Fortrose, Cathedral Square, Fortrose Cathedral


Site Name Fortrose, Cathedral Square, Fortrose Cathedral

Classification Cathedral

Alternative Name(s) Cathedral Of The Bishops Of Ross

Canmore ID 14324

Site Number NH75NW 1

NGR NH 72705 56522

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Rosemarkie
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH75NW 1.00 72705 56522

(NH 7270 5652) Cathedral (NR)

OS 6" map, (1959)

NH75NW 1.01 NH 727 564 Manse

NH75NW 1.02 NH 72737 56536 Chapter House (Court House)

The cathedral of the Bishops of Ross, dedicated to SS Peter and Curitan, was transferred from Rosemarkie (NH75NW 7) to Fortrose about 1235. Of the building of this period only the undercroft of the Chapter-house remains; the upper storey of which was rebuilt in the 19th century as a Court-house. All other remains date apparently from the late 14th and early 15th centuries and consist of the vaulted south aisle of the nave, and the bell-tower. The ground plan was recovered about 1870 by an excavation by H.M. Commissioners of Woods & Forests.

The cathedral fell into disrepair about the time of the Reformation, but was partially repaired in 1615 and by 1649 was not very ruinous. Traditions says that Cromwell subsequently removed most of the masonry.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7; A R Scott 1873.

The remains of the cathedral are as described above. The area of the nave is defined by shale and only a few base stones of the buttresses remain. The graveyard to the S is still used occasionally, the extant portion of the Cathedral has recently been re-roofed.

Visited by OS (N K B) 9 March 1966.

NH 7271 5652. A series of excavations and a watching brief were carried out by Kirkdale Archaeology at Fortrose Cathedral in February and March 1996. The aim of the project was to establish whether the landscaped layout presently in place accurately reflects the location of the buried elements of the cathedral structure.

The extent of surviving remains was patchy, with noticeably superior masonry revealed towards the W end of the site, perhaps indicating the assumed two-phased construction programme between the nave and the choir.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart and D Stewart 1996.

NH 727 565 A Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey was carried out in February 2006 within the surviving South Aisle building (c 2 x 25m) of Fortrose Cathedral, which is situated on the Black Isle approximately 15 miles N of Inverness. The vaulted ceiling of the South Aisle will need to be supported during replacement of the building¿s existing wall ties. GPR was undertaken with the aim of identifying any large voids beneath the floor to assist with the placement of equipment when propping the ceiling.

Survey was undertaken using a GSSI 3000 GPR system with a 400MHz antenna. The near data are dominated by responses from the paved surface of the floor of the South Aisle with coherent reflections corresponding with tombstones visible on the floor. In the deeper time-slices several reflections suggesting subterranean changes are apparent. The primary area of concern is at the gated entrance of the cathedral, with strong reflections suggesting possible voids or at least potentially disturbed ground/unconsolidated material. Two possible `coffins¿ have been located. However, both of these lie beneath tombstones, which will not be used to prop the roof. There are also indications of a possible structure along the southern limit of the survey area, adjacent to the cathedral wall.

Archive lodged with the Geophysics Unit, Orkney College, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LX.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

Susan Ovenden, 2006.

Architecture Notes


Rough sketch showing the position of the Cathedral, Manse and crofts of the Dean and Chapter of Ross.

1859 GD128/30/7/1

The condition of the Cathedral and the Seaforth Tomb.

Roderick MacFarquhar comments on this in a letter which accompanies an estimate for enclosing the churchyard with a wall and providing a gate and pillars.

1825 GD45/12/7

Estimate for enclosing the churchyard surrounding the Cathedral with a wall and the addition of a gate and pillars. Letter from Roderick MacFarquhar, Fortrose, comments on condition of the Cathedral cna the Seaforth Tomb.

1825 GD45/12/7


Fortrose is a small town in the Black Isle, Ross-shire, on the North side of the inner part of the Moray Firth, nearly opposite Fort George. It is situated ten and a half miles North East of Inverness. It was the Cathedral Town of the Bishoprie of Ross. A very small part of the ancient Cathedral yet remains entire. The National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh contains, among the "Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton", and numbered 134 in Vol 1, an external view of 1815 and an internal view of the Chapter House dated 1819.

NLS Advocates' MS 30.5.23, 133-39. Architectural drawings, mainly of 1815 (inc. plans by John MacQueen), and Scott (1873).


Scottish Magazine August 1933

(Undated) information in NMRS.



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