The property was feud in 1796 to George Middleton, merchant, who came to Cromarty ‘to cure cod-fish and pork’ and trade in grain. His descendants are still here at Rosefarm and Davidston.
He built a house and other buildings on the site. In 1810 the buildings were described as ‘a dwelling house with garden behind, storehouses, a slaughter house and outhouses for curing pork and fish (Inverness Journal 29 June 1810). There is a more detailed description in 1812 of a house with a parlour, drawing room, four bedrooms, a kitchen with oven and grate, two cellars, a milk house and pantry; ‘office houses’ and granaries forming a square, with a pump well in the yard, and a walled garden 80ft square; and an outer walled court – 150ft x 40ft – with a large stable, carthouse and shed. (Inverness Journal 28 Feb 1812).
It was brought to judicial sale in 1825, at which time it was occupied by James Taylor, fishcurer, and George Andrews, innkeeper (Inverness Journal 1 Apr 1825) – Andrews briefly operated a distillery at Braelangwell. This is the first indication of it being operated as an inn.
The earliest reference to it as the Admiral Napier Hotel is in 1855, following the over-wintering in the Firth of the Baltic Fleet, commanded by the then popular Admiral Napier.
In 1896 it passed to Mrs Grace Davidson and in November opened as the Royal Hotel – perhaps in anticipation of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee the following year.
In 1913 the Cromarty Firth became a naval base and the hotel was ‘nationalised’ as part of the Cromarty Firth State Management District, which controlled all sales of alcohol around the Firth. It remained state controlled until 1972.
The hotel was extensively modernised in the spring of 1930 (see Eric Malcolm’s ‘The Cromarty We Knew’ for details). At the outbreak of war in 1939 part of the hotel was commandeered by the Navy, who manned the examination vessels inspecting neutral shipping in the Moray Firth.
Some newspaper cuttings:
Inverness Advertiser 19 June 1855
Farewell dinner for Mr Colin A Graham departing for the Oriental Bank, London. Gold watch presented. Supper in “Admiral Napier Hotel” – ‘viands and wines were of a very superior description and admirably served’.
Invergordon Times 25 Nov 1896
Royal Hotel opened by William Davidson, ‘commodious and comfortable’.
Invergordon Times 13 Sept 1899
Andrew Carnegie’s steam yacht broke down off Balintore and Carnegie taken to Cromarty by fishing boat Joseph where they stayed at the Royal Hotel.
Information kindly provided by Dr David Alston