While we explored the Black Isle and Moray, we stayed in Fortrose. Our AirBnB accomodation, Mid Hill House, was on a hill (like the name suggests) that we reached by driving up a very steep street and then turn onto a farm track. It felt very adventurous in the beginning, especially as we arrived in the dark. But the view when we left the car! You could see the lights of all around the Moray Firth at your feet. Unfortunately, we never really took a photo that captured the view, but let us tell you that it was amazing. Allegedly, you can see dolphins in the bay on a day with a clear view. We didn't, though.
We definetely recommend James and Alison's AirBnB accomodation as it was very comfortable and they were interesting hosts. With the view we got served excellent and local breakfast, stories and tips for the day.
One of the tips was to drive along the coast and visit the village Cromarty.
Cromarty - Idyll And Oil
The drive was nice and we stopped to photograph some cows on the way, as one does.
Something that immediatly caught our attention in the village were the oil rigs. Apparently, Cromarty Firth has always been used for the parking of oil rigs. However, since demand for them decreased, now they're just stacking up and waiting to be brought to a scrapyard.
When we were heading to Cromarty, we actually thought to see another oil rig on the way into the Firth. As that process would take a lot of time, we didn't wait to get our assumption confirmed, though.
Apart from the oil rigs, Cromarty had a very special event in store for us. Something unexpected and quite irregular while also being a little exotic.
Yes - a bird. A hoopoe, which allegedly shouldn't get lost in this area of the world. Well. Apprently, no one told this hoopoe about that fact.
We did not know that a very unique happening was taking place for the birdverse. Upon arrival in Cromarty, we found a parking spot and wandered along the water, enjoying the view.
We did wonder about the maaaany photographers with biiiig lenses around. So we asked whether they were here for the oil rig that we thought was on its way into the firth. Nope, no interest for oil rigs. That's when we learned that we must be standing in a 20m radius of the current location of The Lost Hoopoe.
We didn't see it. In the beginning, we also didn't care.
However, we walked through this little, idyllic village that suddenly got a spot on the world map in and outside of birdverse, and everyone kept asking us about the bird, and on social media everyone talked about the bird. Slowly, we realized that we on that day experienced something unique and beautiful happen.
Even though we never saw the bird.
Cromarty is very idyllic. The houses all look old, with large, rustic stone walls and window frames painted in many different colors. Most of them have flowers in their garden and local art in their windows.
It was a very quiet village (apart from the photographers flockin around The Lost Hoopoe, of course) with an informal Royal Hotel, a little post office and craft and art shops. It almost felt like this could be the next location for an episode of Midsummer Murders.
A small, local café that also functions as second hand bookshop and souvenir shop.
Even though most things in Scotland are old, there is a downside that we also experienced in Edinburgh: there don't seem to be a lot of regulations for cars. They're everywhere and make it very difficult to take good photos of atmospheric streets. That's the reason why most of our photos are frame like the one above, where the houses get cut off in the middle. Otherwise, the photos would look like this:
Cut off houses ...
We definitely recommend paying the Cromarty Courthouse Museum a visit! Not only do they have a really lovely garden, it's also very well made little museum about the history of Cromarty and which role the courthouse played. On a technical level, their courtroom is top notch for such a small museum - that not even has an entrance fee!
Forests And Fairy Glens
We've had mountains in Glen Coe and the sea (kind of) while exploring Moray. After visiting Cromarty, we headed out to find some forests - even though we had driven through a lot of them, we never really sat foot on good, Scottish, green soil since our arrival in this country.
Luckily, the Black Isle has some beautiful forests - which of course also have the mandatory water falls. The Fairy Glen Falls of Rosemarkie are connected via the Fairy Glen Trail - a beautiful trail right through the forest along the small creek. Everything is very green and moist and soothing, and we spent an amazing afternoon enjoying nature during which we met surprisingly few people.
We also visited the Rogie Falls, which are bigger, more awe-inspiring and visited by much more tourists.
The Rogie Falls are also located in a beautiful natural area, which seemed a little more rough and wild compared to the magical atmosphere of the Fairy Glen trail.
This is a small stream which salmon can use to leap upstream. September was supposed to be the time for experiencing leaping salmon, but unfortunately, we weren't that lucky.
Dolphin Spotting With Phoenix Boat Trips
We are not the kind of people that travel to Moray Firth, write about alleged dolphins - and then not set out to actually see some. Of course we booked a dolphin boat trip!
It turns out, there are plenty various boat trips to choose from. We picked Phoenix Boat Trips cause the boat seemed cozy enough and had a roof. Important, if you want to head out on sea in Scotland in autumn.
The trip started in Nairn, which wasn't the closest spot to our accomodation we could have picked. However, who doesn't like driving around the Scottish landscape a little more?
Happy Judith on a boat.
Happy Jonathan on a boat.
As you can see, we spotted a lot of birds. We also spotted about a dozen seals, they were far too shy to capture on camera, though.
As you might have figured, we unfortunately didn't encounter any dolphins.
We still recommend to do a dolphin trip if you're in the area, though, as the chances for seeing some close are quite high and the boat trip in itself very enjoyable.
We have been impressed with the situation of public toilets in Scotland! Especially on the Black Isle and later in Cairngoms National Park, there were huts with public toilets on almost all the parking lots we visited (yes, also for just waterfalls or natural reserves). They were all clean and had toilet paper - some of them did lack soap or warm water, though. And most of them were even free! That's not something you can find in Denmark or Germany.
In Aviemore we even encountered a heated small house, that had a gate inside. In the past, a person must have been seated there to accept payment for toilet usage. Nowadays, you just tap your credit card on a reader to get entrance - genius! (Also, they had a little waiting area for all those people not needing to use the toilet - we've really become fans of the public toilet in Aviemore! :D)