23 November 2010
Cairds' Cave, Cliff Path

One of the pleasures of carrying out the dig at Cairds' Cave this summer was meeting and talking to people who had come along from Rosemarkie for a look. Several mentioned there once being a path up the cliff near the cave, which had a rope fastened at one point, someone even said it was known as the Pilgrim Path. 
I had also heard two interesting stories about this path, one was of a local farmer who used to walk back from the pub along the beach, up the cliff path to his home at one of the farms above. Another was of a female relative of two ladies I met, who had climbed up the path carrying two small children.
I was intrigued by these stories and have been waiting for the bracken to die down. Today I went along to Cairds and approaching from the beach, it was quite easy to see parts of a zigzag path on the west, Rosemarkie, side of Skart Craig. So I went up and think I might have found the route of the original path (though I haven't checked on the other side of the cave yet). It seems that it is in regular use by deer, which is why the foliage has been disturbed. About halfway up, I found a piece of a 19th century earthenware bowl.
There was no sign of a rope, but I think I know where it would have been. The route up the slope is reasonably straightforward for anyone used to hill walking, but at the very top there is a short scramble over a rocky bit. A stout rope would be ideal as an additional handhold here. Going down, however, would be quite scary, a rope fastened at the top and over the rocky bit would be much appreciated.
As to whether this was a pilgrim's path I am not too sure, there are many easier ways up onto the Black Isle than taking this route, but I think it may well have been used in the past by locals as a means of going up and down the slope.

Update: I went and checked on the possible path on the other, SW, side of the cave a month later and found another route up. Like the other, NE,  side, this was a moderate scramble, but had lots of loose rock underfoot, so I feel that the first route was the most likely to have been used in the past. However neither route is particularly easy and if there had been a more regular path to the top of the cliffs, there are several other places which would have been easier and more practical.

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