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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Fortrose, a royal and parliamentary burgh in the parish of Rosemarkie, Ross-shire, is situated on the NW side of the inner Moray Firth, at the north-eastern extremity of the Black Isle Road, nearly opposite Fort George, 8½ miles S by E of Invergordon Ferry, 9 SSW of Cromarty, and 10½ NNE of Inverness. It consists of two towns, Chanonry and Rosemarkie, ½ mile distant from each other, and first politically united under James II. in 1455, when they were constituted a free burgh in favour of the Bishop of Ross. The burgh lapsed to the Crown after the Reformation, but in 1590 Chanonry was enfranchised; and in 1592 the towns were re-united under the title of the royal burgh of Fortross, afterwards softened into the present name Fortrose. Chanonry Point, a long tongue of land, covered with fine links, and edged with sandy beach, which stretches into the sea between the towns, has suggested an etymology for the name, meaning ' fort of the peninsula; ' other authorities explain it as ' strong fort.' A lighthouse of the second class was built in 1846 at the extremity of this point, whence also there is a ferry (1 mile broad) to Fort George and the Inverness coast. Fortrose (or at least one of its component parts) early appears in history as an ecclesiastical seat. Lugadius or Moluog, an abbot and bishop of Lismore, who died in 577, founded a Columban monastery in Rosemarkie. About the 8th century, Albanus Kiritinus, surnamed Bonifacius, who seems to have been a bishop of the Irish-Roman Church, named Curitan, came to Scotland; and, in 716, says Wynton,

' In Ros he fowndyd Rosmarkyne,'

dedicating his church to St Peter. When David I. came to the throne in 1124 he founded the bishopric of Ross, and placed the diocesan seat at Rosmarkyn or Rosemarkie. The presence of an educated clergy raised the place to a high degree of culture; and famous schools of divinity and law flourished under the shadow of the cathedral. Down so late even as the time of Cromwell the little town enjoyed a considerable amount of general prosperity. Now, however, Fortrose has no trade; and its connection with the outer world is chiefly maintained through the summer visitors, who are annually attracted by the beautiful situation of the town, its picturesque neighbourhood, its fine links, and its facilities for sea-bathing. New houses have recently begun to spring up for the better accommodation of these visitors. Fortrose is regularly built, well-lighted with gas, and abundantly supplied with water. Its most interesting edifice is the ruined cathedral dedicated to SS. Peter and Bonifacius, situated within a wide, grassy enclosure in the centre of the town. The sole remains now are the S aisle of the chancel and nave, and a detached chapterhouse; and an old bell is also preserved, dated 1460. When perfect the cathedral was a handsome red sandstone building, presenting a beautiful specimen of the pure Early Decorated style, and dating from about the beginning of the 14th century. Its total length was 120 feet; and it comprised a nave of 4 bays, with aisles 14 feet wide, and round-headed windows; a choir, with aisles, Lady-chapel, west-tower, quasi-transept, rood turret, and, to the NE, a vaulted chapter-house over a crypt. The greater part of the cathedral and the whole of the former bishop's residence were removed by Oliver Cromwell to provide building material for his fort at Inverness. Within the precincts of the cathedral stood the various residences of the high officials of the chapter, the archdeacon's house, the rectory of Kirkmichael, and the manses of the parochial charges of Cullicudden, Lemlair, Rosskeen, Alness, Kiltearn, Contin, Kilmuir, West Kilmuir, Kincardine, Logie, Obstill, and St Katherine's; but of these no vestiges remain. In Jan. 1880, a hoard of 1100 silver coins of Robert III. was discovered, buried in the cathedral green, halfway between the sites of Kiltearn manse and of the ancient tumulus (now levelled) known as the ' Holeridge. ' A large new Volunteer hall, capable of seating 400 persons, was erected in the town in 1881. Fortrose is the seat of the presbytery of Chanonry. It contains two Established churches. Rosemarkie parish church (1821; 800 sittings) is said to occupy the site of an ancient church built by. and dedicated to, St Bonifacius; Fortrose church from a chapel of ease was raised to quoad sacra status in 1873. The Free church is a tasteless edifice in the Pointed style. The Episcopalian church of St Andrew was built in 1828 at a cost of about £1100, and is seated for 190. It is Gothic in style, and looks well from the sea. There is also a Baptist chapel (1806) in the town. The historian, Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832), who was born at Aldourie, was educated at Fortrose from 1775 to 1780. The present academy, which offers a very good secondary education, was founded in 1791. Its management is vested in subscribers of 50 guineas, whose rights are hereditary, and who are each entitled to present a bursar or free-scholar; in subscribers of 20 guineas, whose rights are for life; in the clerical members of Chanonry presbytery; and in the provost of Fortrose. In 1882 it had 62 scholars, with a teaching-staff of 2. Rosemarkie Public school, under the school-board, consisting of a chairman and 4 members, had in 1882 a teaching-staff of 2, and 81 scholars. There is also an infant school for girls. The Mechanics' Institute possesses an excellent library and a reading-room. The town contains an office of the Caledonian bank and agencies of 7 insurance companies. There are 3 chief hotels. The Black Isle Steam Shipping Company's steamer runs between Inverness and Fortrose twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and once on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, during summer, and once a day in winter; whilst other steamers afford communication with Inverness 2 or 3 times a week. A mail-gig also runs daily to Inverness. The nearest station is Fort George on the Highland railway, 6 miles to the ESE; but to reach it, the Fort George or Ardersier Ferry has to be crossed. The harbour of Fortrose is safe and convenient, and was thoroughly repaired in 1881; and at the same date a new wooden pier, about 240 yards long, was erected. Steamers can enter the old harbour only at certain states of the tide; but they can now touch at this pier at any time. There are markets at Fortrose for cattle, grain, and farm produce every month, on the Monday preceding the Muir of Ord market, except in April and June, when the dates are respectively the first and the third Wednesdays of the month. Hiring markets are combined with the above in April, August, and November. The burgh has an independent revenue, besides enjoying the benefit of various charitable mortifications, so that the rate of taxation is low. The burgh has adopted the Lindsay Police Act, under which the council, consisting of provost, 3 bailies, dean of guild, treasurer, and 9 councillors are commissioners. The same body are also commissioners for the harbour, under a provisional order for its management. The sheriff-substitute of Dingwall holds quarterly circuit small-debt courts at Fortrose; and a justice of peace court is held on the first Wednesday of each month. With Inverness, Forres, and Nairn, Fortrose returns a member to parliament, its parliamentary and municipal constituency numbering 141 in 1882, when the annual value of real property within the burgh amounted to £3418, its corporation revenue being £293. Pop. (1821) 932, (1841) 1082, (1851) 1148, (1861) 928, (1871) 911, (1881) 869; of royal burgh beyond the parliamentary limits (1881) 117; of Fortrose quoad sacra parish (1881) 492.—Ord. Sur., sh. 84, 1876. See the Rev. J. M. Neale's Ecclesiological Notes on Ross (Lond. 1848), and A. R. Scott's Illustrations of Fortrose Cathedral (Edinb. Architect. Assoc., 1873).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

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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