I just knew I wanted to go to Cromarty. From what I read in the guidebooks, the Black Isle north of Inverness is a beautiful area and the gem is the picturesque fishing village at its tip. It was even on the cycling route, and fit our general plan to head further north. Sold.
There was just one rub. Yesterday I discovered that the short ferry required to make the connection to the continuation of our route was out of service. It seems the ferry berth in Cromarty has been condemned, and won't be replaced for quite some time. That makes Cromarty a dead end, requiring us to circle back down the peninsula. But by this time I was dead set on going there. I could tell Rich wasn't enthused with the idea. But he knew better than to try and convince me otherwise.
The day started pleasantly enough. We made a short side trip to Cawdor Castle, arriving long before it opened. We couldn't see much more than the top of the castle, but the grounds were so very peaceful that we enjoyed lingering there. Tall trees full of while blossoms arched over the roadway, catching the early morning sun.
En route to Inverness, we came upon the Nairn Via Duct. We could see it in the distance as we approached, hoping we might get to cycle over it. Instead, we zoomed down, down, down to get to its base and passed under its massive arches. It was mighty impressive even from below.
Making our way through Inverness, trying to decipher the signs for our route, we noticed the Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop on the corner. We were both ready for some refreshments, and it seemed the opportune place to stop. In fact, we judged it well. Not only was the food fresh and wholesome (and the cakes decadent) but their mission is to promote cycling and make it accessible to all. In the back is a workshop where cyclists can work on their bikes or learn about maintenance and repairs. We spent a thoroughly enjoyable hour there chatting with the staff and other patrons while relishing their food.
Although Rich would love to have stopped for the day and stay in Inverness, he gallantly pressed on to satisfy my obsession with getting to Cromarty. The bike route took us across the Firth of Moray and onto the peninsula. As elsewhere, it took us on narrow back roads which wound through farmland and rural enclaves too small to even be villages. Such lanes unfailingly follow the natural contours of the land, which meant we were going up and down, up and down. While I relished that remote route, I knew I was earning no favors with Rich. To be perfectly honest, even I had to admit that the scenery was nice but no more special than anything we'd been seeing for the previous three days. Light showers pestered us off and on and the miles began to drag. I fervently hoped that Cromarty was a pure gem at the end of this very long road.
As we neared the end, we rode through the country lane high on the hillside and the sea came into view. On the other side verdant fields rose above the water. It was a rewarding sight, as was the lengthy glide down to the shore and into Cromarty. Entering town, I could see it was neat and attractive with well kept buildings and an air of prosperity. What I hadn't expected (and the guidebooks neglected to mention) were the numerous enormous oil rigs just off shore! Their metal superstructures reaching high into the sky, they were impossible to miss. What an odd juxtaposition to the fishing boats bobbing nearby.
To add to this boondoggle, our usual search for simple accommodation uncovered no vacancies. So when the Royal Hotel had an exhorbitant room available, we snatched it up. But I have to admit that it has a fabulous view. Here I sit with my feet up, and right out our windows are the water, the fishing boats and snow capped mountains. And an oil rig. I love it. I knew I wanted to come here.