uklighthousetour

One crazy lady and a bizarre obsession = an ongoing tour of the best lighthouses the UK has to offer

uklighthousetour2012 goes overseas for the best weekend ever

Gibraltar

At the weekend Bob and I travelled to Gibraltar for a long weekend of visiting the Barbary macaques on the Rock, dolphin hunting and bagging the lighthouse at Europa Point. The lighthouse is the only one owned by Trinity House to be located on a British Overseas Territory.

The flight to Gibraltar was a little traumatic (and not because it’s one of the 10 most dangerous airports in the world). I had developed a cold shortly before we left and, as a result, experienced very painful ears on our descent into Gibraltar. We landed safely after getting a glimpse of the Europa Point lighthouse at night. A short time later we were walking across the runway towards the centre of Gibraltar. The runway crosses the main road leading from the town towards the east side of Gibraltar and the Spanish border, and this means the road has to be closed before a plane can land or take off. It makes it a very interesting road to cross (I believe a photo of me doing an impersonation of a plane on the runway is hanging around somewhere)!

On Saturday we took the cable car to the top of the Rock where we met the Barbary macaques for the first time. I think we both found them a little unnerving and so kept our distance. It didn’t help that we saw a woman with one sitting on her head, picking about in her hair! Our walk back down the Rock through the nature reserve allowed Bob some opportunities to search for the highest point (as he does) and gave us a chance to visit St Michael’s Cave, which is absolutely amazing. Through a donation they have been able to set up some great lighting in the cave, which really shows off the stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Definitely worth a visit.

After reaching the bottom of the Rock we headed to Dolphin Adventure. The purpose of the boat trip, as you will probably have guessed, is to see dolphins, but we were a little more interested in seeing the lighthouse emerging as we moved further and further out. Our lack of interest in the dolphins wasn’t helped by the complete absence of the dolphins themselves that afternoon, although we did see a sunfish (a very strange-looking creature). We got some great views of the lighthouse though! As we weren’t successful on the dolphin hunt, the lovely people at Dolphin Adventure offered us free tickets to go out again at another time when we would hopefully get to see them. We did revisit them again on Sunday and had a very successful trip with plenty of dolphins swimming around the boat.

Europa Point lighthouse

Now to the exciting bit! After having some Moroccan tagine for dinner to celebrate how close we were to Africa, we caught the bus to Europa Point, the southernmost point of Gibraltar, where it’s only land-based lighthouse stands. The timing for our arrival was perfect as the sun was about to set. We walked around for a while, taking pictures of the lighthouse, the views from the point and the sunset. As I was taking a photo of Bob in front of the lighthouse, I caught my first glimpse of the light at work. We were also able to see lights in operation on the coasts of both Morocco and Spain at the same time – fascinating, particularly for someone as partial to a lighthouse as I am! As the sky darkened and the light became more prominent, Bob took the (perfect) opportunity to get down on one knee and ask me to marry him. I’d had very little time to prepare myself for it as I only suspected he was going to ask about a minute or two before he actually did. Having already decided that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, answering the question was easy (I said “yes”, by the way). As I am sure you can imagine, the lighthouse at Europa Point is now my absolute favourite of the UK lighthouse tour, aside from the fact that it’s not physically located within the UK. It is a stunning lighthouse, but the proposal just made it so much more memorable. I will certainly be remembering that one for the rest of my life.

So, following the weekend there is now a very exciting wedding to plan and, of course, a big move to Scotland! It continues to amaze me that my decision a couple of years ago to eventually embark on a tour of the UK’s lighthouses has led to some huge changes in my life. It was my love of lighthouses, as well as his sense of adventure and some amazing timing/fate, that brought Bob and I together in the first place and I am so pleased that I have found the perfect man for me who is more than happy to join me in the uklighthousetour2012/lifetime quest. It is, in large part, because of him that the tour has continued as it has throughout the year and I am hugely grateful to him for making this happen. I will also take this opportunity to thank him again for making the weekend the best I have ever had. 🙂

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What South Devon has to offer and an easy Cornish “Marilyn”

Yesterday I found myself in Devon and, I’m not going to lie, the trip was arranged with the primary purpose of seeing more lighthouses. Would you expect any less? The reason Devon was chosen, however, was because Bob was in the area for work.

Smeaton’s Tower in Plymouth

Our first journey of the morning took us to Plymouth where we were able to get a view of the lighthouse on the breakwater from a distance. Visibility wasn’t great when we arrived and it continued to deteriorate rapidly once we had parked up. It was fairly windy and rain clouds were forming, so we did exactly what any normal people would do and took shelter in a lighthouse! Smeaton’s Tower sits on The Hoe in Plymouth and currently serves no typical lighthouse purpose in its current location. It originally stood on a dangerous rock 13 miles off of the coast of Plymouth. The structure was replaced, however, in 1882 when the rock on which it stood began to crack. The top section was removed and the base still remains in position alongside the current tower, Eddystone lighthouse. Self-guided tours of Smeaton’s tower cost just £2.50 and you can walk right to the top and, even when it’s windy and raining, they let you go out on the balcony just below the lamp room! Being in the lighthouse in the wind and rain was great, although it didn’t look like a particularly comfortable home for the former lighthouse keepers! I would definitely recommend a visit to the tower to anyone and, if a cup of tea (or hot chocolate with marshmallows) is your thing, you can make a mad dash to the nearby tea room in the rain, just like we did!

After a quick stop to look at a nearby beacon and before heading further around the coast, we took a detour via Kit Hill, which is south west of Tavistock. Kit Hill is what is known as a “Marilyn”. A Marilyn is a mountain or hill with a relative height of at least 150 metres (492 feet) and Bob has now “bagged” around 730 Marilyns across the country. Kit Hill was on his to do list, so while we were in the area we popped up. When I say “popped up” this is essentially what we did. There was minimal climbing involved, just a single track road that took us near enough to the top in the car and then it was a walk of around 1 minute to reach the trig point at the top of the hill. This is my second Marilyn and, I must admit, it wasn’t quite as easy as the first (St Boniface Down on the Isle of Wight) where I could touch the trig point without even leaving the car. Apparently, we are building me up to those where you actually need to put in a bit of effort!

So, back to the lighthouses and our next stop was Start Point. The lighthouse is located on the point as far south as you can go from Dartmouth. On the way there we stopped off for an ice cream (of course) and while we ate them in the car it rained and then the sun came out. I believe my exact words to Bob were “Oh look, you made the sun come out. Did you bring a rainbow as well?” and he turned around towards the sea and pointed to a rainbow (amazing!). Not only was it a rainbow though, it became a double rainbow!

Anyway, we continued on to Start Point lighthouse, which was, unfortunately, not open yesterday (tours are run some days, weather-permitting), but we snuck into the grounds and got some photos. It was a nice walk from the car park down to the lighthouse with some great coastal scenery. The weather had also begun to pick up by this point.

Berry Head lighthouse, just south of Brixham

Berry Head was our next stop. The small lighthouse (so small that it consists of just the lamp room) sits on top of a cliff just south of Brixham. It’s a very cute little thing and I managed to convince Bob that he didn’t want to trespass to get a closer look as we hadn’t paid for parking in the car park (that works, apparently)! Brixham breakwater was then a short drive away and we took a stroll along the breakwater to the lighthouse at the end.

Our final stop of the day was Teignmouth. By the time we arrived it was getting dark and we were fortunate enough to see the light on. It’s a constant red light, which I pointed out doesn’t go so well with the blue at the top of the lighthouse, but that’s obviously not important. The structure has a really interesting feature around the tower: bicycle wheels with colourful spokes on them. It is a little odd, but adds some personality, which is often missing from lighthouses these days.

It was a really good day. The weather may not have been ideal, but we saw a real variety of structures and it’s always good to take up any opportunities to visit new places 🙂

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Two weddings, seven lighthouses and the obligatory ice cream

As a true light seeker, one must make the most of any opportunity to visit a lighthouse or two! So, that is exactly what Bob and I did this weekend.

Our trip began in Manchester. While it’s not the most common stomping-ground for those looking for lighthouses, it was the location of my brother’s wedding. It was a fantastic day, which went without a hitch. The bride looked absolutely stunning and it was great to see my brother so grown-up!

Following my brother’s wedding, which took place on Friday, we flew to Newquay for the wedding of one of Bob’s friends who lives near Penzance. After our arrival we had some spare time and so decided to head for Lands End to see Longstone lighthouse, which is around a mile/mile and a half off of the coast. That was my reason for going there anyway. I think Bob, who had been to John O’Groats just two days before, was keen to complete the “end-to-end” journey. Being at Lands End and looking out towards Longstone made me want to get closer and I know that Bob has some crazy designs on reaching these rock lighthouses, of which there are a few in the Cornwall and Devon area. Realising that we were running slightly short on time we grabbed a quick Cornish pasty (it simply had to be done) and, as decently as we possibly could, got changed into our smart attire in the car park at Lands End. Using Bob’s GPS device and my GPS mapping on my phone we made it to the church in time to sit down a matter of seconds before the bride walked in. I’m not entirely sure how we managed it! Doug and Mary’s wedding was lovely and it was great to meet some of Bob’s friends.

The lighthouse on the end of the pier in Penzance

Sunday was reserved for lighthouses (and getting me to Bristol for my journey back to London). Staying in Newlyn, just down the road from Penzance, we were able to see the lights on the ends of the piers in both places. While the pier at Newlyn was locked up, we were able to fully “bag” the Penzance light (touching it). Our next stop was Lamorna Cove where we followed the South West coastal path along to Tater Du lighthouse. This took a little longer than planned and involved a little trespassing (as usual), but it was certainly worth the walk. The lighthouse is located at the bottom of 198 steps leading down from the coastal route. It’s in a fantastic location and the surrounding coastline is really impressive. It’s not the easiest of lighthouses to reach by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly an interesting one to see.

We then travelled to Pendeen where the short, white lighthouse sits near the edge of the cliff. The wind had picked up a little by the time we arrived, but we went inside the grounds of the lighthouse and had a bit of a look around. There are some great views along the coast from the lighthouse. Godrevy Island was our next stop and the very kind National Trust man allowed us to drive on through to quickly see the lighthouse without having to pay the £3.50 parking charge. Godrevy lighthouse looks stunning sitting on the small island just off of the coast. I would certainly like to re-visit at some point when I have more time to get a little closer to the island.

The lighthouse at Lizard, the most southerly point of mainland UK

We then headed south towards Lizard, where there is one operational light and another tower without the lantern. Again, we wanted to avoid paying the parking charges, so we parked in the nearby youth hostel car park. The exhibition, strangely, is closed at weekends during September, so no luck there, but it was nice to be able to wander around the grounds. Of course, to bag the lighthouse we needed to touch it and, to do so involved a little trespassing, but we were quick and no one saw us (as far as we were aware) so it was fine. We considered heading to Lizard Point, a short distance away, as it’s the most southerly point of mainland UK, but time was not on our side. We grabbed an authentic Cornish ice cream each before we left Lizard, which was lovely (sticky toffee fudge was my ice cream of choice, while Bob went for rhubarb crumble).

So, we managed to cram in a number of lighthouses before we had to leave. We still have the north coast of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset to visit, but we will be back in those parts soon, I am sure. Although the weather wasn’t perfect it didn’t rain as it was forecast to do and we both had a really good day. The lighthouse tour really does continue and there are more plans lined up for the next couple of months so look out for more posts very soon 🙂

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