Revisiting old friends and some new encounters

UKlighthousetour2012 went all modern on me over the past week. Not content with sitting in a car to reach lighthouses, it saw me board a plane to visit my little friends (lighthouses) in the north…and I saw rather a large amount of them at that! A number of revisits as well as some new acquaintances.

I travelled to Inverness to be escorted to the north coast of Scotland by my wonderful man (the exciting result of my Cape Wrath encounter if I haven’t mentioned that before!). We reached Bob’s house late on Thursday evening and I was greeted by some amazing lighthouses in action. The view from the back of the house includes nighttime sightings of Dunnet Head lighthouse and one of the Orkney lights. Needless to say I stood at the window for quite some time! It was also great to see how fast the view changed from one minute to the next while the moon was rising. Simply stunning.

The tour truly began, however, with a visit on Friday evening to Strathy Point, where the lighthouse is no longer in operation but is for sale. I managed to convince Bob that we didn’t really want to trespass and so I took some pictures from just outside the gate instead.

Saturday was a very exciting day and, although it didn’t incorporate lighthouses, we visited Smoo Cave in Durness where Colin, the tour guide and a friend of Bob’s, gave a tour in four languages all at the same time! He is a fantastic character, a real “caveman” and has some amazing stories to tell. It may not be the most frequently visited place for many of you, but it is well worth a visit if you are ever nearby. Bob then drove me to the location of our first meeting following our return from the trip to Cape Wrath. Very lovely to be back there and realise how much life has changed since I was last there. We also visit Cocoa Mountain and had chocolates and chocolate chip cookies – too easy to overdose on chocolate there!

Me at Loch Eriboll lighthouse

Sunday kicked-started what was to become a couple of true lighthouse-seeking/collecting/bagging (apparently I need to work on the definitions of these terms) days. Bob had very kindly informed me that a small lighthouse existed at the edge of Loch Eriboll that had escaped my attention during the tour. It was probably lucky that it had as it was a bit of a challenge to get to and I was glad of Bob’s instinct for recognising boggy areas and the types of ground you should and shouldn’t walk on. On previous evenings we had seen the lighthouse from about three different perspectives around the loch, including seeing it in action the previous evening – very exciting! The structure (pictured) is not your typical lighthouse and would probably be classed as more of a beacon, but the Northern Lighthouse Board own a number of these and I wanted the chance to see one in real life and actually get a decent picture of this one too – there appear to be no close-up images online and I like to think that we now have the only ones in existence! From here we travelled on, stopping off for lunch at The Craggan Hotel where I had my first sampling of scallops (I’ll be having those again!), to Holborn Head. I had visited this lighthouse (which, according to Wikipedia is actually named “Holburn Head lighthouse” rather than “Holborn” – fascinating, I know!) on my tour, but only been able to see it from a distance, not realising that you can pretty much walk wherever you like in Scotland – and everywhere else as well if you listen to Bob! It was great to be able to see the lighthouse (pictured below) close-up this time and I also had the opportunity to see Holborn Head itself where there is some stunning coastline with some rather scary and large gaping chasms leading down to the sea. Absolutely fantastic! Our final stop of the day was Dunnet Head with the most northerly lighthouse on mainland UK. This is one of my favourite Scottish lighthouses, partly due to its height – it’s fairly short in comparison to many of the others. On Sunday evening we took a short stroll from the house to see the beautiful coastline to the west of Portskerra, which looked incredible as the sun was going down – and, no doubt, looks just as good at all other times too!

Holburn Head lighthouse

Monday was the stuff a lighthouse-seekers dreams are made of – setting aside the fact that it was also the day I was leaving Scotland. Our first stop was Duncansby Head and the most north easterly lighthouse on mainland UK (we managed to reach the furthest points on the South East, North and North East coasts of mainland UK within the space of 6 days – pretty impressive I think). Once again I was forced to trespass, but we were surprised to find that the lighthouse appeared not to have a Northern Lighthouse Board plaque on it as other Scottish lighthouses do – it was actually Bob who noticed this, which I think means that he loves lighthouse now too! Luckily we weren’t caught trespassing as I’m not sure how we would have talked our way out of that one when the gate we climbed over was locked and there was a very obvious sign saying it was private! We then headed south to Wick, stopping for a brief visit to Noss Head lighthouse and a small lighthouse and a beacon in Wick harbour. We also passed Clythness lighthouse – the one I was unaware of, but spotted on the tour – as well as catching a glimpse of Tarbat Ness lighthouse from a distance (Bob is going to go there and get me some decent photos of the lighthouse as it was misty when I visited in May) and, as we neared Inverness airport, we had time to check out the lighthouse at Chanonry Point near Fortrose from Fort George. It was a truly wonderful day – until I had to get on the plane, of course.

In total, I believe our lighthouse tally for the six-day period stood at 18 lighthouses and beacons and 4 more seen from afar. That’s definitely what I would call some very successful lighthouse-seeking/collecting/bagging! A big thank you to Bob for making it possible and for being so willing to join and continue the tour! 🙂

Still going strong – in Kent this time!

Faced with the challenge of organising a day of activities in the south east of England for my most favourite acquaintance from the lighthouse tour (see previous post for full details), I decided that as we had met at the most north westerly point of the UK mainland, we should visit the most south easterly point. It also just so happened that there were some lighthouses lingering around in the area that still needed to be visited.

My initial plan was to head for the White Cliffs of Dover and walk across to South Foreland lighthouse (pictured). This plan worked rather well and we reached the lighthouse with plenty of time to sample what the tearoom had to offer and sign up for the tour. It’s a lovely little lighthouse and, as the guide told us, although it is actually very short – 73 steps to the top, so we were told – the height of the cliffs it sits on means that it ranks among the tallest in England based on the height of the light from sea level. It was a great tour, which seemed to me to be very good value for money. They try to make it as interactive as they possibly can and, at one point, I was volunteered (by Bob) to wind this very heavy lever which makes sure the lamp continues to rotate. We were fortunate enough to reach the top between the bouts of sea mist that kept appearing. A second lighthouse sits a little way off near the cliff edge, but this one is not accessible, unfortunately.

Getting into the true lighthouse tour spirit, Bob then suggested we continue to head northwards to check out a few more lighthouses that I hadn’t seen. So, our next stop was the surprisingly pleasant Ramsgate. The lighthouse here is on the end of a pier and is in remarkably good condition with some subtle little touches including small fish sculptures. It was a quiet, but lovely little place.

Our next stop was the lighthouse at North Foreland, which is now used for holiday lets. I, once again, demonstrated my amazing ability to spot a lighthouse (I’m always on the lookout). Although we weren’t allowed into the grounds you can still get close enough for some decent photo opportunities. The lighthouse is very “Trinity House” (they have a look about them – it’s the white and green paint more than anything), but was still very pretty. It’s in a rather well-to-do area so the Mercedes Bob had (very cheekily) managed to upgrade to at the car hire place fit in perfectly!

It was quite the opposite situation in Margate, unfortunately. We drove along a road heading towards the seafront and there were groups of kids sitting on steps outside the houses (the kind of thing they seem to do a lot in films set in The Bronx in New York!). The lighthouse, which is on the end of the pier, was also a little disappointing, but we’d seen some beauties elsewhere and must not get too picky!

All in all it was a really great day and a good opportunity for Bob to get a real insight into the true lighthouse hunting experience. Of course, I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a Merc then, but Little Car got the task done (albeit slower) nonetheless. Good times continue with more from Scotland this weekend! 🙂