Black Isle

Chanonry Point, Black Isle

Easter Ross and especially Black Isle are no secret to Scots – many vacationing families head beyond Inverness into the quiet and beautifully pastoral reaches of these sandy, hooked peninsulas. A series of firths thrust into the eastern shore of Scotland’s far northern highlands: Beauly, Cromarty, Dornoch – each name sounding more ancient the farther north you go. Ian Rankin famously described Black Isle to me as neither black nor an isle, and his words rang true when I looked upon its rolling green hills, russet beaches, and glittering blue coastline. Pretty towns cling to Black Isle’s coastline while the interior is largely left to agriculture. Easter Ross has a different, wilder vibe, though the terrain is fairly similar. Perhaps here more than anywhere else has the fingerprint of the Picts lasted longest as forlorn stones stand sentinel against the passing ages… Read more...

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In the Faery Glen Outside Rosemarkie, Black Isle

The Black Isle is a large peninsula immediately north of Inverness that spears into a watery trio of firths: The Cromarty Firth, the Beauly Firth, and the Moray Firth. It’s known as a pastoral place perfect for visitors seeking a quiet holiday and maybe some sightings of dolphins and whales off the coast. On previous trips to Scotland I had either sped across the Black Isle en route to more northerly destinations or had visited places like the Glen Ord Distillery or Bunchrew House on its periphery. But when Ian Rankin recommends the Black Isle you go to the Black Isle.

I like Inverness well enough, but I always find myself looking around the edges for a different place to stay. While planning my trip for last May, the Black Isle presented itself as the perfect alternative. Read more...

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Black Isle Brewery, Black Isle, Scotland

Here’s a factoid about Traveling Savage you might not know: I actually drink more of Scotland’s beer than whisky when I’m traveling abroad.

It’s difficult to understand the beer preference. Perhaps it’s due to my German heritage, upbringing in the USA’s best beer state (…Wisconsin), and graduation from the USA’s most infamous beer-drinking university (…UW-Madison). It’s not cost: a pint of beer and your average dram of whisky are roughly the same price (£2-4). Actually, the pieces are coming together and I think it’s pretty simple: sometimes I feel like having a beer, sometimes I feel like having a whisky, and sometimes I feel like having several beers. I’ve yet to find a “session whisky,” and my liver is panicking at the mere thought of such an invention. Read more...

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The Red Kite House on the Rosehaugh Estate Outside Avoch, Black Isle, Scotland

A travel around Scotland lends itself well to a circular route that has Edinburgh and Glasgow at its southernmost points and Inverness at its northernmost point. It was a route I adhered to (barring the occasional visit to Orkney) on my first five trips to Scotland, so when I planned my sixth trip last spring I wanted (and needed) to step off that well-worn path.

I decided to skip Inverness and head for Black Isle instead. Black Isle is full of charming, small coastal towns as if it were the northern cousin of Fife’s East Neuk. After much perusal of our accommodation options, Sarah and I decided to stay just outside Avoch (pronounced Och, rhymes with loch) on the Rosehaugh Estate, thanks to our friends at HomeAway. Read more...

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I stood in the light. Two streams of water sang in descent as they splashed over moss-covered and pocked boulders. Trees and bushes and all manner of green life stretched high above me; chlorophyll pulsed in incandescent leaves. The tiny town of Rosemarkie with its ancient Pictish stone-filled Groam House lay only 20 minutes behind, and over the ridge the North Sea crashed and surged. But a pocket of warmth and stillness settled here at the Fairy Pool, the terminus of the Fairy Glen. I had trod the shade and sun-dappled paths through the lush forest, past still pools guarded by mallards, and up the sides of waterfalls.

I half expected a fairy floating over the pool as if this were Hyrule, my penchant for blurring the lines between reality and fantasy once more sliding to the fore.

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