Neither Black or an island, but despite its location beside the North sea, it has a lush climate and a captivating quality all its own.

Phone code: +44 (0)1381 Across the Kessock Bridge from Inverness is the Black Isle, which is neither an island nor black. It shares with the Moray coast long hours of sunshine and low rainfall, rolling acres of barley and stately woods of oak and beech dropping down to the shores. It also has a compelling atmosphere - a combination perhaps of its soft microclimate, lush vegetation and attractive architecture. Its main attractions are the picturesque town of Cromarty and Chanonry Point, on the southern side near Rosemarkie, which is one of the best dolphin-spotting sites in Europe.

On the north side of the Kessock Bridge is the North Kessock Tourist Information Centre, Tel. 01463-731505; open daily from Easter to October. Next door is the Dolphin and Seal Visitor Centre, which gives details of accredited dolphin cruises. You can see dolphins from the village of North Kessock just to the south. One of the many sacred wells (and caves) in the area is the unmissable Clootie Well, on the verge of the main road between Tore and Munlochy Bay Nature Reserve. It was once blessed by St Curitan (see below under Rosemarkie) and is thought to cure sick children. Thousands of rags still flutter from the surrounding trees, though well-worshippers are in danger of being mown down by traffic. Despite the presence of traffic, it's an eerie place. Go at night, if you dare.

Thursday, 18 April 2013 Print