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When I travel, I love visiting old cemeteries. They’re not creepy (well, at least most of them) and are full of history and symbolism. The Kirkmichael Trust cemetery on the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands has been doing some serious restoration work. Both with the church buildings and with recovering many of its medieval slabs from beneath the turf. Here’s more about our visit there. If you want more photos from the cemetery, there’s a small gallery at the bottom of this post.
Black Isle sounds like sort of a forbidding name. However, this part of the Scottish Highlands is neither black nor an island. Situated North of Inverness, it’s a peninsula. Attached to land but, mostly surrounded by water, it would have seemed like an island before the bridges were built. Its (former) dense forests earned it its designation of “Black.”If you’re driving the North Coast 500, the Black Isle is a bit off the designated path. However, it’s worth it if you have the time, particularly if you’re interested in Pictish history, its brewery, or, like me, old cemeteries. While there are many more cemeteries in the vicinity, the Kirkmichael Trust cemetery is special. Between 2016 and 2018, they’ve been doing extensive restoration work, including refurbishing old buildings and recovering medieval tomb slabs from beneath the turf. But if you have the time and are really into visiting cemeteries, you can travel the “Cromarty Firth Kirkyard Trail” mentioned in their leaflet. In the video below, you can see what kind of condition the church was in before restoration.https://player.vimeo.com/video/100102102The restored church now houses stones that once rested under the turf in the kirkyard. Some date back to medieval times, some from the 1700s.
The Little Mausoleum at Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery
Overlooking Udale Bay on the cemetery grounds stands the little mausoleum of the Grants of Ardoch.
Above the entrance to the mausoleum are the names of William Grant and his first wife, Florence Dunbar, who passed on in 1680 – the year the structure went up. Inside, there’s also a tribute to his second wife. An epitaph reads, “Grieve not when friends and kinfolks die, they gain by death eternitie.”This little cemetery has enough to keep a taphophile (someone interested in cemeteries, tombstones, and the like) busy for hours. From skulls and crossbones to trade tools, to fleur-de-lis patterns, hourglasses …there’s much to find here in the way of symbolism. However, many of the older tombstones still can be hard to read — the restoration work goes on. Mixed in with the old tombstones are new. My favorite:
Where is the Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery?
Click the map image to open the interactive map page in a new tab. You’ll find the Kirkmichael Trust Cemetery near the tip of the Black Isle off B-163. Our planned trip turned into a back road adventure due to a bridge and road closure, but we eventually arrived there (at my insistence). For those who are unfamiliar with driving in the Scottish highlands, heed my advice. Bring both a printed map book (this one is excellent ) and have GPS equipped in your rental car.