Phone code: +44 (0)1997 Population: 1,384
Just along from the Cromarty Firth is Strathpeffer, which gets busy in the summer with coach parties, but it's a pleasant place and there are some excellent walks in the surrounding hills. Visitor guide to Strathpeffer, in the Scottish Highlands, includes info on how to get there, walks, sleeping and transport plus details on Dingwall and the Cromarty Firth.
The little village of Strathpeffer gained recognition in 1819 when Dr Morrison, a physician from Aberdeen, bathed in its sulphur springs and cured himself of rheumatoid arthritis. He quickly spread the word and Strathpeffer became a fashionable spa resort attracting thousands of visitors. Two world wars intervened and the town's popularity declined. Today the only reminder of its past is the Water Sampling Pavilion in the square where you can test the waters.
Local Sights & Activities for Strathpeffer
Strathpeffer also offers a great deal of historical interest and has many edifices and period monuments including the Castle Leod, home to the Earl of Cromartie - the Chief of the Clan Mackenzie, which is inhabited by the same family for the past few hundred years.
The historic pump house that once delivered the spa lifestyle to Victorian elite is another must see attraction. Open Tuesday to Saturday during the season.
Just outside Strathpeffer on the road to Dingwall is the Highland Museum of Childhood which has many historical displays on childhood in the highlands, as well as collections of dolls, toys and games. Info - Mar-Oct Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1400-1700; Jul and Aug Mon-Thu 1000-1700 and 1900-2100, Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1400-1700, £1.50, concession £1. Tel. 421031.
Set out on a trout or fly fishing spell in the Loch Achilty that spreads over an area of over 100 acres; only boat fishing facilities available.
Strathpeffer has an impressive festive calendar and is home to a vibrant music scene, which has earned this city, the popular name of "The Highland Village of Music". Strathpeffer Pavilion has hosted major acts such as Deacon Blue and The Kaiser Chiefs.
The annual Strathpeffer Highland Gathering, one of the longest-established Highland Games in Scotland, takes place in the grounds of Castle Leod on every August 6th. Tel: 01997 421348
You cannot miss out the unique experience of the Strathpeffer Pipe Band, which plays in the town square on Saturday evenings throughout the season (May to October)
Walks around Strathpeffer
Strathpeffer is quite popular among walkers and golfers and has many attractive walking trails that wind through the quiet hinterlands and the forests of Strathpeffer. A fine walk is to Knock Farrel and the Touchstone Maze, site of an Iron-Age vitrified fort which lies at the north end of a ridge known locally as the Cat's Back. A marked trail starts from Blackmuir Wood car park. Head up the hill from town, turn left up a road immediately before the youth hostel, and the car park is on the left. The walk is six miles in total and takes about three hours. Aside from OS Landranger sheet 26, the route is also described in a Forestry Commission leaflet Forests of Easter Ross, available from tourist offices.
Another excellent side trip is to Rogie Falls, near Contin, which is three miles southwest of Strathpeffer on the main A835 Inverness-Ullapool road. The short walk up to the falls starts from the car park three miles north of Contin on the A835. There are also some pleasant woodland walks around here. Experienced hikers can tackle magnificent Ben Wyvis (3,432 ft). The route to the summit starts four miles north of Garve, seven miles northwest of Contin.
Dingwall and the Cromarty Firth
Dingwall, at the head of the Cromarty Firth, has two major claims to fame. Not only is it believed to be the birthplace of Macbeth, it was also the home for many years of Neil Gunn (1891-1973), perhaps the Highlands' greatest literary figure. It's a fairly dull, though functional town, with good shops and banks (with ATMs) lining its long main street. The Dingwall Museum tells the history of this Royal Burgh. Info - May-Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1700. Tel. 865366.
East of Dingwall, before Evanton, is Storehouse of Fowlis Tel.01349-830033, http://www.clanland.co, open all year Mon-Sat 0930-1800, Sun 1000-1700, free, which has history and wildlife exhibitions and offers the chance to see the local seal population. Standing on a hill above Evanton is the Fyrish Monument, a replica of the Gate of Negapatam in India, built by local men and funded by local military hero, Sir Hector Munro, to commemorate his capture of the Indian town, in 1781. To get there turn off the B9176 towards Boath. It's a stiff two-hour climb up to the top.
The Cromarty Firth is a centre for repairing North Sea oil rigs, and many of the villages along its north shore have benefited from the oil industry. One of these is Invergordon, just west of Nigg Bay, which has suffered in recent years due to the closure of the local aluminium factory.
Beyond Invergordon, a road branches south to Nigg Ferry. The ferry from Cromarty to Nigg was once a major thoroughfare, and now a tiny two-car ferry makes the 20-minute crossing in the summer months (see Cromarty above). From the ferry you get a good view of Nigg Bay, a vast natural harbour used in both world wars by the Royal Navy. Its entry is guarded by the dramatic headlands of the Sutors, identified in folklore as friendly giants. Also gigantic are the oil rigs ranged along the firth and the oil terminal at Nigg, a dramatic and not unpleasant contrast with Lilliputian Cromarty. Away from the shore, in Nigg Old Church (1626) is an old Pictish cross slab. Info - Easter-Oct daily 1000-1630.
Phone code: +44 (0)1349
Strathpeffer Hotels & Accommodation
The best accommodation is in Contin, 3 miles southwest of Strathpeffer. Top of the list is the excellent Coull House Hotel, Tel. 421487 Coul House, an elegant 19th-century country house offering fine food. Late Rooms Availability for Coul House Hotel in Contin
Also in Contin is the small family-run, comfortable Craigdarroch Lodge Hotel
Timuka self-catering cottage: A Grade C listed historical cottage, Timuka self-catering cottage is located on the edge of the Highland spa village of Strathpeffer. Timuka self-catering cottage would make a perfect base to explore the charm of the Scottish Highlands. It follows an interesting traditional theme of furnishing with an open fire along with all the modern amenities. It sleeps 3 and comprises of 1 super-king size double bedroom and 1 single bedroom; easily accessible to local pubs, restaurants and the Strathpeffer Pavilion Theatre. Tel: +44 (0)1463 870090
If you need to stay in Dingwall, the smartest place around is Tulloch Castle Hotel, Tel. 861325, a castle dating from the 12th century. Late Rooms Availability for Tulloch Castle in Dingwall
There's hostel accommodation in Evanton at the Blackrock Bunkhouse, Tel. 830917, open 1 Apr-31 Oct.
Located in a sprawling space of 4000 acres of Ross-shire countryside, Brahan estate self catering cottages has seven cottages and homes of all sizes, which makes it a perfect choice for couples, families or even larger groups. Enjoy the great views around or indulge in your favorite outdoor fun activities including mountain biking, 4x4 driving, birdwatching, shooting and walking. You can choose from a range of accommodation options like cottages and farm houses. Tel : +44 (349) 861150