Visit the Highland pottery and textiles shop of the Scottish interiors and lifestyle company ANTA in Fearn where many of its products are made.
Choose from ANTA’s complete range of hand-decorated ceramics and plaid woollen textiles which reflect the contemporary, Scottish style of this luxury brand. ANTA’s Highland shop is also the only place where customers have the opportunity to purchase seconds and end-of-line fabrics. The tearoom offers an appetising selection of homemade soups, scones, teas, coffees and home baked treats. Arrangements can be made in advance for children to paint their own ANTA mugs while the adults shop.
Located just east of the Hill of Fearn and two miles north west of the coastal village of Balintore, Fearn Abbey, on first sight, is an ordinary rectangular parish church. The reality is a much more complex story dating back almost 800 years.
Fearn Abbey is the most northerly monastic foundation in Scotland. It was founded in the 1220s, reputedly by Ferquhard, Earl of Ross, as a Premonstratensian order with monks from Whithorn. The original site of the abbey was said to be near Edderton or Kincardine, but is thought to have moved to the present site c. 1238.
The Premonstratensian order, also known as the White Cannons due to their unbleached wool habits, was similar to the Cistercians, with strict and austere rules. In Scotland there were six houses, all in the Borders or the far Southwest with the exception of Fearn.
Today only the church remains, and none of the other domestic buildings such as the cloisters. The church itself is a confusing mixture of styles. Known as 'The Lamp of the North', it is one of the oldest pre-Reformation Scottish churches still in use for worship. The core of the building is 13th century, it was rebuilt 1772 by James Rich and restored by Ian G Lindsay & Partners 1972. Further restoration took place in the summer of 2001.
Nigg Old Church
The beautiful Nigg Old Church (main picture above) can trace its origins back to 1296 when the parson, John of Dunbretan, swore loyalty to King Edward of England. The present structure was built in 1626 and contains the internationally renowned eighth-century Pictish cross-slab, recently re-displayed with new lighting and interpretation. The quality and skill of the intricate carving makes the Nigg Cross-Slab one of the finest crosses of its period in all of Europe. Well worth a visit!
The cross-slab stones at Balintore, Hilton and Nigg form part of the Pictish Trail which stretches from Inverness to Golspie in Sutherland. The trail allows you to explore the mysterious and carved stones made by the Pictish people who lived in the area from 3rd to 9th Centuries AD.
The Picts were made up of various tribes or kingdoms who spoke a Celtic language and are believed to have descended from the native peoples of Scotland. The Picts had a prehistoric religion but were later converted to Christianity. The name Pict comes from the fact that the Romans referred to the as the Picti, meaning ‘painted people’, with reference to the many tattoos their warriors wore. The Romans never conquered the north of Scotland. Indeed they built Hadrian’s wall (begun in AD122) as the northern frontier of the Roman Empire to keep the Picts out!
Pictish art is acknowledged as some of the most beautiful in the world and is admired and studied by scholars world-wide. The many carved stones and cross-slabs they left behind are as enigmatic as they are beautiful. They are covered in mysterious symbols, such as the crescent and v-rod, the double disc and z-rod, mythical beasts and intricate scrolls and knots. Their code has yet to be cracked. Scholars understand more of the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ than they do of this Pictish symbolism.
The Fearn Peninsular is fortunate to have some excellent examples of Pictish stones at Nigg, Shandwick and Hilton-of-Cadboll (replica). Together, these cross-slabs are among the finest artistic achievements of 8th-century Europe and they are believed to mark the boundaries of the Pictish monastery at Portmahomack.
Follow the Pictish Trail signs, see the stones, then find out all about the Picts at the Tarbat Discovery Centre.
Visit Scotland has a full, illustrated trail leaflet which you can download
Nigg Old Church