Because of its proximity to the sea and the staggering beauty of the multitude of skulls and crossbones on the table stones, St Regulus graveyard is sometimes called the pirates’ graveyard. There is, however, no evidence of pirates buried here. It is nevertheless an amazing place of remembrance and well worth a visit.
St Regulus chapel
“St Regulus burial ground is located on a rocky outcrop opposite the tunnel entrance to Cromarty House on the road out of Cromarty up to Mains Farm. A chapel to St. Regulus once stood at the northeast end of the graveyard, parts of which were still visible in Hugh Miller’s lifetime (1802-56). In ‘Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland’ he writes, ‘The ruins of the old chapel of St. Regulus occupy the edge of a projecting angel, in which the burying ground terminates towards the east. Accident and decay seemed to wrought their worst upon them. What is now, however, only a broken-edged ruin, and a few shapeless mounds, was three hundred years ago, a picturesque-looking high-gabled house of one story.” (ambaile – highland history and culture)
No obvious traces are left of the ruined chapel on the graveyard until you look closer at what lies below the surface. Subtearranean spaces seem to be en vogue here and thinking about what lies beneath the oddly appropriate thing to do on a graveyard.
“Cromarty is a tourist destination and used to be a fishing settlement. Cromarty, apart from ist white-washed Fishertwon, contains a number of more substantial former merchant houses, reflecting its site on the Cromarty Firth roadsted, and the agricultural richness of its former hinterland. Its range of Scottish vernacular architechture is particularly rich and complete.” (Donald Omand (ed.): The Ross and Cromarty Book. The Northern Times Ltd, 1984)
It is not just the architecture, it is the stone masonry that is particularly impressive in Cromarty. A tradition started by the Urquarts of Cromarty in th 17th century and later by the Ross family. Both resided in Cromarty Castle, later Cromarty House and both left traces in the burial ground nearby.
“Cromarty House and policies adjoin the east end of Cromarty town. The designed landscape lies on the lower, north-facing slopes of Gallow Hill, directly on the shores of the Cromarty Firth. The house faces northwards with parkland to its south and south-west. The parkland is enclosed by woodlands, which screen the town and the Firth. Principal views from the house lead south-westwards over the parkland.” (her.highland.gov.uk/Monument/MHG8779)
the servant’s tunnel
“The site of Cromarty Castle lies to the north-west of the house above the Chapel Burn, which flows from the south-west to form a deeply incised valley. To the north-east of Cromarty House, the opposite side of Chapel Brae, is the site of St. Regulus, a pre-reformation chapel with its graveyard, set within a triangular-shaped terrace. The late 18th century vaulted Servants’ Tunnel leads north-eastwards, underground from the house, to the public road. Its roadside entrance has iron gates and flanking walls. The Graveyard, to the north of Cromarty House, contains the vault of the ruined St. Regulus’ chapel, converted in the mid 19th century to form the Ross family vault.” (her.highland.gov.uk/Monument/MHG8779)
Even on a bright summer’s day the servant’s tunnel has a dark and eerie feel to it which is surpassed only by what awaits within the burial ground a few meters away from it.
the family vault
Tread carefully and watch where you are going near the vault. This is a beautiful but strangely dark space. William Urquhart sold the estate to Lord Elibank, who sold it on. In 1768 , a London lawyer by the name of George Ross bought it. On his death, his half-nephew Alexander Gray Ross inherited Cromarty, along with considerable debts. In 1804, the estate was sequestered. Family members are buried here. Above ground the many elaborate table stones bear witness to the wealth of Cromarty and its inhabitants.
the table stones
The servant’s tunnel, the family vault and the gravestone symbols all have a part in St Regulus’ amazing atmosphere.
This is a graveyard you do want to visit but maybe not when the light fades and darkness slowly spreads ist wings.
Liked the read? Scotland for Quiet Moments is available on Amazon!
Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.
🏴 Scotland for Quiet Moments is available @Amazon 🏴