Nairn Past & Present

With sandy beaches, mild weather and a host of attractions to suit all tastes and ages, where better to visit than Nairn?

Nairn Past & Present
© Ian Bowie Photography

With a population of around 11,000, the town has been a popular holiday destination since the 19th century. Over the years shops and services come and go on the High St, but in other ways, not a lot changes. You will still see many fine buildings as you wander up the High St.

The name of the town has a Gaelic origin – Inbhir Narann, being situated at the mouth of “the waters of Alders” (Gaelic: Uisge-Nearn), now known simply as Nairn. The town and surrounding area has numerous places of interest. It is an area rich in history going back to the Bronze Age.

A Christian cell was established in the 4th century and the town was granted its first royal charter by Alexander 1 in the 12th century. But people lived in the area long before the 4th century. Within a few miles of Nairn a number of cairns exist, dating from the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age. Many sites have suffered the ravages of time, but Clava Cairns, on the southern side of Culloden Moor, is a well-preserved example and well worth a visit.

Nairn is closely linked to the Battle of Culloden, the last land battle on mainland Britain. A trip to the visitor centre, 12 miles away, will give a fascinating insight into what happened to the Jacobites in 1745. Take a walk around the battlefield and remember how many men fell there fighting for what they believed in.

History abounds in the area’s three inhabited castles – Brodie, Cawdor and Kilravock – all fascinating in their individual ways, with Brodie and Cawdor regularly open throughout the tourist season. Learn about Canada’s most highly decorated soldier – an ex-pupil of Nairn Academy, A Local Hero

There is a Book & Arts Festival early in September. Other events in the town include the annual Highland Games and the Nairn Farmers’ Show. And from June to August, the local pipe band gives occasional performances. Nairn is also ideally suited as a touring centre, allowing many interesting trips, north, south, east and west.

Closer to base and equally attractive is Nairn’s own seafront, offering miles of sandy beaches extending east to the RSPB reserve and beyond to Culbin Forest.

Nairn Central Beach generally receives an award from Keep Scotland Beautiful which rewards clean, well managed and sustainable beaches. Awarded beaches demonstrate excellent beach management and environmental best practice ensuring the maintenance of high standards.

The award recognises excellence in beach management, access and facilities, cleanliness, safety and further enhances community engagement to reflect the needs of beach users.

The Moray Firth is home to one of only two colonies of dolphins in the UK and they are often spotted from viewpoints along Nairn’s shore. The seafront also hosts an active harbour, once a fishing port but now berthing mainly leisure craft, many of which regularly participate in the local sailing club races. Other boat owners offer trips to see the resident bottle-nose dolphins or simply to view Nairn from a different angle.

Ongoing improvements to the seafront ensure that this natural asset will remain for many years to come. Information is displayed on notice boards and on interpretative panels along the length of the seafront. Visitors can also take advantage of the facilities on offer at the nearby holiday park.

Culbin Sands

In addition Nairn seafront also offers areas of outstanding natural beauty such as Culbin Forest and Culbin Sands Nature Reserve, where many species of indigenous flora and fauna can be seen, as well as a large number of summer visiting birds and migratory flocks.

And for those who enjoy the invigorating sea air, there are magnificent views across the firth. The Sutors of Cromarty and the dark mass of Ben Wyvis to the north-west, the coastal stretch up to Tarbat Ness and the hills of Sutherland beyond form an enchanting backdrop.

There’s so much to offer from Nairn as a base, all you have to do is take the time to enjoy it.