This is a picturesque glen, with important geological formations, which became associated with descriptions in Hugh Miller's writings. It incorporates an early 19th century designed landscape celebrating Napoleon's exile to St Helena in 1815, relict industrial features and walks long-used by townsfolk.
Type of Site
Steep-sided picturesque glen with sandstone outcrops, waterfalls and picturesque walks, a long-used amenity.
Location and Setting
The Fairy Glen lies on the north-west boundary of Rosemarkie, along the Rosemarkie Burn which flows south-eastwards issuing into Rosemarkie Bay, just to the south of Kincurdie House. The north side of the site lies adjacent to the public road (A832 Rosemarkie-Cromarty). 'The Dens', comprising 8.5ha (21.2 acres) and leading off the glen, are a series of inaccessible gorges that display a 'spectacular example of gullying and earth pillar formation' cut through glacial materials (S.N.H. Notification). In a British context they are a rare example of these 'gully and pillar' geological formations, and considered the best example known in the Highlands.
From north of East Craiglands the site extends south-eastwards to the A832 road bridge and thereafter along the south banks of Rosemarkie burn to the sea.
The public path along the Glen now leads from a car park on the north side of Bridge Street (A832), and along the burn. To the south of Fairy Glen villa is the site of the retting ponds. The woodland path leads past the Mill Pond and along by a series of Mill Lades. At the western end of the Glen is a series of two waterfalls. The broadleaved woodland includes some significant mature trees which extend across the valley floor and onto the cliff faces above.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
A picturesque glen, with important geological formations, which became associated with descriptions in Hugh Miller's writings. It incorporates an early 19th century designed landscape celebrating Napoleon's exile to St Helena in 1815, relict industrial features and walks long-used by townsfolk.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
1815-1840s, 1877-early 20th century
West of Rosekmarkie lies a series of deeply-incised valleys formed by the Rosemarkie Burn and its tributaries. The parish ' is well supplied with water by means of perennial springs, and some small streams or burns. On the burn discharging itself into the bay of Rosemarkie, about a mile above the town, there is a pretty fall or cascade' (New Statistical Account, 1841).
The name 'Fairy Glen' applied to the easternmost part of the glen by the early 1900s (1904, OS 6"). Previously, it was referred to as the 'Dens'. Its association with fairies may be traditional, or it may have been identified with Miller's description of Eathie burn, further northwards, for the Rosemarkie glen also lies at the corner of Cromarty parish where 'it abuts on the one hand on the parish of Rosemarkie, and on the other on the Moray Firth...'(Miller, 1835). Miller recounts the:
'natural connection between wild scenes and wild legends; and some of the traditions connected with this romantic and solitary dell illustrate this remark. Till a comparatively late period, it was known at many a winter fireside as a favourite haunt of the fairies. I have conversed with an old woman who, when a very little girl, had seen myriads of them dancing as the sun was setting on the further edge of the dell' (Miller, 1835)
In 1815, a small property on the southern banks of the Rosemarkie Burn, was called 'St Helena', after Napolean's island of exile. It was described in the Inverness Courier as having received its name when 'the Corsican hero' was exiled to the far-famed cognominal island'. The name supposedly arose from the Glen's 'insulated situation and peninsular appearance, being almost encompassed by two romantic brooks of a very picturesque aspect' (Inverness Courier, 19 November 1845). The site was laid out by Mr Hogarth one of the principals of the Aberdeenshire firm, Messrs. Hogarth. During the 18th century salmon fishing came to be an important part of the Black Isle economy and by the early 19th century, Messrs. Hogarth held the leases of a number of local fishing stations around the coast.
A short description of 'St Helena' in 1848 notes a number of the features made by Mr Hogarth including:
'in a prominent position ' a spring called Napolean's Well, within a circular enclosure, which is planted round with shoots from the weeping willows that grew over the Emperor's grave. These willows were obtained from Mr Maclean of Hawkhill, to whom a plant had been presented several years ago by a medical gentleman, whose love of the curious had led him to bring it to this country.' (The Inverness Courier, 17 June 1848).
In addition Hogarth:
'planted rare shrubs, and had the old well enclosed with a pagoda-shaped building. The well was known as 'St Helena' a local tradition said that Mr Hogarth in his wanderings visited the island of St Helena., and carried home a cutting from the famed willow tree at Napolean's grave and planted the twig at Drumarkie well' (Fraser, 1965).
This area of picturesque walks around Drummarkie House is bounded on its north by the municipal boundary with East Craiglands to its north-west and on its south by the Little Red Den, the latter formed by a tributary flowing north-eastwards to issue into the Rosemarkie Burn. The Burn, forming the eastern boundary of the site, was also laid out with walks (1871, OS 25"). In 1910, Drummarkie was described as a 'stone, clay and thatch house with 3 apartments and a woodshed...with a wooden summer house. Stable and burn.' (SRO).
In 1877, Major Nicholson of Hawkhill sold land along the glen to George Dunlop, a wine and spirit merchant from Blairmore, Argyllshire (d.1888), who built a small villa which he named 'Fairy Glen'. Among his business interests Dunlop held shares in the Black Isle Steamship Company and owned the Royal Hotel in Fortrose. Rosemarkie became very popular as a holiday resort during the late 19th century and it may be during this period that the glen became an amenity for visitors. Hawkhill itself, a small 19th century mansion on the seafront in the town, south of Rosemarkie church, was converted into a hotel, later known as 'The Marine Hotel'.
The Glen had long been a local amenity. To the east of Dunlop's villa was the site of three retting ponds, Rosemarkie being an important centre for linen-weaving during the 18th century when there was 'hardly a person in Fortrose and Rosemarkie who is not a weaver' (quoted in Mowat, p.83). In addition, Dunlop was to keep the mill lade clear, the Rosemarkie Burn feeding a Corn Mill (now demolished) which stood at the west of Bridge Street. A Mill Pond lies along the Mill Lade to the north of the Burn. The townspeople also had the right to collect clay for their houses from the Glen.
The Glen continues to offer informal recreation for inhabitants and visitors to Rosemarkie, part of the site now being managed as an RSPB Nature Reserve. A small number of Fulmars have nesting sites within the Fairy Glen.
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information
Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces
Open to the public