North Kessock lies on the south coast of the Black Isle, at the narrows where the Beauly Firth becomes the Moray Firth. Directly opposite is the city of Inverness.
North Kessock is bypassed by the A9, which crosses the Kessock Bridge before cutting across the hillside above and behind most of the village. As a result North Kessock is spared through traffic. This makes it an idyllic spot, handy for Inverness, yet a million miles from the city bustle of its southern neighbour.
Most of North Kessock is laid out along a single street running along the shore. Above and behind, steep wooded slopes conceal a broad scatter of houses as well as the A9, while to the west the largely residential extension of Charlestown is laid out along the north shore of the Beauly Firth.
There's a large car park next to the shore and opposite one of North Kessock's major attractions, the Kessock Hotel. This offers accommodation, food and drink, and has excellent views across the firth to Inverness, whether from the hotel itself or from its verandah.
North Kessock enjoys a range of services of interest to visitors. These include a shop and a post office, while the North Kessock Mission Hall is used as a rather unusual church. At the east end of the village is the octagonal inshore life boat station whose structure provides an interesting contrast to the carriageway of the nearby Kessock Bridge.
Until the completion of the Kessock Bridge in 1982, North Kessock was linked by ferry to South Kessock, effectively a northern suburb of Inverness squeezed between the mouth of the Caledonian Canal to the west and the River Ness and Inverness Harbour to the east.
On the North Kessock side, a village of some sort probably existed as long ago as 1437, when the Dominican monastery in Inverness was granted a charter to operate a ferry to the Black Isle. This formed one step in the pilgrim route north to St Duthac's Church in Tain, and from North Kessock a track ran to Cromarty and the ferry from there to Nigg.
Proper piers were built in the early 1800s to improve the ferry service, as was the Kessock Inn, opposite which remains the disused ferry slipway. The Kessock Ferry was still using sail until 1907 when it converted to steam: and this in turn was later replaced by a small car ferry.
And the name "Kessock" which has an unusual sound for a Scottish place name? It's generally agreed it means St Kessoc's Place. St Kessoc, also known as St Kessog, was a Pictish saint and the patron saint of Scotland until the adoption of St Andrew. He died on 10 March 560 in southern Perthshire, but we're not aware of any reason why his name should have ended up attached to North Kessock: perhaps the monastery in Inverness which started the ferry service in 1437 was dedicated to him?
North Kessock In Fiction
A Tangled Web by Ken Lussey (15 November 2023).
A fast-paced thriller set in northern Scotland. Callum Anderson returns to Sutherland to help Jenny Mackay investigate the death of her
husband. The authorities say he committed suicide but she’s convinced he was murdered. If she's right then they're both in danger.
North Kessock is visited several times as the story develops.