Invergordon and the Cromarty Firth from the Black Isle
©2023 Gazetteer for Scotland

Invergordon and the Cromarty Firth from the Black Isle

A large village in Easter Ross, Invergordon lies 11 miles (18 km) northeast of Dingwall adjacent to the sheltered deep waters of the Cromarty Firth. The modern town was laid out, replacing the older settlement of Inverbreakie (or Innerbrachie), by Sir William Gordon of Embo, who purchased the castle and estate in the 18th Century. A harbour built in 1828 was expended in 1857 and the town developed in association with port trade, whisky distilling and coaching travel, boosted by the arrival of the railway in 1863.

Invergordon became a refuelling and repair base for naval cruisers during World War I. It offered one of the largest and safest anchorages in Britain, ideal for the Navy, and the area surrounding the town became prosperous with the influx of employment linked to the dockyard. It was here that the entire complement of the Atlantic Fleet went on strike when the government tried to reduce its costs during the economic downturn of 1931 by cutting ratings pay. Crisis was averted by the direct intervention of King George V. Flying boats of the Royal Air Force were based here during World War II. Although the naval base has been closed since 1956, navy ships still occasionally call here for provisioning and refuelling. The proximity of Invergordon to the North Sea oilfields has encouraged oil-rig construction, maintenance and decommissioning facilities to develop in the area. The British Aluminium Company built a smelter here in 1971 on the promise of cheap nuclear electricity from Hunterston 'B'. This attracted in-migration to the town from Central Scotland. The plant was never economic but its closure in 1982 brought significant unemployment and social problems. Yet, the continued importance of Invergordon to the economy of this part of the Highlands is reflected by it being the location of the headquarters of Ross and Cromarty Enterprise. The Port of Cromarty Firth continues to attract cargo trade and the availability of deep water for the berthing of large cruise liners in the summer gives passengers easy access to the Scottish Highlands. These activities supplement distilling, food processing and microelectronics and major sources of employment.

The Invergordon Distillery was said to be the largest grain distillery in Europe by the beginning of the 21st century, with a capacity up to 35 million litres of alcohol annually. In addition to the extensive bonded warehouses associated with this distillery, the other most notable landmarks within the village are the forty-one immense oil tanks which form the Seabank Tank Farm once associated with the naval base. Built 1913-17, the tank farm is now Category-A. Tank 13 was destroyed by enemy bombing during World War II and never rebuilt. Instead the remarkable Inchindown Fuel Depot was built underground to the north of the village.

Notable people associated with the town include artist Robert Brough (1872 - 1905), cartoonist David Sutherland (1933 - 2023) and judo champion James Millar (b. 1981).

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