I’ve heard it said that it’s good to be scared by something at least once a day. A little adrenaline fix to speed up the heart rate and pump oxygenated blood to the muscles. However, when you’re descending a worryingly steep cliffside path the health benefits of “fear” are the last thing on your mind. This is especially the case when your carefree five-year-old son is blithely walking ahead oblivious to the looming drop to his right, while you’re being dragged off your feet by an over-excitable golden retriever in full “mad puppy frenzy mode”.
Admittedly, I’m exaggerating a little, but our decision to take a leisurely stroll down to the beach on our first evening at Black Isle Yurts wasn’t quite as smooth as I expected. Thankfully, once we reached our destination – a deserted rocky shoreline – we knew our haphazard descent had been worth it. For in front of us lay the main attraction of our two-night stay – the stunning setting that is the Moray Firth. Indeed, just to add to the moment and as if by magic, a pod of dolphins poked their fins out of the water – as if to welcome us to their home. The tranquil setting was a welcome balm. The sound of waves gently swishing against the rocks and the shingling sand underfoot on a cool summer evening transported us to another world.
The five of us – two adults, two young boys and a dog – were staying at Easter Hillockhead Farm, near Rosemarkie, 15 miles north of Inverness. A working farm, it hosts a small collection of hand-built yurts situated in a private hillside woodland. Based on the traditional designs from Central Asia, our yurt (named Aspen) provided us with a spacious and amenable home for our weekend away, while the shower and toilet facilities at the nearby Hub really were first class. A small gas camping stove, a double bed and two pull-down sofa beds provided essential hot water and comfort, while the wood-burner gave dad (me, that is) the perfect excuse to show off his boy scout training and make fire . . . only failing miserably leaving mum as the only one who could properly light the thing. Once it got going though, the place was like a sauna, so any fears of shivering into the wee small hours quickly abated.
The lack of mains connection also allowed us to leave behind many of the trappings of modern life. Instead we were looking forward to abandoning the iPads and engaging in that ancient and often forgotten tradition of talking. And, much to our relief, it actually worked. The sounds of laughter could be heard from our little yurt on both nights (apologies to our neighbours) as the great outdoors helped fire up imaginations and ghost stories, playground jokes and animal noises were shared. This was all helped along by a nearby hooting owl with a gift for comic timing.
On to Rosemarkie the next day, where we made a coffee-and-treats stop at the Beach Café, situated, as the name suggests, right next to the sandy shoreline. From here we walked along the beach (thankfully the tide was out) taking in the coastline’s ancient rocks, many celebrated with names such as The Tuback, Gillander’s Gable, Dragon’s Teeth and Scart Craig. After an hour’s stroll we arrived at Cairds Cave, the former home of poet-tinker ‘Captain Devine’. With the weather on our side it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the day, clear the head and recharge the batteries. In the opposite direction lies Chanonry Point on the far side of the bay, a famous gathering spot for dolphins and seals.
As the evening drew in we headed 13 miles up the road to the charming seaside town of Cromarty, where we sampled Sutor Creek Café’s pizzas, which had been recommended to us and didn’t disappoint. Once fed, watered and content, we played on the shore marvelling at the huge rigs that still dominate the view.
For a family getaway, there can be few places in Scotland that can rival the Moray Firth for sheer escapism. As I carefully tiptoed from our yurt during the night en route to the loo, I could only gasp at the scale of what lay before me as the moon lit up the sea. The silence and sheer beauty is truly other-worldly.
For more information go to Black Isle Yurts www.blackisleyurts.co.uk
Alternatively, you can book through the Glamping Hub, which has 79 accommodations in Scotland which are all very unique. Go to https://glampinghub.com/unitedkingdom/scotland
Rosemarkie Beach Café www.rosemarkiebeachcafe.info
Sutor Creek Café www.sutorcreek.co.uk