1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Black Isle

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BLACK ISLE, The, a district in the east of the county of Ross and Cromarty, Scotland, bounded N. by Cromarty Firth, E. by Moray Firth, S. by Inner Moray Firth (or Firth of Inverness) and Beauly Firth, and W. by the river Conon and the parish of Urray. It is a diamond-shaped peninsula jutting out from the mainland in a north-easterly direction, the longer axis, from Muir of Ord station to the South Sutor at the entrance to Cromarty Firth, measuring 20 m., and the shorter, from Ferryton Point to Craigton-Point, due north and south, 12 m., and it has a coast-line of 52 m. Originally called Ardmeanach (Gaelic ard, height; manaich, monk, “the monk’s height,” from an old religious house on the finely-wooded ridge of Mulbuie), it derived its customary name from the fact that, since snow does not lie in winter, the promontory looks black while the surrounding country is white. Within its limits are comprised the parishes of Urquhart and Logie Wester, Killearnan, Knockbain (Gaelic cnoc, hill; bàn, white), Avoch (pron. Auch), Rosemarkie, Resolis (Gaelic rudha or ros soluis, “cape of the light”) or Kirkmichael and Cromarty. The Black Isle branch of the Highland railway runs from Muir of Ord to Fortrose; steamers connect Cromarty with Invergordon and Inverness, and Fortrose with Inverness; and there are ferries, on the southern coast, at North Kessock (for Inverness) and Chanonry (for Fort George), and, on the northern coast, at Alcaig (for Dingwall), Newhallpoint (for Invergordon), and Cromarty (for Nigg). The principal towns are Cromarty and Fortrose. Rosehaugh, near Avoch, belonged to Sir George Mackenzie, founder of the Advocates’ library in Edinburgh, who earned the sobriquet of “Bloody” from his persecution of the Covenanters. Redcastle, on the shore, near Killearnan church, dates from 1179 and is said to have been the earliest inhabited house in the north of Scotland. On the forfeiture of the earldom of Ross it became a royal castle (being visited by Queen Mary), and afterwards passed for a period into the hands of the Mackenzies of Gairloch. The chief industries are agriculture—high farming flourishes owing to the great fertility of the peninsula—sandstone-quarrying and fisheries (mainly from Avoch). The whole district, though lacking water, is picturesque and was once forested. The Mulbuie ridge, the highest point of which is 838 ft. above the sea, occupies the centre and is the only elevated ground. Antiquarian remains are somewhat numerous, such as forts and cairns in Cromarty parish, and stone circles in Urquhart and Logie Wester and Knockbain parishes, the latter also containing a hut circle and rock fortress.