DUNCANSBY HEAD TO RATTRAY HEAD
This region of Scotland, predominantly described as the Moray Firth stretches from Duncansby Head in the north to Rattray Head on Scotland’s east coast. The coastline defining this area is predominantly flat with many expansive sandy beaches. On the western edge the main township is Wick. Historically a bustling fishing port Wick was one of the primary bases for Scotland’s herring fishing industry. At it’s peak more than 600 vessels would descend on the town at the peak of the season. Sadly, as the herring stocks declined so did the fishing fleet so now this activity has long since vanished. At the south west corner of the Moray Firth lies the other main town of the region, Inverness, situated at the mouth of the River Ness. Inverness is the administrative capital of the Highlands and the furthest north city in Britain. Historically, apart from fishing vessels, sea traffic throughout the region was generally light but two significant developments in the early 19th and 20th centuries were to change this.
The construction of the Caledonian Canal in the early 19th century provided a safe passage from the east to west coast of Scotland for vessels avoiding the treacherous journey through the Pentland Firth or longer route north of Orkney. The northerly entrance to the canal lies close to Inverness. The 60 mile long passage winds through a number of lochs and 29 locks before emerging into Loch Lihhne close to Fort William on the west coast. While the traffic through the canal nowadays is predominantly leisure based for more than one hundred years smaller commercial vessels carried loads through the Canal avoiding the dangerous long voyage around the Scottish north coast.
The second major boost to the volume of shipping in the area came with the selection of Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth as a base for the Royal Navy prior to World War One. . The deep sheltered waters were ideal and could easily handle the huge battleships and cruisers of the British Navy. The base became operational in 1913 before the outbreak of the war. The firth was heavily fortified with gun batteries and a boom across the entrance and it served successfully as a refuelling base throughout World War One. In December 1915 the base was the site of one of the worst disasters in British Naval history when the cruiser HMS Natal blew up with the loss of 421 officers and men. In more recent times the Cromarty Forth has been used as a base for storage and refit on oil rigs from the North Sea. A number of these huge structures can be seen anchored in the firth at any time.
Area Wreck Map