At the far end of the promontory known as the black isle, lies Cromarty. You won't pass through it on the way to anywhere, unless you make a special journey, but will be well rewarded for the effort.
The name "Cromarty" is taken from the Pictish "Croumba", but the place known to the Romans as Portus Salutis was later called Sicarsund (safe anchorage) by Norsemen.
Over the years, the bay has harboured many ships and provided safety for the Merchant and Royal Naval fleets in both World Wars 1 & 2, protected on either side of its entrance by gun batteries and observation points on the North and South Sutors (evidence of them remains today).
The town itself is Cromarty Mark 3. Ruins of Mark 2 could be seen at low tide at one time and Cromarty Mark 1 existed before the days of recorded history. The architecture is very distinctive and the town boasts several listed buildings. It sits contentedly in its uniqueness like an old man dozing peacefully while dreaming of his turbulent past.
It is said that MacBeth was in fact, Thane of Cromarty. It is known that Scottish Kings passed through Cromarty on their way to pay homage at the shrine of St Duthac in Tain. It is also said that one of Wallace's victories over the English took place on a hill outside the town.
At one time, Cromarty was a thriving port and subsequently, after a decline in trade, a busy fishing town. These days are gone and even the comparitively recent boost in the local economy, in the shape of oil rig construction and maintenance, is now in jeopardy, though the rigs in the bay add a touch of drama to the view, especially at night.
There remains in Cromarty some of the 18th
Century merchant houses and winding narrow streets and tiny cottages in the old Fishertown. The "Paye", the pilgrim route to St Duthac's Shrine, runs on to Church Street where you will find the old courthouse, now an award winning museum. Also in Chursh Street Hugh Miller's Cottage, the Hugh Miller Institute (gifted by A Carnegie and the East Church, most intriguing and possibly prereformation. On the North side of the town, a lighthouse built by the Stevenson Family (Robert Loius) stands.
You're unlikely to shop till you drop in Cromarty but if you do, sustenance awaits in several tearooms and two hotels. There are a few craft and antique shops that are well worth investigating. A two car ferry runs from Cromarty to Nigg (summer months only), take this to continue the Kings route of pilgrimage. Cromarty is a visual feast, food for the imagination, a gentle trip into the past, enhanced by the friendliness of the local people.
Thanks to Doris McCann helping promote Cromarty.