Dingwall is a town in Easter Ross in the Scottish Highlands, with a population in 2020 of 5360. Its name derives from the Scandinavian Þingvöllr, a meeting-place, and it was once astride several transport routes. As it was at the head of Cromarty Firth it had a harbour, roads out of the northwest Highlands converged here, and the Edinburgh - Inverness - John o'Groats A9 crossed the rivers above the Firth. But the harbour silted up in the 18th century; a canal was cut to town but wasn't a commercial success. The main roads bypassed it in the 20th century, and the county of which it was county town was reformed out of existence. So "the meeting place" is something of a backwater, but has preserved its 19th century centre.
Get in edit
By road edit
Take the A9 from Inverness over Kessock Bridge (toll-free) to Tore, then A835 heading for Ullapool. If you're following the North Coast 500 itinerary, this is where you need to decide which way round you're going: it's usually followed clockwise but either is fine.
By bus edit
Stagecoach Highlands buses 27 / 25A run from Inverness, taking 35 min by that direct route; some start from Culloden. They're hourly M-Sa, every two hours on Sunday, and continue to Strathpeffer and Contin.
Bus 28 (hourly M-Sa) is a slower route, taking 80 min via Beauly (for Priory) and Muir of Ord (for Singleton Distillery).
By train edit
Dingwall has trains M-Sa every hour or so from Inverness, taking 35 mins via Beauly, Muir of Ord and Conon Bridge. Four of these continue north via Tain, Golspie (for Dunrobin Castle), Helmsdale, Thurso (for ferries to Orkney) and Wick. Four other trains branch west via Achnasheen and Plockton to Kyle of Lochalsh, for buses to Skye. On Sunday the trains from Inverness are every 2-3 hours, mostly terminating at Tain.
- 1 Dingwall railway station (just east of town centre). There's a staffed ticket office (M-Sa 07:30-14:30) but no machines, so if you start from here out of hours, pay on board. The cafe, waiting room and toilets are open at the same hours. There is level access to Platform 1 (arrivals from Inverness) and a ramp to Platform 2.
Get around edit
You need your own wheels to reach the Red Kites Reserve.
- 1 Dingwall Museum, Town House, High Street IV15 9RY, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. May-Sept W-Sa 10:00-16:00. Local artefacts and exhibitions. It's housed in the former Town Hall, built in 1745, with the octagonal cupola tower added in 1773 and the stepped gables in 1903. On 4 Jan 1963 a hopeful young rock band performed here, but only 19 came to listen, as there was a better act in Strathpeffer that night. The hopefuls were called The Beatles. Free.
- St Clements (C of S). Was completed in 1803. In its graveyard stands an ancient stone, bearing neolithic cup-and-ring marks and Pictish Z-symbols. St Clements is on Church St next to Tesco.
- 2 St Lawrence. The Roman Catholic church, built in 1902, with elegant stained glass windows. It's next to the "doocot" (below) on the site of Dingwall Castle.
- 3 Hector MacDonald Memorial Tower. Recalls the remarkable life of "Fighting Mac" (1853-1903). He was born on a croft near Dingwall, joined the army, and by his skill and bravery rose all the way from humble private to major general. He fought in the First Boer War, the Second Afghan War and the Sudan Campaign. A hero by 1902, he was appointed commander-in-chief of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and had time on his hands. There had long been rumours of his fondness for boys, which now grew to scandal-pitch. He got out of the way to London but was in Paris when the story broke in the press, and he shot himself. He's buried in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh. A government enquiry announced in unctuous terms that there was not a shred of evidence against him, and shredded all the case files to keep it that way.
- 4 Dingwall Castle. Built in the 11th century, staged a murder worthy of Macbeth in 1438, and was restored in the 16th when the bishop prettified one of the towers into a "doocot". The castle was abandoned in 1600 and the site was levelled in 1818, except for the doocot, which stands 200 yards north of the railway station.
- Tulloch Castle. Probably dates to the 12th century but the present structure, now a hotel (see "Sleep"), is from the 16th. Any two castles within sight of each other have a mythical "secret tunnel" that supposedly connected them, and at Tulloch, you can peer into a collapsed passageway that burrows in the direction of Dingwall Castle. But that's over a mile away, a huge challenge for medieval engineering, of no defensive value, and with no ground disturbance (such as subsidence or water flow) to mark its course. Sorry, but it was obviously just a cellar.
- Caisteal Gorach. On the hillside northeast of Tulloch Castle is a late 18th-century folly, a scenic stump littered with sheep poo.
- Castle Hill. An ancient "henge" on Muir of Ord Golf Club, see below.
- What's on? Read Ross-shire Journal or Press & Journal.
- 1 Tollie Red Kites (RSPB), Brahan, by Maryburgh IV7 8HQ (Off A835 after the Maryburgh Roundabout.), ☏ , email@example.com. Temporarily closed because of bird flu. The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a common "tourist eagle" - mis-identified because of its raptor profile. The give-aways are the wafting flight pattern, the deeply forked tail and the pale patch beneath the wings. They're fed daily at this RSPB reserve, reached up a muddy track. Free.
- Walk Britain's shortest canal, the one-mile stretch of the disused Dingwall canal. It passes a firing range so don't walk there if red flags are flying.
- Football: Ross County FC play soccer in the Premiership, Scotland's top tier. Their home ground is Victoria Park (capacity 6500) just east of the railway station.
- Dingwall Leisure Centre has a gym, pool and fitness classes. It's north on Tulloch Ave, open M-F 07:00-21:00, Sa Su 08:00-18:00.
- Golf: Muir of Ord GC is 5 miles south. White tees 5542 yards, par 68, visitor round M-F £18, Su £25, no Saturday visits. The 13th green is a "henge", some sort of prehistoric structure: maybe ritual or a fortified dwelling place, as it wouldn't serve as a fort. It's not known if it was early medieval or very much older, and the site was disrupted by the golf course extension in the 1980s. All that archaeologists can agree on is that it makes Hole 13 "Castle Hill" (short par 3, 111 yards) a tricky approach.
- Black Isle Show is an agricultural fair, with the occasional piper but not the mass tartanry of Highland Games. It's held at the showground at Muir of Ord, with the next on W 2 - Th 3 Aug 2023.
- Tesco is the main store, north side on Mart Rd. It's open M-Sa 06:00-00:00, Su 08:00-22:00 and has a 24 hour filling station.
- Lidl, east off Tulloch St, is smaller, and open daily 08:00-21:00.
- The Mallard, Station Square IV15 9JD (next to railway station), ☏ . M Tu 15:00-21:00, W Th 12:00-22:30, F Sa 12:00-01:00, Su 12:00-21:00. Handy pub for food, named for the fastest steam locomotive, as you'll have ample time to recall as you await your delayed train.
- Batty's Bap's, 35 High St IV15 9SN, ☏ . M-F 07:00-16:00, Sa 08:00-16:00, Su 09:00-15:00. Friendly cafe and sandwich shop.
- Miss Ying, 16 Tulloch St IV15 9JZ, ☏ . Tu-Su 15:00-21:00. Small place doing good Thai food.
- Others in town centre are Ding's Chinese (closed Mon), Pronto Pizza, Renato's fish & chips (closed Mon), County Kebab, Cafe India and Chili Masala.
- The Caledonian is a cheerful bar on High St.
- 1 Singleton Distillery, Marybank Rd, Muir of Ord IV6 7UJ, ☏ . Daily Mar-Sep 10:00-17:00, Oct-Feb 10:00-16:00. A Diageo-owned distillery, producing "The Singleton of Glen Ord" which all goes to the Asian market. Produced elsewhere are "The Singleton of Dufftown" for the UK and Europe, and "The Singleton of Glendullan" for North America. Standard tour £20.
- Glen Wyvis make gin and whisky half a mile north of Tulloch Castle. No tours.
- 1 Dingwall Camping and Caravanning Club Site, Jubilee Park Road IV15 9QZ (next to football ground), ☏ . Pitches for caravans, motorhomes and tents. Good facilities, dogs welcome. Try not to arrive when Ross County have a home game, as the access road is mobbed.
- 2 National Hotel Inn, High Street IV15 9HL, ☏ . Family run hotel with 45 rooms, some distinctly small. Mostly good reviews for comfort and dining. B&B double £100.
- Waverley Inn is opposite National Hotel. So too is Royal Hotel, which gets rotten reviews.
- 3 Tulloch Castle Hotel, Tulloch Castle Drive, Dingwall IV15 9ND, ☏ . A castle dating from the 16th century, with a 250 year old panelled great hall, and nowadays a 20 bedroom hotel. Many guests are disappointed by what they get for the price. B&B double £180.
As of July 2022, Dingwall and its approach roads have 4G from all UK carriers, though the signal from Vodafone is patchy. 5G is available along the A9 but doesn't yet reach town.
Go next edit
- Strathpeffer is a Victorian spa town five miles west.
- Fortrose and Rosemarkie are twin towns on the east tip of Black Isle. Watch the dolphins from Chanonry Point.
- Inverness is a pleasant 19th century city and the region's transport hub.
- North Coast 500 is a motoring itinerary looping from Inverness, so Dingwall could be your first or last stop.
|Routes through Dingwall|
|Thurso/ Wick ← Tain ←||NE S||→ Inverness → Perth|