The Eathie Road – a hidden gem
It’s difficult to believe, but you can see Ben Nevis from the Black Isle. More precisely from the Eathie road rising 700 feet from the seaside village of Rosemarkie high above the cliffs of the “Jurassic coast” towards Cromarty. It was here that pioneering geologist Hugh Millar, friend of Charles Darwin, investigated the mysteries of the local fossils still found here. Admittedly, the sightings of “the Ben” are pretty rare – after all it is over 70 miles away through the cleft of the Great Glen – but it gives an indication of the tremendous vistas that can be had in most weathers from this road on the Black Isle edge. The distinctive triangular silhouette of Ben Rinnes, some 40 miles to the south-east, is more often seen.
But what is most striking is the foreground - in sunlight, the contrast between the brilliant green of the fields with the deep blue of the often swirling Moray Firth far below. Here is one of the best views of Fort George, seemingly impregnable with its 300 year old fortifications surrounded by the sea on three sides. It still hosts a garrison of the Highland Regiment, and gunfire from the practice ranges can often be heard from across the water.
There is also a bird’s eye view of the remarkable geography of the inner Moray Firth with Chanonry Point reaching out towards Fort George. This of course is one of the best places in Europe to view dolphins from the shore – they often come within 20 or 30 metres as they play in the rough tidal currents. From Brown Hill, just below the Eathie Road, I have also had distant views of pods of dolphins – perhaps 40 of them in all – splashing in the middle of the firth far below.
To get a closer view of the coast, descend through Hillockhead and the Black Isle Yurts site to a remote beach via a spectacular cliff path. Otters live here, their distinctive pawmarks clearly visible on the sand, and you may be rewarded by a sight of the playful creatures themselves. Along the beach towards Rosemarkie you can walk right through a cave that tunnels through a rocky promontory which provided shelter for travelling folk in the 18th century and possibly the Picts from a thousand years before that. Beware – the beach route to Rosemarkie can only be managed at low tide. The same is true if you walk in the other direction towards the abandoned Eathie Fishing Station. But both are fine trips, along some of the most impressive cliff scenery on Scotland’s east coast.