Dingwall Heritage

Dingwall Community Collage


Dingwall is the county town of Ross and Cromarty, and houses the headquarters of the District Council and Northern Constabulary Central Division H.Q.

The name Dingwall, comes from the Old Norse, Thing Voll, the meeting place or court, which was situated behind Mill Street. Its Gaelic name, Inbhir Pheofharain, means "at the mouth of the River Peffery", which runs through the town. Dingwall has been a Royal Burgh since 1226 and was granted its first Royal Charter by King Alexander II.

The town's Coat of Arms (above) is on the wall of the old Council Chambers in the Town House (now part of the museum). It represents the Sun in his splendour surrounded by the five planets known at that time. Alternatively it represents five mullets (or starfish) that could be found in the Cromarty Firth. The Latin inscription, Salve Corona, means "Hail the Crown". Dingwall is a market town and recently boasted two livestock markets.

Historical Tour

The tour can be completed in 1.5 hours allowing time to stop at the various places. It starts at the Town House in the High Street and by following the arrows on the town centre plan you can visit all the sites at your own leisurely pace. 

Dingwall Town House (1)

The stone tower in the centre contained the original tollboth (jail) and was built in 1733. Subsequent additions include the facade and clock tower of 1905. This contains one of the few remaining hand-wound town clocks in Scotland. The Town House now houses Dingwall Museum. The Museum, which is open from May to September, displays many items pertaining to Dingwall's heritage.

Dingwall's Mercat Cross (2)

This shaft is believed to be over 500 years old, and marked the site of the old market stance. Its original site was at the top of Castle Street but, in order to prevent further erosion by weather, it is now situated within Dingwall Museum.

Dingwall's First School (3)  [Currently Bits 'n Pieces charity shop.]
Across Church Street from the Town House is a building built in 1781 as Dingwall's first purpose built school. It remained there until the Disruption of the church in 1843, when half the pupils left to go to the new Free Church school. The school was the scene of cock fighting, birds being brought in from the surrounding area. The building was also the birthplace of Thomas Simpson, son of the schoolmaster, who discovered the North West Passage in the Arctic region.

Carnegie Library (4)

In 1903, the Scottish philanthropist, Andrew Carnagie, provided £2000 for the provision of a public library in the town. This is an example of how Mr. Carnagie deployed his wealth by establishing similar institutions throughout the country. He made his wealth through the steel industry in America in the mid 19th century. The windows commemorate the lives of famous Scots - Burns, Scott, Watt, Wilkie, Wallace, Knox and Carnegie. The building is now part of the Town Hall.

Old Parish Church (5)  [St Clement's Church]

The parish church was rebuilt by Davidson of Tulloch in 1801 after being burnt down by Kenneth Bayne, who was shooting at a pigeon on the heather thatched roof of the church. The new church is built back to front owing to a dispute between Tulloch and the Kirk Session. Tulloch subsequently employed his own architect whom he instructed to build the Church facing Tulloch Castle.

1531 Tombstone (6)
At the front of the church, to the north-west, can be seen a cross slab tombstone, dated 1531. It is dedicated to the founder of the original St. Clement's chapel and shows that there has been an ecclesiastical site there since the 16th century.

Pictish Stone (7)

Just through the gate of the church is a rather weathered example of a class 1 Pictish symbol stone, containing five symbols.

Cromartie Memorial (8)  [See sketch in introduction.]
The original memorial to the first Earl of Cromartie stood 65 feet tall and leaned 5 feet to the north. It was taken down and replaced with this half size replica. See also plaque on monument.

Old Academy (9)

These buildings housed Dingwall Academy between 1870 and 1939. The flitting to the new buildings, which can be seen from Peter's Bridge (canal), was hastly constructed due to the advent of the war. The army had wanted to use the new buildings.

Not in leaflet - Dingwall Academy staff and pupils c.1880.

Dingwall Canal (10)

This canal (built 1817) was designed by Thomas Telford to esablish Dingwall's future as a port. It was the most northerly canal in Great Britain. But owing to the advent of the railway the canal became no longer viable.

Castle Doocot (11)

On the left hand side, as you go down Castle Street, you will see a doocot built in 1825 from the stones of Dingwall Castle. Little is known about the original castle, but it appears to have been built about 1000 years ago, and was one of the biggest and strongest castles north of Stirling. Some consider the castle as being the birthplace of MacBeth.

War Memorials (12)

In front of the National Hotel you will see the Seaforth war memorial. Between Ferry Road and Station Square is the South African War memorial. In the square itself is the Fontane Notre Dame memorial taken from the battlefield at Cambrai by the soldiers. The Meikle Stone is also there, which is attributed to Sgt. John Meikle, who won a Victoria Cross. The V.C. is on display in the museum.

The Cambrai Cross mentioned above.

Hector Macdonald Memorial (13)

This monument commemorates the achievements of Major General Sir Hector A. Macdonald as the son of a crofter who rose to such high ranks. This was a unique achievement at the time. Splendid views of Dingwall and the Black Isle can be obtained from the monument.

Almshouse (14)
At the junction of Hill Street and High Street, on the site of the buildings now occupied by the Royal Hotel, was formerly an almshouse (poorhouse). It was built by Robertson, grandfather of W. E. Gladstone, who was four times Prime Minister in Victorian times. Gladstone who was a burgher of Dingwall, inherited the building, and subsequently sold it in the 1880s. It was then demolished and rebuilt as the Royal Hotel.

Victoria Plaque (15)

The mosaic plaque on Mansefield House was put there by Alexander Henderson, a wealthy Dingwall citizen, to commemorate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897. Queen Victoria's golden jubilee was also commemorated in Dingwall by the establishment of the Jubilee Park, a valuable recreation ground for Dingwall.

High Street Layout. 

Dingwall High Street is built in a Medieval style. Some buildings have gable-ends onto the street and others are front-facing. In between the buildings are many small vennels which originally led to the feus behind the shops (the feus have now been turned into car parks). Most of the building in the High Street date from early 19th century, but some have been replaced with modern ones. The street was once paved with granite setts (cobbles).

Town Centre plan


Design and Text, C. Mackay.  Cover Photograph, David Lockett.  Cover Map, Caledonian Books, Ellon. Old Photographs, Dingwall Museum Trust. Typeset and Printed by Gospel Truth Press, Invergordon.  Assistance with funding, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise.


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