(189) Portmahomack-Ballone Castle-Rockfield Circuit (Highland)

Route Summary
This unusual circular coastal walk across the Tarbat Ness peninsula, enjoys wonderful views of both the Dornoch Firth and the Moray Firth. There are two pretty coastal villages to explore, and a fine restored 16thC cliff-top castle to admire on the route.

Duration: 3 hours.

Route Overview
3 hours.
Transport/Parking: There is an infrequent bus service (Stagecoach #24) from Tain. Check timetables. There is a free car-park at the walk start-point.
Length: 8.95 km / 5.56 mi Height Gain/Loss: 110 meter.
Max Height: 43 meter. Min Height: 2 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Mostly good tracks and paths, and very quiet minor tarred roads. Not suitable for off-road mobility scooters due to stiles and kissing gates.
Difficulty: Easy.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on public roads and near farm animals. You may encounter cattle and/or sheep on sections of the coastal paths.
Refreshments: Options in Portmahomack and Tain.

There are many fine views to enjoy on this unusual coastal walk which traverses the Tarbat Ness peninsula from the shores of the Dornoch Firth, to the Moray Firth, and back again. A much longer walk is possible, around the promontory where the impressive Tarbat Ness Lighthouse commands the rocky outcrop where the two firths meet. We visited the lighthouse and its environs by car, where there are breath-taking cliff-top views, after completing our walking route. The walk starts and finishes in the pretty former fishing village of Portmahomack. In terms of its coastal location, it has the unusual distinction, in eastern Scotland, of facing west, and enjoys some wonderful sunsets. The village is situated on a sandy bay and has a small harbour designed by Thomas Telford. Much evidence has been uncovered of early settlement, and the area seems to have been the site of significant activity during the time of the Romans, the Picts, early Christianity, and the Viking incursions. After crossing the gently rolling farmland, that characterises the peninsula, to the Moray Firth side, the route passes under Ballone Castle, standing out on a low cliff-top. It is unusual in having one round tower and one rectangular tower. Built in the 16thC, the castle lay in ruins for centuries before being gloriously restored in recent years. The turning point on the route is the charming little former fishing village of Rockfield, where there is an old stone jetty. After crossing through farmland, on the way back to Portmahomack, we strongly recommend a visit to the Tarbat Discovery Centre, in the old parish church of St. Colman, where the walk starts and ends. The church and graveyard catch the eye, standing out on a knoll at the outskirts of the modern village. Within the Centre, amongst a wealth of other information and artefacts, there are many Pictish carvings and other finds from the period.

Photos from walk
Download Route Guide (PDF with illustrated Waypoints)
Download GPX file (GPS Exchange Format)
Access Walk on OutdoorActive
Access Walk on OSMaps
Access Walk on Alltrails
Access Walk on Wikiloc


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