Cromarty is a real gem and worth the rather long detour to reach the easternmost tip of the Black Isle, north of Inverness. I was there over the weekend and visited the small museum dedicated to Hugh Miller and the cottage where he was born in 1802 – now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
….life itself is a school, and Nature always a fresh study … the man who keeps his eyes and his mind open will always find fitting, though, it may be, hard schoolmasters, to speed him on in his lifelong education. (Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters).
Hugh Miller was a remarkable man: a stonemason and self-taught geologist, a journalist, a man with strong social views and a leading member of the Free Church that was established in 1843. Having moved to Edinburgh in 1839, he was the editor and leader writer of The Witness, a newspaper printed in Edinburgh that soon rivalled the more popular Scotsman. Its offices were at 297 High Street, where a plaque was erected in 2002 to mark his bi-centenary.
Having been dogged all his life by silicosis, the stonemason’s curse, his unexpected suicide in 1856 was attributed to overwork and anxiety or the discovery that he was suffering from a degenerative neurological disease. His love of Cromarty and its beaches and fossils is still very present when you walk around the village – in addition to his statue, there is a Hugh Miller standing stone – commemorating the emigration of many villagers which was reported by Miller – and the Hugh Miller Institute endowed by Andrew Carnegie.
Cromarty also boasts a number of elegant 18th-century merchants’ houses, as well as the Courthouse – which also has a small museum.