The Black Isle, just north of Inverness is well worth a visit. It is a rich agricultural area with more leafy lanes than elsewhere in this part of the Highlands.
From Nairn, take the A96 to Inverness, then onto the A9 north. Just across the Kessock Bridge you’ll see signs for Tourist Information. Here you’ll also find a Ralia Cafe and an information centre on Dolphins and Seals.
Exit onto the A9 and drive about a mile until you see signs for Munlochy on your right – B9161. The Black Isle Wildlife Park (Open April-October) is on the B9161. Alternatively, stay on the A9 until the next right and call in to the Black Isle Brewery where a brief tour explains the making of Ale and there is a Brewery shop. Continue to Munlochy and once through the town turn right onto the A832.
You’ll soon arrive at Avoch (pronounced “och” as in loch). Dolphin boat trips run regularly from Avoch although you may also catch a glimpse of them at Chanonry Point. But before you get to Chanonry you’ll drive through Fortrose where you may wish to stop and visit the ruins of Fortrose Cathedral (right). Follow the signs to the right to explore the ruins of this 12th century cathedral.
As you come to the edge of town on the way out of Fortrose you’ll see signs to Chanonry Point on the right. About a mile down this road you’ll come to the Chanonry Point lighthouse. The beach area is often busy with eager dolphin watchers. If you are lucky you’ll see them playing and leaping around in the water. You may see a sight that will stand out as a highlight of your visit – but be aware that the dolphins are not there every day.
Across the water you’ll be able to make out the distinctive architecture of Fort George. Return to the main road and turn right. Very soon you’ll arrive in Rosemarkie. If you are ready for a coffee break – or perhaps lunch, turn right at the bottom of the hill as you enter the town, where the main road bends to the left. Down the hill at the water’s edge you’ll find the Crofters Bistro. Plenty of parking – on the road or further along in the car park.
There is a lovely beach at Rosemarkie. The exit from the car park is at the far end on the left. Just up the hill you’ll rejoin the main road. Before the junction there is another car park on the left and if you did not get access to the Crofters Bistro there is a pub just on the junction. Photo on left taken from Chanonry Point looking towards Rosemarkie.
Continue along the A832 all the way into Cromarty. In the town centre you’ll see signs for Hugh Miller’s Cottage. However, you may wish to continue through the town and park at the waters edge where there is plenty of parking space.
The Hugh Miller Memorial and Cottage on Church St are well worth a visit. Church St is to the right of this photo by the pillar box.
Cromarty is a lovely small town and it’s well worth devoting some time to wandering round its streets and lanes – and the small harbour (photo). You can get a meal or afternoon tea at the Royal Hotel or just behind the hotel look for the Sutor Creek Cafe. Alongside the Cafe is EcoVentures who offer Dolphin speed-boat trips.
When ready to return to Nairn, drive back up through the town and turn right onto the B9163 for a pleasant drive along the Cromarty Firth. You may see a cruise ship berthed across the water at Invergordon pier. You will eventually come to a T-junction. The quicker route back to the A9 is to the left, but if you want to see more of the Black Isle turn right. Either route will take you to the A9 and back to Nairn via Inverness.