Cromarty lighthouse
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Place of the lighthouse

Cromarty lighrthouse
Lighthouse with in front (right) The Coastguard house
The name Cromarty is derived from the Gaelic 'crom' (crooked) and from 'bati' (bay), or from àrd (height), meaning the "curved bay" or the "bend between the heights". Cromarty is close to the northernmost tip of the Black Isle Peninsula. The village benefits from the protective shadow of the Sutors of Cromarty, the high ground to the east, and is the main settlement on the Black Isle. Black Isle lies between the North Sea and the Cromarty Firth to the west. To the south is Moray Firth.

The Lighthouse

In 1842, the Board of Trade (The Board of Trade is a British government body concerned with commerce and industry, currently within the Department for International Trade) commissioned a lighthouse to be built on the tip of the Black Isle in the village of Cromarty. This lighthouse was intended to guide ships from the North Sea to the Moray Firth and to the Cromarty Firth.

In 1844, Northern Lighthouse Board engineer Alan Stevenson visited Cromarty to determine the exact location of the lighthouse. The site had to serve the entrance to Cromarty Firth. Being a large, safe anchorage, the Cromarty Firth was an important base for the Royal Navy at Invergordon.

Thomas Watson was appointed Superintendent and David Mitchell of Montrose was the contractor responsible for construction. Construction of the lighthouse and keeper's house was completed and lit in 1846 for the first time. The estimated cost was £3,030. The character was White/Red occulting every 10 seconds, with the range for the white light 15 NM (~27.7 km) and the red light 11 NM (~ 20.3 km). In 1985 the lighthouse was automated.

The lighthouse and keeper's houses are built in an Egyptian style. The lighthouse has 2 stories and is 13 meter high, there are 38 steps to the top of the tower. The tower has a projecting platform supporting the cast iron balustrade and a domed lantern. On the ground floor, the lighthouse is partly surrounded by a wide semi-circular base. The lighthouse has an excellent Neoclassical portico. The whole is painted white with ochre coloured edges.

Neoclassical door style

The single-storey keeper's house with three fronts and with lower wings on both sides. The doors are extended with exquisite Neoclassical features and vaulted parapet. Supporting pillars with similar features are placed between the three fronts. The building has a flat roof. A wall of rubble surrounds the entire lighthouse complex.

The Light

The light, a catadioptric apparatus of the 4th order, was originally made by vaporizing and burning paraffin. In 1904 an Acetylene gas evaporator was installed. Due to this renovation, the lighthouse keepers' surveillance of the lighthouse could be reduced to a one-person lighthouse.

In January 2005, the three General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland issued a consultation paper. As a result of this revision it was agreed to discontinue the light at Cromarty as the function of this light was now fulfilled by buoys. Cromarty Lighthouse has therefore been definitively discontinued as of February 28, 2006.

The University of Aberdeen now owns the buildings. It is the base for the Lighthouse Field Station within the school of Biological Sciences. Their research studies about the man-made environmental changes on marine mammals and seabirds are part of their conservation and management programme.

Cromarty and surrounding

The town looks north across the Cromarty Firth to the factories at Nigg. It occupies a triangle of land, with the sea on two sides. Due to the location of the village and existing buildings, Cromarty gives a very strong sense of a history that is closely linked to the sea and seafaring. The main development phase of Cromarty took place around 1770 under the supervision of the local laird, George Ross of Pitkerrie and Cromarty. George Ross built the harbor and imported raw materials from the Baltic Sea to supply the cloth, rope and hardware factories with the necessary raw materials. These factories employed workers from all parts of the Highlands.

Cromarty has also been a ferry port from Nigg-Cromarty for centuries. The village lays on the main coastal route north from Inverness, and formed a key staging post in the pilgrimage undertaken by many to the Chapel of St Duthac at Tain.

Cromarty forth
Cromarty Forth with moored Rigs

Cromarty is architecturally important by its Georgian merchant houses that stand within the townscape of Georgian and Victorian fisherman's cottages in the local vernacular style. It is an outstanding example of an 18th/19th century burgh, "the jewel in the crown of Scottish Vernacular Architecture". The thatched house with crow-stepped gables in Church Street, in which the geologist Hugh Miller was born (in 1801), still stands, and a statue has been erected to his memory. To the east of the burgh is Cromarty House, occupying the site of the old castle of the earls of Ross.

The site of the town's medieval burgh dating to at least the 12th century was identified by local archaeologists after winter storms in 2012 on eroded sections of the shoreline. A community archaeology project started in 2013 is investigating the remains of roads and buildings at the site on the eastern edge of the present town.

From 1832 to 1918 Cromarty was a parliamentary burgh, combined with Dingwall, Dornoch, Kirkwall, Tain and Wick in the Wick Burghs constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Known also as Northern Burghs, the constituency was a district of burghs. It was represented by one Member of Parliament. In 1918 the constituency was abolished and the Cromarty component was merged into the county constituency of Ross and Cromarty.

Cromarty Firth has long been an important haven, being sheltered, deep, easily defended and very large. This was recognised by the Royal Navy through both first and second world wars.

In more recent decades it has been associated with the North Sea oil boom, with both Nigg and Invergordon being used as service and construction yards. For many years this was signified by the string of rigs moored along the length of the Firth. The rise in oil prices meant that by early 2007 the world demand for oil rigs was very high and there was no longer a surplus needing to be parked here. Many have since returned as oil prices have dropped again.

Cromarty ferry
Britain's smallest vehicle ferry

The port is home to Britain's smallest vehicle ferry, Cromarty Rose, running across the Firth to Nigg. The Cromarty Rose was sold in 2009 and replaced for the 2011 season by a new four-car ferry called the Cromarty Queen which continued the service from 2011-2014. After a year with no ferry in 2015, new operators Highland Ferries were awarded the ferry contract and re-commenced the regular service between Cromarty and Nigg with the Renfrew Rose running from June to September

The burgh is also noted as a base for viewing the local offshore sea life. These include one of the most northerly groups of bottlenose dolphins. Cromarty along with Chanonry Point just round the coast is one of the best places in Europe to see these animals close to the shore. The University of Aberdeen Department of Zoology Lighthouse Field Station is based in Cromarty.



Character: (discont., Occ.W/R 10s.)

Cromarty map
(click to enlarge the map)

Engineer: Alan Stevenson (1807-1865)

Lat, Lon: 57°40.984' N, 004°02.187' W

Established: 1846
Character: Occulting White/Red every 10 s.
Range: White 15 NM ~ 27.7 km
: Red 11 NM ~ 20.3 km
Elevation: 18 meters above sealevel
Tower: 13 meters, 38 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ 3,203 9s.
Econ. Costs*: £ 12,680,000
*) According to:

Automated: 1985
Last Keepers: J.C. Harrow - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: No

Status: Discontinued 28 February 2006
Authority: University of Aberdeen
Remarks: Cat.A listed - LB23680 - 25/03/1971

Lighthouse shield

Cromarty lighthouse
Lighthouse in early times

Cromarty lighthouse
Lighthouse with in front (right) The Coastguard house

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