There is quite a large number
of villages in the district, all having features and attractions peculiarly
their own. At nearly all of them visitors are able to find convenient
quarters. Thus at Alness as well as at Tain (at Loch Eye) and Ardgay fresh
water fishing can be had, while at Balnabruach (Nigg), Saltburn, Balintore,
Portmahomack and Inver boats may be had for pleasure sailing or sea fishing.
Hill climbing may be indulged in from Alness, Tain, Edderton, and Ardgay.
The most important of these villages at present is
BRIDGEND OF ALNESS.
Before the Reformation this village was called Obsdale and was included in
the parish of Nonikiln where the ruins of a church still stand in the centre
of an old graveyard. During the “killing time” Alness was the only place in
Ross-shire where the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was publicly dispensed.
While the service was being held at the house of the Dowager Lady of Fowlis
soldiers arrived to apprehend the officiating clergyman, Rev. John
Mackillican. Sir John Munro, the famous soldier was there, got the clergyman
under his chair and while the soldiers were searching the house kept his
seat with his ample military cloak around him, pleaded indisposition and
saved his minister. A huge granite slab with suitable inscription marks the
In the stirring times of “the Fifteen ” Alness Bridge was the scene of a
sharp skirmish. The Earl of Seaforth with a force of three thousand men
drove from the Averon (Alness River) loyal bands of Rosses and Munroes under
Sir Roderick Munro and the Mackays of Sutherland, and forced them to retreat
over the Struy to Bonar. This battle provided material for the satirical
Gaelic poem “ Caberfeidh.”
At present Bridgend increases in size and importance because of the
enterprise of its chief proprietors. There are fine quarries which furnish
stone for a wide district. There are sawmills galore and two famous
distilleries, Dalmore and Teaninich, and the people employed at these works
with those connected with the cultivation of the excellent farms in the
neighbourhood make Alness quite a stirring little place. It has no fewer
than three large hotels and two inns and there are within a two-mile radius
five churches. Those who want amusement are also catered for, as near it is
a nine hole golf course, a nice bowling' green, a club, Territorial Hall,
Masonic Hall, etc. To the top of Fyrish is a splendid climb and a wide
expanse is seen from the summit.
Saltburn consists of a long stretch of houses beautifully situated on the
edge of the Firth and is sometimes considered as a suburb of Invergordon.
The houses all seem commodious and have neat gardens.
Balnabruach (Nigg) is a long scattered village under the shadow of the North
Sutor batteries and is in consequence growing in importance.
Fearn, about a mile from the railway station, is also a non-congested
village of well built houses. It has a commodious Public Hall and the Abbey
referred to in “Ecclesiastical History.” A notable feature is the large
up-to-date shops where a large amount of business is done.
Balintore is a quaint old fishing village cosily situated, with a fairly
good harbour at which a considerable amount of shipping is done.
Between Tain and Portmahomack lies the fishing village of Inver. Round about
is rich agricultural land and many small crofts.
Portmahomack does not now enjoy the prosperity it once did as it has lost
somewhat of importance since the Highland Railway was opened and steam
applied to fishing boats. It still however has considerable shipping trade.
With its golf course, facilities for bathing and boating, it is an ideal
place for a quiet restful holiday. Suitable accommodation is available at
moderate charges. It has an excellent Carnegie Library. The old parish
church was formerly called St Colman’s and was founded by St Colman, and
there still is a St Colman’s well in the village. About a mile from the Port
is Balone Castle described elsewhere. Three miles away is the Tarbatness
Lighthouse, which is a prominent object in the landscape over most of the
sea coast from Aberdeenshire to Caithness. At night it shows a succession of
six flashes every alternate fifteen seconds. It is one of the highest in
Scotland, being set on comparatively low ground and those approaching it
will find it more distant in reality than in appearance. A fine view is
obtained from the top on a clear day.
Edderton is five miles from Tain. The road to the village runs close to the
railway and seashore. This village also is a non-congested one. A little
beyond the village is the remarkably defined hill of Struie, which is a
prominent landmark in all views of the district and a visit to its summit
will well repay the climb because of the extensive view of nine counties got
from its crest on a fine day. The interesting sculptured stones to be seen
at Edderton are described in the chapter on that subject.
THOUGH Bonar Bridge Station is in Ross-shire the village of that name is in
Sutherland. The village here is Ardgay, which is a well built place and is
the shopping centre for a wide district. There are some remarkably fine
buildings and a commodious public hall. The scenery round here is
From Tain visits can easily be arranged to Skibo and Dornoch by crossing the
Meikle Ferry at Ardjachie. Cromarty can be reached from Tain by crossing the
ferry between the Sutors, though it can perhaps be more conveniently reached
by steamer from Invergordon.