No Land Available for Allotments in Cromarty

Since it was set up in 2009, the 30-member Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society has spent many, many hours attempting to find and lease land suitable for allotments in or around Cromarty. We have failed.

Much to our disappointment, and despite the national pressure to encourage people to grow their own food, none of the landowners we’ve approached have been amenable to leasing a piece of their land in Cromarty, even when the land in question is currently unused or lying fallow.

STOP PRESS!   The Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society has now signed a 50 year lease with John Nightingale of Cromarty Estate for the Old Tennis Courts Allotments.

Landowners approached and who have turned us down include local farmers, private landowners, absentee landlords and the Albyn Housing Society. In addition, and though in posession of some potentially suitable land within the town, the Highland Council has not been forthcoming*.

(* We've been informed that an area of land at Whitedykes owned by the Highland Council is now to be made available as a community Garden plot for the Townlands Park Residents Association. Excellent news.)

Here is a map with legend showing the land we’ve looked at, and the landowners we’ve approached.

We’ve not given up yet, but are becoming disheartened. If you know of anyone in the Cromarty area who might be happy to lease land for allotments, please do contact us. We have nearly three dozen members who’d love to grow their own food.

land not available for cromarty allotmentd - highland council, albyn housing and major phipps

Areas of land in and around Cromarty which we have investigated or attempted to lease for allotments, but without success.

(This map does not include several areas more distant from the town which we also looked into, but which were either too far away (some over 6 miles), unsuitable, or not available for lease.)

  • N = John Nightingale (Cromarty Estate)
  • AH = Albyn Housing
  • EM = Evan McBean
  • MP = Major Phipps
  • M = Church Manse

Cromarty Estate Old Walled Garden

Owner: John Nightingale (Cromarty Estate)
Result: FAIL

This walled garden was originally part of the vegetable and fruit garden that provided for Cromarty House back in the early years of the 20th Century. Though some of the old fruit trees at the eastern end of the walled garden have been lovingly renovated by Ken and Kristina Dupar over the last 20 years, the western end is derelict, and has been under long couch grass for many years. It is technically zoned for housing, though with demand for new housing in the town low it seems very unlikely that it will be used for this purpose in the foreseeable future.

Having been used traditionally as a vegetable garden, and being surrounded by a high wall which protects the land from the prevailing east wind, the land is ideal for small-scale allotments. Currently it is idle, and it seems pity that it can’t be used by local gardeners until needed for other purposes.

John Nightingale and the Cromarty Arts Trust are proposing to use the old garden as a sculpture park sometime in the future. In the meantime it lies idle and unproductive.

The Old Tennis Court, Cromarty Estate

Owner: John Nightingale (Cromarty Estate)
Result: SUCCESS!

Abandoned as a tennis court nearly 30 years ago, this land has reverted to scrub. It isn’t large, and it would take a lot of work to recover it for productive use as an allotment garden, but the underlying soil is good and the location a sunny one. It could make a good, albeit smallish allotment garden.

 STOP PRESS!  The Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society has now signed a 50 year lease with John Nightingale of Cromarty Estate for this land. Read the 'Allotment Success' news story . . .

Field adjacent to Tennis Court, Cromarty Estate

Owner: John Nightingale (Cromarty Estate)
Result: FAIL

The field to the East of the old tennis court is quite an exposed one. However, it is flat, sunny, and the underlying soil quite good. It is also large, and could accommodate all of the allotments desired by Cromarty Allotments and Gardens Society.

John Nightingale and the Cromarty Estate when approached decided that they weren’t happy to lease it to CAGS due to concerns about any allotments there being unsightly. The land is now rented to Cromarty Mains Farm for use as cattle and sheep grazing, and the resulting tree and undergrowth damage, excrement and summer flies are now far more unsightly than allotments might have been.

Cromarty East Church Slope, Cromarty Estate

Owner: John Nightingale (Cromarty Estate)
Result: FAIL due to complete unsuitability

Subsequent to failed discussions with John Nightingale and the Cromarty Estate about the tennis court and adjacent field, CAGS were offered the lease of the slope behind the East Church. Unfortunately, quite apart from the fact that the slope is very steep and very wet, it is also covered by mature sycamore trees, it faces almost due north and is one of the worst frost pockets in the town. Quite unsuitable for allotments.

Sandilands Field, Cromarty

Owner: Albyn Housing
Result: FAIL

Previous iterations of the local allotments group have been trying to lease the Sandilands field behind the old dairy for nearly 30 years. The land is sheltered, south-facing, convenient for access from all sides of the town, and overlooked by many homes so is likely to suffer less from the threat of vandalism than other more outlying areas.

Early efforts to lease the land for allotments failed due to the farmer owner’s ongoing expectation that the land would be bought by the Highland Council for social housing, but this situation took some 20 years to resolve, during which time the land lay idle and unused, and allotmenteers unsatisfied.

The land was finally bought for housing in 2005 by Albyn Housing, but the local demographics have changed such that new housing in the town is no longer required or affordable.

Albyn Housing have been approached by CAGS several times with requests to lease the land, but have refused to consider this due to planning process issues. Albyn Housing’s refusal to consider leasing the land for allotments pending later use for housing is frustrating, and seems very much at odds with their stated aims of ‘supporting communities’ . . .

We are very aware that successful communities are more than just about bricks and mortar. We are therefore committed to helping communities with activities which are for the greater good of the whole community.

But not when it comes to allotments, apparently.

Gaelic Chapel Field, The Paye

Owner: Evan McBean
Result: FAIL

This field to the East of the Gaelic Church is flat, sunny, sheltered, accessible and has good soil. There is also access to water fairly close. CAGS have approached the farmer owner about leasing part of the field adjacent to the Paye, but the land is leased to his cousin and is included in a rotation plan.

Field to South-west of Gaelic Chapel Field, The Paye

Owner: Evan McBean
Result: FAIL

This field, adjacent to the field described above, is also quite suitable for use for allotments. Slightly less flat than that field, it is also sunny and comparatively sheltered, has good access and parking, and even has its own water supply. Almost ideal for use as allotments, especially as it appears to be lying entirely fallow and unused. Unfortunately the farmer owner is unable to lease due to restrictions in EU Rural Development payments.

Manse Field, South of Cromarty

Owner: Evan McBean
Result: FAIL

This field, adjacent to the old Manse at the top of Denny Road, is South West facing, has reasonable access, has potential space for parking, and good soil. A good site for allotments, if not ideal due to its distance from the town - difficult to walk to as the Denny is a busy road and there is no pavement. However, it was better than some options, and we were hopeful that the farmer would be amenable to leasing it to us. Unfortunately, even with the Highland Council mediating, the farmer owner has refused to lease, due in part to restrictions in EU Rural Development payments. It is also believed that he hopes that the land will be bought for housing in the future and will therefore be sold at a premium price, so doesn't want to have a sitting tenant that may complicate this. However, informed sources advise us that such hopes are extremely unlikely to be satisfied due to restrictions on ribbon development in the Black Isle Plan.

The Daffodil Field, Miller Road, Cromarty

Owner: Major Phipps
Result: FAIL

The Daffodil Field on Miller Road was originally planted with daffodils as a commercial crop in the 1960s as one of Colonel Ross’s schemes. It was one of the few small areas left to to the Colonel after he sold the estate to the Nightingale family in 1964. The daffodil scheme was unsuccessful, and when the Colonel died the small field was left to his heir Major Phipps, who lives retired in the south of England.

The field is small, rather exposed to the prevailing east wind, and would only accommodate a few allotments, but beggars can’t be choosers, and the better options having been exhausted (see above) CAGS approached Major Phipps asking to lease the field. Though his initial reaction was favourable, and an outline lease was discussed with the Highland Council as arbitrator, over a period of several months he changed his mind. He feared that having sitting tenants might make selling the land for house building difficult, though CAGS were willing to accept terms for short notice.

Newton Farm Land - Land by Red Burn and Field Adjacent to Newton

Owner: Bill Campbell, Newton Farm (outside map area, to West)
Result: FAIL

In desperation, all other options having been exhausted, CAGS approached Newton Farm outside the town area to see if they were willing to lease land for allotments, with a strip of land near the Red Burn, and a small field opposite the farm buildings being the most practical due to their being seldom used for anything except sheep grazing. The farm declined to lease either of these.

Manse Field Beside Reservoir, Denny Road

Owner: Church Manse (Cromarty Parish Church of Scotland)
Result: FAIL

The old Manse at the top of Denny Road beside Rosenberg is due to be sold with its land in the next few years. The Manse land extends to the next field but one along the main Rosemarkie road. CAGS approached the Church to see if they were willing to lease land for allotments, but declined to do so. Their hope is that the land will be bought for housing and will therefore be bought at a premium price. Informed sources suggest such hopes are extremely unlikely to be satisfied due to restrictions on ribbon development in the Black Isle Plan.


We’ve not given up yet, but are becoming disheartened. If you know of anyone in the Cromarty area who might be happy to lease land for allotments, please do contact us. We have nearly three dozen members who’d love to grow their own food.