Saturday 4 July 2015
Fortrose to Cromarty
Sydney House B&B
What a difference a day makes. I knew rain was forecast so I got up early to try and get my tent down before it started; 5.15 am was not early enough! The sky was very black and I had only just managed to pack away my sleeping bag and mat when it started raining. I got back in my tent for a bit contemplating my next move; I decided that I would have to pack the tent away wet, so that’s what I did as soon as it eased off a bit. I was away by 7.30 and immediately I started walking the rain became heavier. I walked down to Chanonry Point but there were no dolphins to watch this morning and no people out trying to catch a glimpse. I could barely see across the narrow stretch of water to Fort George.
By 8.30 I was soaked through to my skin and starting to get cold. I stopped in the Spar at Rosemarkie and they advised me there was some shelter down by the beach cafe, although the cafe didn’t open until 10.30. I was heading to the beach anyway as the path to Cromarty ran along the shoreline but was only accessible at low tide.
Looking at the high cliffs I decided it would be foolhardy to take the path in the driving rain as it involved scrambling across rocks and beating the tide. I sat outside the cafe for an hour and a half, sheltering from the wind and rain. I had to put several layers on, including my coat.
At 10.30 the cafe opened and I could shelter inside with a coffee and a bacon sandwich. A little warmer I headed back out to walk down the beach to look at the amazing rocks that are different to the sandstone that is everywhere else on Black Isle. Apparently the rocks here have been pushed up from the Great Glen at some point. Many are rather striking.
The sea was already at the base of the cliffs so there was no way I could walk the path to Cromarty.
I could walk the roads, but instead I chose to take a walk up the Fairy Glen to the waterfalls that are supposedly where some fairies live. The waterfalls were indeed spectacular and were worth the walk up the muddy gorge.
Back in Rosemarkie the rain was easing off but I was still soaked and wearing 5 layers of clothes. I waited for the Pictish museum to open at 2 pm (seriously, nothing is ever open this far North) and went for a look around before getting the bus to Cromarty. The museum contains a beautiful cross slab from 8th Century Pictland and I learnt a bit about the Picts, who were farmers in East Scotland. This area has a tie with Lindisfarne as St Columba came here in the 6th Century from Iona to spread Christianity.
Cromarty is a lovely town built on a small protrusion of land at the neck of the Cromarty Firth. It was on the Medieval pilgrims’ route heading North to the Shrine of St Duthac at Tain; the ferry between Cromarty and Nigg being a constant feature since then…at least until now. Unfortunately the ferry has been cancelled this year until repair work is carried out on the Nigg landing area. I had intended to get that ferry! I even tried the local harbour pub to see if any fishermen could take me but no joy.
Cromarty has retained many of its fine old buildings from the 18th and 19th Century and it’s good looks draw in the tourists. It was the birthplace of Hugh Millar, who taught himself geology and discovered a fossilised Pterichthys (winged fish) in the old red sandstone on the Cromarty foreshore in 1830.
The Cromarty Firth is protected by the North and South Sutors (hills either side of the Firth entrance). Sutor means shoemaker in Scots and Legend has it that 2 giants used the Sutors for workbenches. As the clouds broke in the late afternoon I walked up to the top of South Sutor to admire the view; I could see right across the Moray Firth as well as back inland.
On the way out of Cromarty I stopped to take a look at the Cromarty Community Archaeology Project that is excavating a medieval burgh.
The Cromarty Arms was rather quiet early evening as there was a fiddle concert in the old East Church (part of the Black Isle Fiddlers Weekend!) so I think lots of people had gone to that. Sadly it was sold out and I didn’t have the energy to wait and see if they came into the pub for last orders.