Cromarty at the tip of the Black Isle peninsula between the Moray and Cromarty firths, is an example of how the doctrine of ‘Improvement’ was applied in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the more remote parts of the British Isles. Cromarty was established as a royal burgh (a town with a right to trade) in the early thirteenth century. The inhabitants of the ancient burgh lived in the early eighteenth century under the threat of incursions by armed Highlanders, but the estate that included the town was purchased in 1765 by George Ross who fostered herring fishing and trade in pork with England. In 1772-73 Ross constructed a factory for the manufacture of hempen cloth, a two-storey, 25-bay building in local red sandstone. The raw hemp was imported from Russia. Ross also built a brewery, encouraged lacemaking and fostered improved methods of agriculture in the surrounding countryside. By the 1840s, when Cromarty’s population was about 2,000, herring fishing was in decline but the textile mill employed 150 people and pork worth £20,000 per annum was exported from the harbour. The 5-bay, 3-storey brewer7 still stands, as does the textile mill which has been adapted as housing.
The town’s history is illustrated in a museum in the Court House, which dates from 1773. The birthplace in Church Street of Hugh Miller (1802-56), the stone mason who became a pioneering geologist and a prolific writer, has been open to the public since 2004.