Muir of Ord
This is situated at the south western end of the Black Isle and is an excellent centre for a holiday, with plenty of places to see and things to do locally, whilst also being a good base for touring the whole of the North and West Highlands. It also makes an ideal stopping place en route to the Northlink Ferries terminal at Scrabster when travelling to the Orkney Isles
The Glen Ord Distillery (see below right) is situated right within the village – a “must visit” if you like single malt whisky!
Prior to the 19th century, Muir of Ord was actually known as “Tarradale”. However, in the early part of the 1800s Muir of Ord became the location of one of the major trysts or cattle markets in Scotland which were held on the moorland (hence “Muir”) to the south of Tarradale.
1862 saw the coming of the railway in the shape of the Inverness & Ross-Shire Railway whose purpose was to build a line from Inverness to Invergordon. This railway was built in stages, the first being from Inverness to Dingwall which was opened on 11th June 1862, with the remaining stage to Invergordon opening on 23rd March 1863. The railway company built a station at Tarradale but they called the station “Muir of Ord” after the site of the local cattle market. Hence the name Tarradale was gradually superseded by Muir of Ord.
Our “Useful links” page contains links to numerous websites which give information about the many attractions of this area.
Glen Ord Distillery
There are many good walks in the locality, most being well marked with signposts and waymarks. For more serious hill-walkers who are interested in Munro-bagging, there are several Munro’s within a short distance, the best-known being Ben Wyvis (3,433 feet) just to the north west of the Black Isle.
There are plenty of opportunities for bird watching, and fishing is available on both the River Conon and the River Beauly. For cyclists, there are quite a few quieter roads away from the main through routes; also, a number of forest tracks
Nearby is the aptly named town of Beauly (from the French “beau lieu” meaning “fine place”) which owed its original prominence to the fact that it has a river crossing at the head of the Beauly Firth. The Kessock Bridge at Inverness now provides a by-pass for through traffic to the North. When visiting Beauly, do take a look at Beauly Priory, and also the “Made in Scotland” centre where local crafts, gifts, and knitwear are available.
Also nearby is the very attractive Highland Spa town of Strathpeffer with its array of imposing Victorian buildings. The centre-piece of the town is the magnificent and recently restored Spa Pavilion. Another attraction is the Highland Museum of Childhood.
The Black Isle is neither an island nor black in colour! It is, in fact, a peninsula of about 23 miles in length, bounded to the north by the Cromarty Firth and to the south by the Moray Firth and the Beauly Firth.
For those who play golf there are four golf courses in the vicinity, the nearest one being just outside Muir of Ord on fairly flat heathland, whilst another is just a few miles away at Strathpeffer. This latter course has stunning views, but is not for the faint-hearted as it has a superb hillside setting, so quite some stamina is required to climb the slopes! There are several good walks in the area, all well signposted. The third golf course, also in a superb but quite different setting, is at Rosemarkie on the Moray Firth shore of the Black Isle. The golf course is right adjacent to the shoreline, and has stunning views across the firth towards Fort George – about which see below for more information. The fourth golf course is at Aigas, just to the south west of Beauly. This is a 9-hole course set in undulating parkland between Aigas Forest and the River Beauly in an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Water & Wildlife
No visit to this part of Scotland is complete without a look at Rogie Falls just a few miles to the north west of Muir of Ord. In spate after a heavy fall of rain, these can be quite a sight to see, whilst at quieter times, who knows, you might see a salmon climbing the fish ladder!
On the subject of wildlife, the whole Highlands area abounds in it. Apart from dolphins (several boat operators run dolphin watching cruises) there are eagles, sea eagles, ospreys, deer, pine martens, and otters, to name but a few. There are wildlife cruises on Loch Ness, and also the Black Isle Wildlife Park to visit.
It goes without saying that most who come here will probably spend at least one day in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, and a city of great strategic importance to the north of Scotland. Inverness is reputed to be one of the fastest growing cities in Europe, as is witnessed by the recent completion of the new Eastgate Shopping Centre. Apart from providing opportunities for retail therapy, Inverness has a number of attractions worthy of a visit – the Castle, the very attractive walks along the side of the River Ness, the start of the Great Glen Way, the Caledonian Canal, and the Eden Court Theatre, to name but a few. And for those who enjoy a good pint of real ale with excellent pub grub, the Clachnaharry Inn is an absolute must! This is a very characterful, traditional, stone-built pub with low ceilings, recently voted CAMRA Scottish pub of the year; there are usually at least 4 or 5 different real ales on hand pump or on gravity.
Another “must visit” for virtually everyone who comes to this area is Loch Ness, probably the most famous of all Scottish lochs apart from Loch Lomond.
Whether you wish to look for Nessie, visit the pretty village of Drumnadrochit and the nearby Urquhart Castle, or just view the superb scenery, there is plenty here for everyone.
Castles & Places of Historical Interest
If you enjoy visiting sites of historical interest, there’s plenty to see within a short travelling distance. There are numerous castles – Cawdor, Brodie, and Urquhart Castles, to name but a few; the famous Culloden Battle Field, site of the last major battle fought on British soil; the hugely impressive Fort George (built in the 1760’s at a cost of over £200,000 – an enormous sum of money in those days – and still in use as a working barracks today). From the ramparts of Fort George, it is not unusual to see dolphins playing in the Moray Firth, as they are well-known regular visitors to this area.
As for touring, the whole of the north and west of Scotland is at your disposal. On the east coast a few miles north of Muir of Ord is the very attractive town of Dornoch with its superb expanse of beach, and nearby is Skibo Castle which recently achieved fame as the venue for Madonna’s wedding. Further to the north are Dunrobin Castle and, right on the north coast between Thurso and John o’Groats, are the Castle & Gardens of Mey. A few miles inland from Bonar Bridge, between Bonar Bridge and Lairg, is the Falls of Shin Visitor Centre where there are dramatic waterfalls and the famous natural Atlantic Salmon Leap.
To the west and south west respectively are Strath Conon and Glen Affric (see below right), both being most attractive glens which lead deep into the hinterland of the North West Highlands, and both having, for the energetic, long-distance paths which lead right through to the West Coast. Glen Affric, in particular, is well known for its beauty, and has a number of forest walks.
To the north west, just over an hour’s drive away, is Ullapool, in its superb setting on the shores of Loch Broom. A little to the north of Ullapool at Achiltibuie is The Hydroponicum where you can learn how to grow plants without soil.
To the west, again about an hour’s drive away, are the pretty places of Lochcarron, Plockton (of “Hamish MacBeth” fame), Dornie (home of Eilean Donan Castle), and Shieldaig, to say nothing of Applecross with its magnificent approach via the Bealach na Ba (the Pass of the Cattle). This is said to be the highest road in Britain, climbing from sea level up to 2,053 feet – on a clear day, the views across to Raasay and Skye are absolutely superb. In Applecross village itself is the Applecross Inn, well worth a visit for its renowned seafood and very pretty setting.
Local Events & Activities
Have you ever watched a game of shinty? This game is unique to Scotland and one of the oldest games in the world. It is similar to hockey and lacrosse, and is a fast-moving aerial game. See the “Shinty” link our “Useful links” page for more information. There are local shinty teams at Beauly and Strathglass.
Highland Games are held each year at both Strathpeffer and Dingwall, and are always a popular attraction. Apart from the “heavy” events of putting the shot, throwing the hammer, and tossing the caber, there are competitions for Highland dancing and bagpiping.
The Black Isle Show is an agricultural and livestock event and is held each year at Mannsfield Showground at Muir of Ord.
For those interested in vintage and classic vehicles, the Historic Wheels Club annual rally at Brodie Castle is a “must” visit; there are normally in excess of 150 cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles on display. The rally is usually held during early August.
Come and See for Yourself!
We cannot possibly do justice to all the things to do and places to see in the space available here – you need to come and have a look for yourself! We are very confident that you will not be disappointed! In the meantime, do take a look at our “Useful links” page on which you will find links to many other websites giving information about this lovely part of the Scottish Highlands.