The 3 Monuments of Fyrish - Cnoc Fyrish, Creag Ruadh, and Meann Chnoc
I have driven past Fyrish Monument many times over the last 2 years. The first was on my way up to Caithness for the first time in 2016. I first met my friend Pauline in a layby along the A9. We had met in a Scottish group on Facebook before my trip and wanted to meet in person. We went on to take her 3 wolfhounds on a walk in the woods near the Fyrish trailhead. Since then Fyrish has beckoned me every time I head north, and every time Pauline and I drive by on one of our adventures. (I suspect many of you have seen it up on the hill above Evanton/Allness.)
I’ve been helping out my friend Clare at Prickly Thistle this past week, and her mill is in the shadow of Fyrish. So I decided this was to be the week for Fyrish. Pauline asked if I would try to track down “Little Fyrish,” which she had heard was a smaller version of the monument somewhere in the woods. I of course accepted the challenge but when I started researching I saw that there was a third monument. The plot thickens! When I questioned locals, the replies ranged from “I never knew there were 3 up there!” to “good luck finding them, they aren’t accessible.”
So what is the story behind these monuments? They were built in the 1780’s by General Sir Hector Munro of Novar who served under the British East India Company in India. Its believed that the major monument on Fyrish was intended to represent the Gates of Negapatam, a Dutch settlement in India, where he won a military victory in 1781. Most accounts say that Sir Hector had the monument built as a way to provide local jobs in the aftermath of the Highland Clearances. A popular legend says that he would personally push stones down the hill to make the project last longer. A passing poet noted that the monument was painted white, along with some other comments about the randomness of the structure. It is no longer white, but it still has a sense of randomness to it!
While the first monument, on Cnoc Fyrish, is well known and straightforward to find, the other 2 are well hidden in the forest. I wouldn’t have found them without my OS Map. For me that is huge part of the allure! Gather clues through research, devise a general plan beforehand, and then strike out into the unknown. I had both the physical OS Map and the OS app on my phone which is lovely because it shows you where you are via GPS. Not something you should depend on but fun to use when you just know you're almost on top of a structure but can't see it!
I started off at the Jubilee Car Park off the B9176. The walk up to Fyrish Monument was a hard earned one. 2 miles of steep wooded trails, sprinkled with rewarding views and calming forest paths where towering evergreens enveloped me. The larches, (one of the few deciduous conifers), were changing color and dropping their needles. I was walking on a soft carpet of orange and yellow . Because of the steepness of the hill, the monument didn’t come into view until I was almost there. It was as impressive and unique as I expected it to be, rising up off a flat hilltop with the Cromarty Firth snaking out towards the North Sea on one side, and Ben Wyvis on the other. I’d become quite warm on the climb up but as soon as the winds hit me on the exposed hilltop I was wrapped up in my new wool scarf (woven in the Prickly Thisle mill!). I had a short break to snack on a Spanish omelette I had grabbed from Morrisons in Evanton. (My friend Bob got me hooked on Spanish omelettes. They are made of potatoes, are great cold, and are very tasty!)