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!
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!
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! 🙂