Fortrose faces south into the Moray Firth and is separated from east facing Rosemarkie by a half mile of open ground, and by the long narrow prow of Chanonry Ness extending south-east into the Moray Firth. Most of the town occupies the flat ground above low cliffs rising from the shoreline.
Fortrose owes its origins to the decision in the mid 1200s by Bishop Robert to build a new Cathedral of Ross here to replace the Church of St Peter in nearby Rosemarkie. The heart of the town is therefore Cathedral Square, the tree-lined square surrounding the remains of Fortrose Cathedral.
Around it was originally built ranges of medieval housing for those serving the cathedral, while the main through route and most of the mercantile activity took place in the narrow High Street, just to the north-west of Cathedral Square.
The demise of the cathedral after the Reformation seriously undermined the economy of the town, and although the nearby ferry from Chanonry Point to Ardersier continued to operate as it had for many centuries, Fortrose went in to a period of decline.
By the mid 1800s the town was benefitting from a daily steamer service to Inverness and the old houses on Cathedral Square were steadily being redeveloped into Victorian Villas. The new harbour also brought other benefits to the town in terms of trade and fishing.
In 1894 Fortrose was linked by a branch railway to Muir of Ord, improving accessibility further. The railway and the Chanonry Point ferry both disappeared by the 1960s, but Fortrose continued to grow, especially after the opening of the Kessock Bridge brought Inverness very much closer in 1982.
Today's Fortrose is one of those places you can pass through without really noticing. The main through road follows the line of the narrow High Street as it has through much of the town's history. This is far from typical of Fortrose, however. To really see the town you need to park and explore on foot the area to the south-east of the High Street. Cathedral Square is obvious, but beyond it attractive streets lead you closer to the Moray Firth.
This is most obvious from St Andrew's Episcopal Church, whose grounds extend right to the top of the low cliffs and give wonderful views around to Chanonry Point to the east and across the Moray Firth. This, too is the best spot from which to appreciate Fortrose's harbour, now home to the Chanonry Sailing Club.