It was time to get back to the far north east of Scotland and continue with my walk around the Black Isle. I gave myself three days of walking in which I would walk over the Kessock Bridge and go some way to completing the coastal part of the Highland Region. I knew that most of the walking would be predominantly along roads, with some farm tracks and footpaths, perhaps even the possibility of some beach walking!
I drove up the day before to my very cheap B&B in Inverness. The following day I drove to and parked in Rosemarkie on the Black Isle. I caught the 07:00 #26A bus to Cromarty. I was rather annoyed because the bus arrived 10 minutes early and departed straight away! Nice, but tough luck if you arrived 9 minutes before the bus was due to depart. At Cromarty I caught the 07:25 #21 bus to Balblair.
At this time of the year the light disappears very quickly, so it is always a balancing game trying to arrive just as it begins to get light and also safe to walk. Making the best use of the available light is key at this time of the year. It was still dark when I arrived at Balblair, I walked down a quiet lane towards the Cromarty Firth.
I headed past Newhall Point and continued along the single track road to the ancient burial ground at Kirkmichael where the lane joined the main road – the B9163. The old kirk, now fully restored was a fascinating place to visit and I was able to gain access to chapel. Amazing gravestones were on display both outside and inside the chapel, spanning some 800 years. The site reminded me of my visit, a few years ago, to Kilmun, just north of Dunoon which also had a varied and interesting selection of stones on show. It would have been nice to explore the site more closely if time had allowed.
I continued along the road with my head torch flashing a red strobe. The traffic was also quite light and I was able to hop up onto the verge when any traffic approached. I called into a large RSPB hide at the roadside just before the intriguingly named village of Jemimaville, taking its name from the wife of a former laird. I continued on towards the village of Cromarty, again it would have been nice to explore this charming little village. I passed by the small cottage of Cromarty’s famous son, Hugh Miller, stonemason and self-taught Geologist, where there is a good collection of the fossils that Miller collected during his lifetime. I headed out of the village towards the wooded hill forming The South Sutor. I noted a hand written piece of cardboard attached to the finger post, saying “Shooting in progress”. Unsure of the context of the message I ignored it. The climb up to South Sutor was a steep one, but I was rewarded with excellent views across Cromarty Firth and across to Nigg Ferry.
I headed across an unnamed hill and continued onto Gallow Hill (154m) where I had a superb viewpoint across the Moray Firth and also down Cromarty Firth. I descended the hill to join a single track road and head south westwards. I past another of the shooting signs, just as I spotted a chap firing, what appeared to be a high velocity rifle. The farm track I was now on joined up with a quiet lane and I continued onto Eathie Mains.
Just further on from Eathie Mains I had intended to walk about a kilometre and then descend down onto the beach to an old salmon fishing station. From there I would continue along the beach all the way back to Rosemarkie. The problem with this route was that it was tidal. I knew the route was passable at low tide, but I did not know what margin I had. I checked my watch and could see that the tide had been “flowing” for almost an hour. By the time I had walked down to the beach and then some three miles along the beach to where the tidal “pinch-point” was, the tide would have been flowing for three hours. Escaping up the steep-sided cliffs through gorse or back-tracking was not an option. I decided not to risk it. I continued along the empty road along the spine of the wooded Black Isle hills.
The minor road eventually led me out onto the busy A832, with no verge or path for the remaining two miles into Rosemarkie. However, I was now able to drop down into The Fairy Glen, descending into the wooded gorge of the Rosemarkie Burn, where a great footpath lead past a series of waterfalls all the way into Rosemarkie. This was a great way to end the walk after the disappointment of not being able to walk along the coast.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance = 5,453 miles