope making and a thriving port to name a few.
A visit to the Cromarty Courthouse Museum is a great way to learn more about Cromarty’s people and history and best of all its free.
Hugh Millers Birthplace and Cottage Museum is an interesting museum commemorating the life of the noted geologist, paleontologist and author. Apart from his scientific interests Hugh Miller wrote poems and a collection of local folk stories which were published in the book “Scenes and Legends of the North Scotland”.
Arts & Crafts of the Black Isle
Cromarty supports the local and Scottish art scene. Gallery 48 is housed in a restored fisherman’s cottage and not only showcases artists from the Black Isle but artists from all over Scotland.
Housed next to Galley 48 you will find Cromarty Pottery. Cromarty Pottery is a colourful shop which displays a mix of the owner’s work and the work of other artists.
Eat & Drink
With views overlooking the harbour, The Royal Hotel is a great place to come in from the cold and relax. The menu features local produce and good way to sample the best the Black Isle has to offer.
The Pantry is a cosy coffee shop with a selection of homemade soups and baked goods and friendly staff.
Cromarty Bakery’s reputation had proceeded itself. We spoke to locals who advised us to get in quick or we would miss out on the best bread we’d ever taste. They were right, this bakery is definitely worth a visit.
The Cheese House is located in the Old Police Station, the Cheese House Cromarty has a range of locally produced cheeses, chutney’s and other goods as well as Dutch farmer’s cheese making this shop a cheese lovers delight.
Leaving Cromarty and the Cromarty Firth we set out to explore the other side of the Black Isle.
With its grand Victorian villas and cottages Rosemarkie is a very pretty village that has spectacular scenery overlooking the Moray Firth.
Things to do
Rosemarkie is an ancient village and an early centre of Christianity. Settled by the Picts, intricately carved stones dating from the 8th Century AD have been discovered on the site.
Groam House Museum has a display of Pictish stones and shows an interesting video about these fascinating people and their way of life.
Rosemarkie Camping and Caravanning club site overlooks the beaches of Rosemarkie Bay and Fort George. A great place to go beachcombing.
Jutting out into the Moray Firth the Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club enjoys spectacular views from the Chanonry Peninsula. This can be a challenging course especially on a windy day.
Chanonry Point, watch out for flying golf balls as you drive through the golf course to get to the Point. Be on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins and take in the grandeur of the Moray Firth. We visited on a wild and windy day and were still struck by its beauty.
Other Attractions in The Black Isle and the Surrounding Areas.
The Glen Ord Distillery in the village of Muir of Ord.
The Storehouse of Foulis is a local history Museum situated near The Storehouse a very popular restaurant and shop selling local produce.
Driving into Strathpeffer is like taking a trip back in time. Admire the architecture of this charming old Victorian spa town.
Would I Visit the Black Isle Again?
Yes! I feel we have only just begun to discover this magical part of the World and hope that we can return someday soon to the Black Isle.