As well as Portmahomack, there are beaches nearby at at Hilton and Shandwick (which is an Award winning beach).
Within walking distance of Hamilton Cottage is Nigg Bay, a site of special scientific interest and home to thousands of migratory birds during the winter months.
The recreation of a coastal habitat at Nigg Bay aims to reverse the effects of ‘coastal squeeze’ on a number of bird species such as Skylark, Reed Bunting and Grey Partridge. This project has begun to provide essential crops to boost the bird populations and to attract wading birds. There are hides at Udale and Nigg Bay – These bays are at opposing ends of the Cromarty Firth. The old coast guard station just off the B9175 offers a good vantage point for Nigg Bay.
Winter is the best time to view in both locations, when Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Shelduck and Greylag Geese as well as many waders frequent Udale Bay and passage wildfowl and waders stop at Nigg Bay from the Cromarty Firth.
Nigg Bay, Udale Bay, OS ref.: NH 71/65 and NH 790730 OS map: sheet 21/27
The UK hosts wintering populations of waders and wildfowl of both national and international importance. In order to support these populations in the future the large areas of intertidal habitat upon which they depend must be conserved.
Managed realignment will increasingly be adopted to restore or create intertidal habitats as compensation for Natura 2000 sites which are adversely affected by development and also to replace habitats lost through ‘coastal squeeze’ as sea levels continue to rise. Managed realignment usually involves breaching an existing sea defence allowing previously defended land to flood on the incoming tide. Over time, intertidal habitats including salt marsh will form, providing a natural defence which will be able to respond to sea level rise.
The Nigg Bay realignment is part of the much larger Nigg and Udale Bays RSPB nature reserve on the Cromarty Firth and is the first managed realignment site in Scotland. The 25 ha site will recreate some of the intertidal habitat lost to agriculture and industrial development in the bay. Since some existing intertidal habitats within the Cromarty Firth are predicted to be lost to sea level rise, and some have already been lost due to industrial development, the project provides an opportunity to investigate how they can be successfully replaced. For further information see www.sbes.stir.ac.uk/people/postgrads/crowther.html