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Cromaty Scotland

The Magic Of Cromarty

The Highland village of Cromarty has charmingly preserved its rich
seagoing past while creating a welcoming, 21st-century community.

BY PHILIP PARIS

Cromarty is full of history, much of it based around the sea since, for more than 700 years, it has depended upon fishing (generally herring) and its port for transporting goods for its livelihood. For centuries the village lay on the main coastal route north from Inverness and was also a key stop-off point for people travelling south, often on pilgrimage to the chapel of St. Duthac at nearby Tain.

These days a four-car ferry, the Cromarty Queen, runs daily from Cromarty to Nigg on the opposite side of the firth, usually between June and October. The journey takes about 15 minutes, but it's wise to double check sailings because low tides and rough weather can result in the ferry remaining at the harbour for several hours or being cancelled altogether.

The Cromarty Firth is designated as a special protection area for wildlife conservation purposes. The entrance is protected by two hills, the North and South Sutors, so called because they were thought to resemble two giant shoemakers ("souters" in Scots). One of my favourite walks is to leave the town by the east path, pass the bay where geologist Hugh Miller made his early fossil discoveries and head through the woods. The path climbs ever higher, providing occasional stunning views until you burst out above the tree line at around 140 metres (460 feet).

It's not a difficult walk. My preference, which is what I did on my most recent visit, is to return via an inland route. This goes past The Stables, an impressive Georgian building that has been converted into a gallery, along with studios and workshops for local artists. There are even various accommodations for artists in residence and over the years these have included a tapestry weaver, silversmith, illustrator, photographer, bookbinder and stone letter carver!

Cromarty is a magnet for creative souls and one of its great attractions is that it is crammed with artists. I stopped off at The Stables and met up with Canadian painter Pat Hay, who kindly showed me around the studio and the oil painting she was working on, which was inspired by the local landscape.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2014 issue of Scottish Life.

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