Invergordon has become a key part of Scotland’s tourist industry. Last year it welcomed more than 149,000 visitors from 93 cruise ships, making the Cromarty port a real gateway to the Highlands.
The naturally sheltered deep waters of the firth means it is an attractive harbour and cruise ships have, in fact, been visiting since 1978.
The port welcomed its 1,000th cruise liner in 2016 and in this, its 40th year of cruise ship arrivals, expects 20,000 more passengers than last year.
But just what do those passengers do on their fleeting visits to the north of Scotland?
Loch Ness is probably one of the most popular destinations. A sail on the loch to do some Nessie hunting, a visit to 500-year-old Urquhart Castle or a stop in Inverness might make up the day out.
For many, the chance to visit a distillery will be high on their wish list and with Glenmorangie a few miles from Invergordon it is an achievable dream.
Whisky has been produced for more than 170 years at the Tain distillery where its tall stills are said to produce a purer spirit.
The atmospheric Cawdor Castle near Nairn is both a private family home and a popular attraction thanks to its role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, beautiful gardens, tea room and nine-hole golf course.
Other passengers will head to Culloden to find out about one of Scotland’s most dramatic of battles.
The award-winning Culloden visitor centre brings it all to life, while the museum at Fort George adds to the story.
A cruise passenger’s time ashore is brief so with more time in the area, traditional tourists will find themselves well spoilt for choice of things to do.
The Black Isle and the town of Cromarty itself will reward the visitor. The dripping well reminds us of our ancient traditions, while spotting dolphins off Chanonry Point illustrates the beauty of nature.
Georgian merchant houses and fishermen’s cottages mean Cromarty is a charming town to explore and unearth some of its stories.
Geologist and influential writer Hugh Miller was born in 1801 in a thatched house with crow-stepped gables in Church Street. Following in his footsteps round the town is a great way to find out about his life.
The Cromarty Firth’s cruise passengers will boost the Highland economy by around £17 million this year.
No harm in following their lead and using Invergordon as a base to explore the north of Scotland.
This article appears in Grand Tour 2018 which was published with The Scotsman on 31 March 2018. Read the emag of the Grand Tour 2018 here