Guest Author - Asha Sahni
An isle yet not an island... The Black Isle is a peninsula to the north of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Before the opening of the Kessock Bridge in 1982 getting to Inverness from the Black Isle involved either a boat journey – a route which had been used for several hundred years - or a long road trip via the mouth of the peninsula at Beauly. The Kessock Bridge transformed travel in the region, making Inverness easily commutable. The bridge let outsiders in - from tourists who stayed for a day to those so enchanted by the clear light, colourful waters and fertile lands of the Black Isle that they decided to settle.
The Black Isle’s key industries in the past were fishing and farming – people needed to be self sufficient in area where weather could cut inhabitants off from supply routes. More recent industries in the area in and around the Black Isle include oil and tourism. Yet for all the modernity that has reached this part of the Highlands, there are signs and echoes of far older times including stones, cairns, burial chambers and stories of those from the otherworld who can pass between where the veil is thin. The Clootie Well, near Munlochy, is surrounded by trees garlanded with strips of cloth imbued with wishes for those who are sick. The ruined priory at Beauly was built in the thirteenth century and the beginnings of Fortrose Cathedral also date to this time.
North Kessock, home to the Kessock Bridge, looks towards Inverness and is linked to Beauly, the southernmost entrance to the Black Isle, by the Buealy Firth. Avoch, Fortrose and Rosemarkie straddle the coast of the Moray Firth, the land on the far side of the water housing Inverness Airport, Ardersier and Fort George.
Take a walk along a spit of land between Fortrose and Rosemarkie to Chanonry Point. A popular sport here is dolphin watching – stay long enough, stay patient and you are bound to see one. You also get a clear view of Fort George across the Moray Firth; this fortress was built by George II as defence against further Jacobite rebellion after the Battle of Culloden.
Cromarty stands at the end of the Black Isle peninsula. Take a ferry from Cromarty to Nigg - you will be following part of a pilgrimage route travelled many times by King James IV of Scotland. Once past the head of the peninsula you reach less populated areas – Jemimaville, Balblair, Culbokie. On the far shore of the Cromarty Firth are Invergordon, Alness and Evanton - further down the coast lies Dingwall.
The Black Isle is enclosed yet free, looking to other shores yet surrounded on three sides by water. The Kessock Bridge to the south and the Cromarty Bridge to the north have linked what was almost free standing land to other parts of the Highlands. The Black Isle is rich in beaches, wildlife and incomparable views - a Highland jewel that values ancient sites and traditions whilst welcoming change that alters patterns of land, people and waters for evermore.