Not an island at all, the Black Isle - info here - is a large peninsula lying between the Moray Firth and the Cromarty Firth – remember that word FIRTH, meaning the wide estuary of a river meeting the sea? – just a little northeast of Inverness, and that’s where Ray drove us to the next day. It was a beautiful day, though still a bit breezy but we crossed the Moray Firth by the relatively new Kessock Bridge – 1980s – and turned right to head for Cromarty, stopping to look at the most amazing of sights!
The Munlochy Clootie Well! These type of wells were thought to have healing powers. Wash an injury or a diseased part of the body with a cloth (or a cloot) soaked in the water, hang the cloot on a tree growing nearby and as it rots away so does the disease or injury.
The trees round this well have been decorated with bits of cloth for centuries , and people still do it today, although the cloots have become whole t-shirts, flags, ties, shirts……….. and are now hung for luck! Some people say you have to walk around the well 3 times and then make a wish. Whatever, it is all tied up with Celtic tradition before Christianity took over a lot of the old festivals etc. We’re still a superstitious bunch of people, it seems!
We were heading for Cromarty, but passed through small fishing villages on the way – Avoch pronounced Och (as in “och aye the noo!” which folk think the Scots say all the time! We don’t!), Fortrose with its ruined 13th century cathedral, Rosemarkie, famous for its Pictish stones and its fossils. We saw several little streets with rows of low white houses on either side, stretching away from the main road towards the sea – very pretty. We didn’t stop, until we came to Cromarty itself, once the main village in the county of Cromarty. We parked there and found a cafe for something to eat, then spent the afternoon wandering round its quaint streets and vennels stretching down to the shore, with pretty white-painted cottages on either side. These would have been fishermens’ cottages once, but there were also large merchants’ houses
One of these is now a museum of the life of 19th century stonemason, geologist, writer and churchman Hugh Miller,
Hugh Miller from the painting of the Disruption, by David Octavius Hill
with, next to it, the older cottage where Miller grew up. I spent quite a lot of time here, finding it very interesting indeed. Here is the kitchen in the old house, arranged as it would have appeared in the 18th century, though the furniture in general did not come from the house originally. The museum house , as well as the cottage, were built by Hugh’s father, and for a few years Hugh lived here with his wife. Well worth a visit. In the drawing above you can see a tower next to the taller house. This belongs to what was the courthouse, also a museum. The old courtroom itself has an actual hearing going on all the time, local landowner of the 18th century,George Ross MP, presiding in the centre, on the bench, the defendant opposite, with the arresting officer on the right and a witness in the box next to the bench. The words appear to be spoken by the models, and you are relieved that Mr Ross is a sympathetic and sensible judge.
I spent so much time in the museums that Janet and Ray had “adjourned” to the hostelry across the road to wait for me. After a wee glass of wine I had a further quick walk around the block before it was time to set off back home. We drove round the other side of the village and saw the primary school with its round tower, passed the harbour with its Stephenson lighthouse , and the old hemp-works, now residential apartments, completing the circuit of the peninsula by returning by the north coast with views of Nigg and Invergordon,
once household names because of the oil industry. Sitting in the back of a car, it is not easy to take pictures, but I managed to point the camera through the rear window as we came through Jemimaville, a very attractive long-ish village of just the one street, I think. It’s a bit blurred, I’m afraid.
And so before we knew it we were back on the A9, bound once more for the Kessock Bridge and Inverness.
Ray cooked tea that evening and the meal we sat down to was delicious! Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with roast tatties, and a selection of veggies. It were a’reet! as they’d say down in the north east of England where Ray came from. Very alright, I’d venture to add!
Talk again soon.