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.
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.
and here they contrasted nicely with this sole red campion (Silene dioica)
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.
The particular clump of Common Bistort was crawling with visiting flies.
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.
The rigs can be seem more clearly here.
I leave you with a wee slide show of nautical images of Cromarty.