4 The Townscape of a Scottish burgh

Let’s look now at the features of the town itself.

Church Street Cromarty from the air

Underlying the predominantly 18th and 19th C face of modern Cromarty, is the the townscape of the original medieval burgh, most clearly seen in Eastern part of the town. Church Street and Shore street are the two principal streets, linked by a series of vennels and lanes. This part of the town probably dates from the 17th Century, with an older Cromarty build under what was the Old Castle of Cromarty, now pretty much vanished with the exception of a number of older buildings at the edge of the modern town, Clunes House, the Kennels and the Old Manse. However Medieval Cromarty has not vanished completely, and there have been a programme of archaeological investigations into the towns past, focused on what is now grazing land where sever winter storms in 2012 exposed a wealth of archaeological evidence.

The old side of Cromarty



The Townscape

Today Cromarty has a number of iconic Scottish vernacular buildings, mainly clustered in Church Street, the East end of which can be seen the photo above. Buildings in the town are either harled, usually white, or with walls of exposed red sandstone. The white cottages and merchants houses, with their dark slate roofs, are great subjects for black and white shots, whilst the old red sandstone walls photo well in the warm light of a summer evening.

Erics house

Shadows on a wall

St Annes


The East Church or Kirk

The East Church, a medieval Kirk with 18th and 19th Century additions can be photographed from the rear of the churchyard (which includes many early Scottish style grave stones) and its various lofts, windows and pews make great material for B&W treatments. The light for these can be tricky though, especially early and late in the day, and in the depths of the winter when the Kirk, and most of the east end of the town is in permanent shadow. A Tripod is helpful.

East Kirk

East Kirk blues


Light and shadows


The East Kirk underwent a major refurbishment from 2008 to 2011, including extensive archaeological investigations. Have a look at this Flickr set for what the work involved. The Church was was fully reopened in the Spring of 2011. It now looks – to quote one of my sons – “just like before but a lot better”. It is now used for the occasional summer service, and and an increasing number of weddings. These tend to be more informal, with people travelling from all over the world to be married in this medieval church, so if you see one happening, you may want to nip in and practise your wedding photography skills.

Hamish and Cai

Hugh Millers cottage and Miller House

Further along Church street, the thatched Hugh Millers Cottage and adjoining Miller House are run by the NTS, and can be visited. Both have fascinating interiors, and the cottage has a period garden. Hugh Miller cottage dates from the early 18th C, and the adjoining Miller house from around 1800.

The view up the Payne (as the cobbled street leading to the “country” is called) works well in late summer light. Payne House is also owned by the NTS, is a holiday house, and has subtly coloured lime harling that is great to capture in a morning or evening light.

Payne House and Hugh Miller cottage

Hugh Miller shadows

The Courthouse is now also a museum, and invites vertical black and white treatment’s. A good wide angle lens is recommended. The Clock tower is copper, and catches both the morning and evening light, with dramatic shadows. An interesting subject for a zoom lens shot from either end of Church Street.

Tower and Cupola


During the Summer, the Courthouse hosts Photographic exhibitions of the town from local and visiting photographers.

The Opening

Fishertown and Church Street
Church Street houses quite a few of the the towns iconic buildings, the East Kirk, Hugh Miller’s Cottage, the Courthouse, Miller House, the 17th and 18th Century harled Merchants houses, and the grand 19th Century Mansions of St Anne’s and Bellevue. With the exception of the three museum’s open to the public, and the East Kirk, all other buildings are peoples homes. Local residents are very welcoming to visitors, but it’s not a good idea to wander into gardens unless invited. It does no harm to ask though.

The corner

Church street sunrise

Yellow and Sandstone

Fishertown is a maze of vennels, lanes and small streets,with white fisher cottages, inter spaced with the occasional grander dwelling. There are interesting, and quite intimate views down the vennels and lane’s and it is worth spending time on composition, and its useful to “think” in Black and White, at least when the weather is murky. In bright sunshine (quite common on the east coast of the Highlands and Islands) the contrasts between white harling, grey slate roofs and blue skies is quite distinctive.

Shore streetthe top of little vennelMy chimney and a 747The Cheese House
Parked cars can be problem in getting the perfect Vennel, Church street or Fishertown Street Scape shot. As with everything, the key is timing. Strangely enough mid morning in early summer is the best time for quiet street shots. Weekends mean lots of parked cars, as residents are at home, and the town is full of visitors.

Rig glimpsed down Little Vennel


Remember that the Cromarty Firth is a busy port, with lots of oil related activity. Keep your eye open for the more unusual shot, contrasting old and new.

Looking down little vennel