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Parish of Rosemarkie

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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1791-99: Rosemarkie
1834-45: Rosemarkie

Rosemarkie, a parish containing a town of the same name on the Moray Firth coast of Ross-shire. The parish is bounded N by Cromarty, SE by the Moray Firth, S by Avoch, and W and NW by Kirkmichael. The boundary on the N is the Burn of Ethie. The extreme length of the parish from NE to SW is about 6 miles, the average breadth about 2, and the area 6980.382 acres, including 298.551 acres of foreshore, 0.130 of tidal water, and 6.584 of water. The coast lies along the upper part of the Moray Firth, the mouth of the Burn of Ethie being 1¼ mile SW of the entrance to the Cromarty Firth; and at the SW end the promontory of Chanonry Ness projects 1½ mile into the Moray Firth, and from the point, on which there is a lighthouse, a ferry-boat crosses the Firth to Fort George (1 mile). To the N of the point is the fine sweep of the Bay of Rosemarkie, with its sandy beach, affording excellent facilities for bathing To the NE of this the coast is bold, rocky, and romantic, and from the seaboard the surface rises, in some places slowly, in others more abruptly, to the NW, till, along the boundary, it merges in the lower slopes of the long broad table-land noticed under Ardmeanach. From the high ground (242 feet) to the N of Rosemarkie Bay a very fine view is to be obtained of the upper reaches and S coast of the Moray Firth. The soil on the low grounds adjacent to the coast is mostly a fine black mould overlying gravel, and in most places, particularly on the beautiful flat about the town of Rosemarkie, is in a state of high cultivation; on the higher ground the quality is poorer and the subsoil is clay. The rocks of the sea-cliffs are principally gneiss, and those of the interior all the way to the north-western boundary are Old Red Sandstone. Along the shore, on the NE, there is a patch of richly fossiliferous shale, clay and limestone of Jurassic age, which was one of Hugh Miller's favourite haunts. The drainage in the N is carried off by Ethie Burn, and in the S by the Burn of Rosemarkie and the smaller streams that flow to it. The Burn of Ethie has two small cascades, and the lower part of its course is through a deep, rocky, and singularly picturesque ravine, which has been admirably described by Hugh Miller in his Old Red Sandstone. The course of the Burn of Rosemarkie is noted for the sections of the boulder clay. 'Rosemarkie,' says Hugh Miller in his Rambles of a Geologist, 'with its long narrow valley and its red abrupt scaurs, is chiefly interesting to the geologist for its vast beds of the boulder clay. I am acquainted with no other locality in the kingdom where this deposit is hollowed into ravines so profound, or presents precipices so imposing and lofty. 'One of the most interesting sections is the 'Kaes Craig,' immediately behind the town. The fame of the 'wondrous wizard Michael Scott 'must have penetrated even thus far north, for we find his name associated by tradition with the curious points which, jutting out here from both sides of the firth at Chanonry Ness and Ardersier Point, would, were they not a mile awry, completely cut off the upper reaches of the Moray Firth from the sea. 'Michael had called up the hosts of Faery to erect the cathedral of Elgin and the chanonry kirk of Fortrose, which they completed from foundation to ridge, each in a single night-committing, in their hurry, merely the slight mistake of locating the building intended for Elgin in Fortrose, and that intended for Fortrose in Elgin; but, their work over and done, and when the magician had no further use for them, they absolutely refused to be laid; and, like a posse of Irish labourers thrown out of a job, came thronging round him clamouring for more employment. Fearing lest he should be torn in pieces-a catastrophe which has not unfrequently happened in such circumstances in the olden time, and of which those recent philanthropists who engage themselves in finding work for the unemployed, may have perhaps entertained some little dread in our own days-he got rid of them for the time by setting them off in a body to run a mound across the Moray Firth from Fortrose to Ardersier. Toiling hard in the evening of a moonlight night, they had proceeded greatly more than two-thirds towards the completion of the undertaking, when a luckless Highlander passing by bade God-speed the work, and, by thus breaking the charm, arrested at once and for ever the construction of the mound, and saved the navigation of Inverness.' Such at least is the Ross-shire form of the legend: the one obtaining on the southern shore of the firth is somewhat different. The latter tells how the Moray fairies, envious of the magnificent Chanonry Kirk originally built at Fortrose, and desiring to have it in their own district, formed one evening a road across the firth, and taking up Fortrose cathedral, transported it, without displacing one stone from another, to Elgin, and carried Elgin cathedral to Fortrose-all before morning, so that by daybreak the only traces of their night's work were the causeways of stones and sand jutting out into the firth where the road had been constructed, and the portions of this still remaining form the points. Chanonry Ness was, however, the scene of an act of pious zeal which must be considered as entirely compensating for anything 'uncanny' that may exist in connection with its origin. Episcopacy seems to have had a considerable hold in the neighbourhood, and the service-book which the Bishop of Ross had introduced about 1636 had been used 'peaceably' within the cathedral at Fortrose until the 11th of March 1638. On that day, however, 'about the ringing of the first bell, but before the last bell was rung,' a party of schoolboys, rushing into the church, carried off all the service-books, and, having procured materials for kindling a fire, proceeded to the Ness, intending to make a bonfire of the whole spoil. A sudden shower having, however, extinguished the flames, they tore the books all in pieces and threw the fragments into the sea. The Bishop preached, but he seems to have been much startled at the proceeding, for Spalding, who tells the story, says that 'He wes not longsum but schort at sermon, and thairefter haistellie gois to horss and spak with the bischop of Morray, syne spak with the Marques of Huntlie, and privately disgyssit he rode south, and to the King gois he directlie; ane veray bussie man thocht to be in bringing in thir service bookis, and thairfoir durst not for feir of his lyf returne to Scotland agane.' The old name of Rosemarkie was Rosemarkyne, the original Celtic form seeming to have been Rosmbaircind, and a monastery of Columban monks appears to have been established here about the middle of the 6th century under Lughaidh (Lugadius) or Moluoc, bishop of Lismore, who died, according to the Chronicon Hyense, in 592. A well near the seashore to the N is also associated with the name of St Kennet. About the 8th century Curitan, better known as Albanus Kiritinus or Curitan, or Bonifacius, who seems to have been a bishop of the Irish branch of the Celtic church which had conformed to Rome, came to Scotland, and is said to have founded a church at Rosemarkie about 716, a circumstance which led David I., when he founded the bishoprick of Ross in 1124, to make this the seat of the see, and hence, subsequently, the cathedral was built at Fortrose. The old building of Bonifacius is said to have been about the ground now occupied by the parish church. A sculptured stone found on the site of the present church is now carefully set up at the end of the church. It was found in 1821, but as it long lay uncared for, one side has been slightly worn by passing feet. The symbols are of the usual elaborate character, and there are some cup-shaped ornaments that are not very common. The chief residences are Flowerburn House and Raddery House. The parish contains Rosemarkie and Chanonry, which, though each possessing a separate charter, conjointly form the burgh of Fortrose, which has been separately noticed. Rosemarkie has a post office of its own under Inverness. The Black Isle combination poorhouse is on the shore of Rosemarkie Bay, half-way out Chanonry Ness.

The parish is in the presbytery of Chanonry and synod of Ross, and the living is worth £356 a year. Three incumbents of the name of Wood-father, son, and grandson-were ministers of the parish for over 150 years previous to the appointment of the present clergyman, the last of them dying in 1874. The parish church was erected in 1821-22, and contains 800 sittings. The other churches are noticed under Fortrose. Under the school board, Rosemarkie public school, with accommodation for 130 pupils, had, in 1884, an average attendance of 58, and a grant of £32. The parish is traversed by the main coast road from Inverness northwards. Two proprietors hold each an annual value of more than £1000, and 2 of between £750 and £1000. Valuation (1881) £4561, 3s. 9d., (1885) £4452, 17s. 11d. Pop. of civil parish (1755) 1140, (1793) 1262, (1831) 1799, (18611545, (1871) 1441, (1881) 1357, of whom 643 were males and 714 females. Of this total 865 were in the ecclesiastical parish, 869 in the parliamentary burgh of Fortrose, 986 in the royal burgh, and 366 in the Rosemarkie portion, as against 314 in the Rosemarkie part in 1821.—Ord. Sur., shs. 84, 94, 1876-78.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer


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