“ A town in Ross and Cromarty, Highland, Scotland. Make sure to go during the blooming season. Alness was been awarded 'Britain in Bloom' several times. „
If you have ever been to the North of Scotland you will know that anything North of Inverness is a just a small village. Alness is the largest town in Ross-Shire but many of you would still class it as a village.
Alness is about 20 miles North of Inverness and quite central to surrounding villages. I grew up in Evanton which is just 4 miles from Alness so I always knew the town well.
Recently I have moved to Alness so I am within walking distance to work and to be closer to family and friends. So far I am really enjoying living in the town and it's the first place I've lived that's actually got more than a paper shop.
What's In Alness?
There are several shops in Alness which are mainly small privately run businesses. It would take me to long to mention them all but my top 5 are as follows;
Wedding Belles - a fantastic Wedding dress shop with the personal feeling, the lady that owns the shop will arrange an appointment with you to try on wedding dresses. When you go in for an appointment she closes the shop to give you her full attention and help. If they don't have what you're looking for they will order in most things for you. Definitely worth a visit.
Tony's Sandwich Bar - This is a recently renovated shop that was previously a traditional sweet shop. It was the end of an era when the sweet shop closed down and no one could see this being anything else and especially nothing as good as the sweet shop. Nowadays though it is the most popular sandwich bar in Alness. They are well known for the home baked cakes and the freshest bread for sandwiches. It's absolutely fantastic at really low prices.
All Sorts - Just as the name says this store as all sorts of items to buy from stationary to bed linen. It's a small store but most time's you're looking for small items that you can't get in many other stores unless you go to Inverness I would recommend you try this shop first. I was looking for small glue dots and went here last because I really didn't think they would stock them......but I was wrong, not only did they have them but they had about half a dozen different types!
Patterson's - This was unsurprisingly run by a family with surname Patterson's, this was bought over a few years ago but has kept the name, I can only assume this is because it was so well known as Patterson's for so long. They sell a wide range of items also from pet food to kitchen utensils. There's a lot of traditional kitchen utensils in here that you can't find in many stores so for elder people set in their ways looking for something exactly like they bought 20 years ago then I'd advise to look here first. I love this shop for buying my cats some treats but also go in here for light bulbs, kitchen blinds and even paint. The shop isn't big but it certainly holds a lot of items, you would be surprised what you can actually get in here.
Dalmore Furnishings - This shop is highly recommended by so many people within the area. They sell great furniture that is mostly made from solid wood. Everything in here is fantastic quality and you could spend hours in here planning out a whole house of furniture just from this store. I will be the first to admit that the prices are slightly more expensive than you would get from large chains but I do find this shop has better quality items.
I'm not going to bore you with a list of all the shops in Alness as there are several more including many hairdressers, takeaways and restaurants. For a full list go to http://www.alness.com/Business-Directory.asp and it has all the business info you'll need.
What is there to do?
I'll be honest if you are looking for somewhere to go on holiday or even to live with a lot of activities and everything on your doorstep then anything North of Inverness probably isn't for you.
The main attraction to Alness is the walks around the area. There are some fantastic walks down to the Alness Point which is across the main road but it takes you right down to the Cromarty Firth where you have a view of the Black Isle and you can also see all the oil rigs that are in Invergordon.
There are also several other walks including Fyrish Monument which is an absolutely stunning walk and worth the trek once you get to the top.
There's also a golf course just at the back of Alness which I've heard (I don't play golf so I don't know) is a brilliant course and very popular.
I was always unsure of Alness as a place I'd live as it is bigger than anywhere I've lived before and I assumed it would be busier with more noise. We were quite lucky to get a house on the outskirts which is a mile from my work and across the road from my partners main office. This was the reason we moved here and I was expecting it to take me a while to settle in but I now have to say I love it.
There is plenty of shops for me to get to compared to previous places I've lived and when you actually take time to look at Alness you will see that it actually looks very impressive. Year after year locals work at planting flowers throughout the whole town and every night you see them driving around watering them all. The town has won Britain in Bloom on many occasions and I have to say they deserve it with the amount of effort the put in.
It is a small town and there is no cinemas or bowling alleys in the area unless you go to Inverness but I am glad because it would just spoil the area. Definitely worth a visit
Alness is situated in Easter Ross on the shores of the Cromarty Firth. Originally a small rural community, Alness expanded rapidly during the late 1960's and early 1970's as a result of major industrial development, particularly the establishment of the aluminium smelter at Invergordon. (now closed and dismantled) and oil-related projects around the Cromarty Firth.
People were hired in from outside the area to work in these smelters and oil projects which worked out well for quite a while, Alness was built to accommodate these workers and therefore a new town was born. Unfortunately once the smelters dismantled this meant the people who had been bought in to the area to work were now out of work. Obviously the fishing community which was then thriving also hit hard times due to certain government legislations and the incentive to disband their fishing boats was put in place. This also meant that the fishermen had to find alternative jobs too.
The Industrial estates around Alness, Evanton, and Invergordon started popping up and some of these workers found work in these outlets. Changing careers, in some cases.
There were other projects coming into line like the oilrigs and other oil related projects which were taken over by varied companies. Work was and still is intermittent for these workers.
In response to these changes and the employment opportunities created by the exploitation of the areas natural resources, the population of Alness rose from 3000 in 1971 to over 6000 by 1981. Alness had become a boom town.
Shops started popping up of varied assortments and we now proudly boast a great Hardware store several different takeaway shops including Chinese and Indian, Thai and English. There are two chemists, Cake shops and sweet shops, a news agent, post office and various gift shops in the main town alongside estate agents and public houses. We boast a Doctors Surgery and have a nice children's park which has a short walk around it. Also on the outer edges of the town we have two large shopping Supermarkets which are Morrison's where I work and Lidl. which is right next door. There is also a little further down the road Dalmore Distillery which is still in operation and has guided tours on a daily basis.
Just opposite these stores in Alness Academy which our older students go to. It has quite a reasonable reputation and works alongside the many primary schools in and around the area.
The voluntary sector grew with the expansion of the town and this in turn formed a community spirit which is second to none in the Highlands.
Since 1997 when Alness first entered the Scotland in Bloom Competition the town has had considerable success in floral competitions. We have won the Scottish small town award seven times, British small town award three times and the Beautiful Scotland in Bloom Premier Award three times and winners in the Nations and World in Bloom competitions. As a result of our success and the publicity created by these awards, Alness has become the shopping centre for Easter Ross. Loads of sightseers come to see the flowers.
All the major cruise liners visiting nearby Invergordon stop there to let visitors wander around the areas, some friends of mine recently did just that and we went to collect them off the ship for a few hours sightseeing tour. They enjoyed themselves immensely and thanked us very much for the lovely trip around the area.
The town is bypassed by the A9 which is at the southern end of the B9176 "Struie road" to Bonar Bridge. Alness Railway is on the north side divided by the River Averon, the town is in two parishes, Alness in the west and Rosskean in the east. Today there are three churches, the free church , the church of Scotland and the Baptist.. The nearest commercial airport is at Dalmore Inverness.
We live in the nearby village of Evanton which I have written about previously. It is a lovely small village just off the Struie road and is quite a lot quieter than Alness itself. Seemingly as if you walked back in time. Quaint but still quite built up as new buildings are going up all the time. In some instances I think this is a shame as it spoils the quiet serenity of Evanton the way it once was. To read more on this village see my other review.
We love ambling around Alness for shopping bits and pieces as there is quite a few shops to do this with and with Invergordon just down the road you could nip in there as well if you so desired.
Places to look out for in Alness
Dalmore Distillery, Bowling, Golf Course, plenty of restaurants and cafes, swimming for the kids and long woodland walks. And of course do not forget the fishing.
Alness Golf Club is a beautifully situated 18 hole golf course and is probably one of the "Best Kept Secrets of the Highlands". The Club offers a warm welcome to both beginners and seasoned players alike and is open to visitors all year round.
The Highlands has 46 Golf Courses ranging from competition standard to 9 hole links courses.
The Ardross & Alness Bowling Club was formed in 1906 and is one of the most picturesque in the area looking on to the Perrins Centre.
The Club is open to visitors during the summer season.
Recreational Activities are readily on offer within the Town to suit all ages from Golfing, Fishing, Bowling, Swimming and many, many other activities.
Hill Walking is well catered for around Alness with the challenge of "Fyrish" where the views are simply stunning looking down over Alness and the Cromarty Firth to the east and over Ben Wyvis to the west.
A must for all serious hill walkers.
For something a bit easier, there are lots of picturesque local walks around the Town to suit all ages.
I hope I haven't bored you too much with this walk through my home town as it has now become. I have lived in and around this area now for four years and never get tired of the wonderful scenic views and the people in it.