The Town of Cromarty (don’t call it a village, at least not in the earshot of any of its residents) offers a wide variety of opportunities for the photographer. These relate directly to its history, its location, its environment, its physical orientation and also reflect the human, marine and industrial activities that happen in and around Cromarty. The name Cromarty probably derives from the Gaelic crom (crooked), and from bati (bay), or from àrd (height), meaning either the “crooked bay”, or the “bend between the heights” ie the headlands or Sutors, which guard the entrance to the Firth.
The town is one Scotland’s older Burghs, established in the early middle ages, and whilst its fortunes have waxed and waned over the past 700 years, it was the Highlands second “town” through to early Victorian times. The coming of the railway sidelined Cromarty in favour of Invergordon, further up the Firth. Yet it has been a centre of fishing, farming, commerce, industry, marine and a major naval base, and the Cromarty Firth is now one of Europe’s main centres for the repair and maintenance of Oil Rigs, and the manufacture of other structures for the Oil and Gas, and off-shore renewables markets.
The area is also a thriving cruise ship destination during the summer months, with ships berthing at Invergordon. This means that that ships of all sizes and types, from small vessels with a few hundred passengers, specialist sailing vessels, huge floating hotels, to the Cunard Line’s latest “Queen” all steam past Cromarty, from April to October. A big name ship can see the town crowded with sightseers and photographers, but mostly its just a few dog walkers and kids playing on the beach who glance up as a ships steam past.
Cromarty itself is also a vibrant, living community, with a population of six hundred, old and young, to whom Cromarty is a place to live, work and relax. A popular town for visitors throughout the year, it can also seem surprisingly quiet at certain times of the day, especially when the wind is blowing and the smell of rain is in the air.
For the photographer, there are a number of key spots in the Town; specifically Fishertown and Church Street for historical architectural shots, the Gaelic Chapel for classic ruined church and graveyard photos, the Harbour for seascape, oil rig, boat and wildlife snaps, the Links – with the Emigration stone – and the town’s modest beach for landscape, sunrise and sunsets shots, and views of passing cruise ships.. To the East of the Town the “100 steps” path leads through a natural Highland woodland to the South Sutor (you can also drive), with its viewpoints and complex of WW1 and WW2 forts.
Remember, whenever you are near the sea in the Cromarty Firth, you are likely to see things that move, be they birds, seals or dolphins, and very large structures made of metal.