Pootling around the Black Isle

The yellow and green of the Black Isle
Yellow fields of oilseed rape

My usual stomping grounds are either the small-scale crofting fields and mixed woodland on my doorstep, the Caledonain Pinewoods around Glenmore or the peaty, boggy hills to the west. Yesterday I headed to an area with a different landscape: the Black Isle – one of the richest agricultural areas in Scotland.

The Black Isle is not well named. It is neither black, nor an island. It is a fertile peninsula of land in Easter Ross, just north of Inverness. It has the Beauly and Moray Firth to the south, and the Cromarty Firth to the north. The origin of the name is unknown, but it is thought that the term ‘The Black Isle’ is connected with the dense natural forest that once covered this area of land. And centuries ago, when travel from Inverness to there was either by ferry or a long, hazardous journey to Muir of Ord and then east, then it may as well have been an island.

The purpose of today’s visit was to ‘bag’ a few geocaches, so my route was determined by their location.This route gave me a range of habitats quite different to my usual and as I was looking for hidden geocaches–and small ones at that–my gaze was mainly down on the small scale delights.

Above Cromarty
Looking down towards Cromarty

I was heartened to see that most of the roadside verges were as yet uncut following the Highland Council policy to leave the vegetation until the plants have time to set seed – when it is safe to do so. As most the roads I was toddling around were single-track roads–and very narrow single track roads–traffic was only travelling fairly slowly. At one of two places the cow parsley was over a metre tall and obscuring the narrow junctions, but it was a case of crawling out slowly.

Although bluebells are seen as iconic flowers of spring, here in the far north they are still in flower and continue flowering into June. They provide a lovely colour contrast with the buttercups at field edges, woodland edges and track verges.

Common Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

and here they contrasted nicely with this sole red campion (Silene dioica)

Sole red campion (Silene dioica) among bluebells

Beside a small burn and amongst gorse bushes I found a plant new to me. When I got home I checked my copy of Francis Rose’s The Wild Flower Key and determine this is Common Bistort. (Persicaria bistorta ). I’m not sure how common it is in the north of Scotland, but I’ve never seen it before and at first thought it may have been a garden escapee.

Common Bistort (Persicaria bistorta)

The particular clump of Common Bistort was crawling with visiting flies.

Common Bistort  (Persicaria bistorta)

After puzzling over the Pink Spikey Thing (as I was referring to the Common Bistort at the time) I came across one of my favourite flowers, Forget-me-not.


I had a discussion about Forget-me-not species earlier in the week with Mark over at Beating the Bounds and you would think I’d pay more attention to detail with this one. But I didn’t, so am not sure which species it is. In my defence this one was growing in the middle of a patch of nettles and after getting several nettle stings I wimped out on close inspection.

After spending time amongst agricultural land, I dropped down to the coast at the northern most tip of the peninsula and enjoyed the ‘island’ or coastal atmosphere of Cromarty, Just across the Cromarty Firth is the Barmac oilrig contruction yard at Nigg. This is no longer used for construction, but rigs are brought into the yard for refitting. At any one time there may be up to ten or so rigs in the Cromarty Firth. Some are in for refitting, but some are merely ‘parked’ in the firth while not in use.

View north from above Cromarty

The rigs can be seem more clearly here.

I leave you with a wee slide show of nautical images of Cromarty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


10 comments on “Pootling around the Black Isle

  1. Aaarrggg – a geocacher! How come you still read my blogs Sheila 😆 . I thought my last few posts had weeded all the geocachers out! 😉

    Nice to see the Black Isle again – I reckon I haven’t been there since my early teens – and that ain’t yesterday.

    Glad to see you’re really getting into the blogging again! 😀

  2. I’m not *really* a geocacher. I’ve been out searching for caches with middle son over the years and I’ve hidden two in the local forest (Boblainy) on behalf of the local forest group, although these are in son’s screen name. However, I’m now running a Geocahing for Beginners activity at work this summer, so thought I’d better refresh my memory about the ‘thrill of the hunt!’

    I *may* get ‘into’ it though… and make comments about people who make comments about geocachers 😉

  3. Beautiful photos! I especially like the second one, where the white roadside flowers frame the lovely view of meadow and water beyond.

  4. Encountered the Black Isle in one of Ian Rankinn’s novels recently Sheila and I have to admit that I wasn’t sure where or what it was – now I know! I like your slideshow incorporated at the end – I might have to look in to how that works, and whether my theme supports it.
    Are you aware that f followed by l in your posts and comments appear as capital L? Or at least on my computer they do, and I haven’t seen the same thing on any other blogs. Odd.

  5. Hi Sheila.Some lovely photos. I used to get the ferry that ran from Inverness to the Black Isle when I stayed on holidays there at Munlochy and later Strathpeffer.That was about 40 years ago now. Its a area with a lot of history and many hidden charms.I,ll need to get back up there sometime to see if the healing wells are still there.

  6. Bob, the Clootie Well is still there and is still decorated. I passed it on my return trip last week, but didn’t stop. I’ll get a picture the next time I pass.

  7. Nice to see a post on a area of Scotland I know nothing about and never visited. I see the same problem with the f and l when I view your blog as well but never seen it anywhere else

  8. Yay, found and fixed my ‘L’ of a problem. In case anyone is wondering, it was because I was using a Typefit Font and that was screwing up stuff. I couldn’t see the problem because I was still using the old version of Firefox (3.1-whatever).

    I’ve now removed the font and am happy with that provided by the Twenty Eleven theme.

    I’ve also upgraded to FF4!

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