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Scotland Cromarty

At the tip of the Black Isle overlooking the Cromarty Firth, Cromarty is still an unspoilt C18th village.


Cromarty was a Royal Burgh in the C13th, with its economy based on fishing and agriculture. By the C17th century, it was a major centre for the export of salt fish. During the herring boom of the C19th, dozens of small fishing boats sailed from the harbour.

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In the C18th and early C19th, Cromarty was a major port, rivalling Inverness, trading as far afield as Russia, Norway, Sweden, Holland and even the Mediterranean.

George Ross acquired the estate in the 1760s and the town is very much his creation. He built the harbour and imported raw materials from the Baltic to supply the cloth, rope and hardware to his factories which employed workers from all parts of the Highlands. He also built the courthouse, Gaelic Chapel and Cromarty House on the site of the old castle belonging to the Earls of Ross. The population increased with increasing prosperity and many of the old houses were replaced.

Cromarty was bypassed by the railway, and with the disappearance of the herring, the economy declined and there was virtually no new building.

The discovery of oil in the North Sea brought prosperity back to the Cromarty Firth. A construction and repair yard for drilling platforms was opened at Nigg, opposite Cromarty, in 1972, and this was then the largest dry dock in the world. Oil platforms in the Firth are waiting repair or refitting, or are simply anchored here when not in use.



The arrival of North Sea oil and improved transport links led to an influx in population. Many of the derelict cottages and merchant’s houses were renovated. Arts and craftspeople also moved into the town. Cromarty is now back on the tourist map, with its mixture of fishermen’s cottages and merchant’s houses.






High Street, Church Street and Bank Street are lined with impressive red sandstone buildings.



The supermarkets have yet to arrive in Cromarty and most of the small shops are found along these streets.



Cromarty is compact and easily explored on foot.

St Regulus Church on Church Street began as a Mission from Fortrose in 1877. The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1904 and the church completed by 1906. It served as the Garrison Chapel for the Army and Navy during both world wars.



Behind the church and down a narrow footpath is the roofless Gaelic Chapel surrounded by a graveyard. This was built in 1783 to serve an influx of Gaelic speaking Highlanders coming to work in Cromarty. The congregation was disbanded in 1918 although the chapel was used by Roman Catholic Polish servicemen stationed in the area during World War Two.

Next to St Regulus Church is the Hugh Miller Institute which was presented to the town in 1903 by the Carnegie Institute. It is still the library.


The Courthouse was built in 1773 and is a splendid building with central clock tower and Georgian windows. It had three prison cells, exercise area and a courthouse on the first floor. It also served as a meeting place for the burgh council. It is now a museum.


Next to it is Hugh Millar’s Cottage and Museum. The thatched cottage was built by Hugh Millar’s great grandfather in the 1700s and is the only thatched cottage left in Cromarty. Hugh was born in the cottage in 1802 and it has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland as it might have been during his lifetime. Next to it is Miller House built by Hugh’s Father and the home of Hugh after his marriage to Lydia Fraser. It is now a museum about Hugh Millar’s life and work.



After leaving school. Hugh was apprenticed to a stone mason and became interested in geology and discovered many new fossils. He revolutionised current thinking with his ideas the earth was of great age and had been inhabited by many different species which had become extinct. He believed new species were the direct action of a benevolent Creator, as attested in the Bible. He published many books supporting his ideas.

Silicosis meant he had to give that up work as a stonemason and and he became an accountant in a local bank. He became a prolific and notable author publishing works on local folklore and traditions. He was also active in church affairs and left Cromarty for Edinburgh where he was editor of The Witness, the newspaper for the Free Church of Scotland. He was an influential writer and speaker in t and became a champion of social, religious and political reform.

Hugh Millar suffered from mental illness in later life with severe headaches and delusions of persecution. He became concerned he might and shot himself in 1853, having finished proof reading his book on Geology and Christianity. His funeral procession drew huge crowds.

The Freemason’s Robertson’s Lodge No 1345 on Duke Street was established in 1774 with twenty three members. By 1779 it was playing a prominent role in the town buying shiploads of coal and wheat to sell to the populace and also acting as a ‘Friendly Society’.


A lighthouse was built on the south tip of the promontory that juts into the Moray Firth in 1842 to guide ships from the North Sea to the Moray and Cromarty Firths, which was an important base for the Royal Navy at Invergordon. The Light was discontinued in 2005 and the buildings now belong to the University of Aberdeen for their research studies on the bottle nose dolphins seen in the Moray Firth and also the effects of man-made environmental changes on marine mammals and seabirds.

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