12 lighthouses, 2 days: back in full lighthouse tour swing

The lighthouse at Berwick upon Tweed
The lighthouse at Berwick upon Tweed

I mentioned in my post last week that I was expecting to visit more lighthouses this weekend. I am pleased to confirm that this was most definitely the case with 10 lighthouses visited on Saturday and a further 2 on Sunday.

We began our weekend in Berwick upon Tweed on the Scottish-English border. Apparently, although Berwick is now considered to be in England, it has changed hands between England and Scotland 13 times and, at one point, was its own independent borough (or burgh, depending on where you are), which was sworn enemies with Russia! It is also a place that the artist L S Lowry visited regularly and some of his paintings are of scenes in and around Berwick, including the pier on the end of which sits the lighthouse. Seeing the lighthouse from a distance (you can often see it from the East Coast train on the way to Edinburgh) it looks fairly small and insignificant, but it’s actually quite a substantial structure. We had a lovely stroll out along the pier, enjoying the surrounding area before officially bagging the lighthouse.

Bamburgh lighthouse
Bamburgh lighthouse

On the way to our next lighthouse we took advantage of the tide being out and drove over to Lindisfarne (or Holy Island). Although there are no lighthouses on the island – just a beacon, which I walked to last year, and a couple of daymarks just across from the island – we were able to see the high point of the island, on which Lindisfarne Castle sits, which we need to go back to in the future.

Our next stop was Bamburgh where rules were broken. Firstly we parked as close as we could to the lighthouse, completely obscuring the ‘No parking’ sign. Bob also chose to climb over the wall surrounding the lighthouse to bag it, without realising that the ground was slightly lower on the other side of the wall, but he managed to fly back over after touching the lighthouse anyway. Bamburgh lighthouse is a very unique building, I’ve never seen another like it so far. It’s essentially a white cube (with an extra bit) with a black ‘Lego man head’ on top. I say that because it looks pretty much the same shape as the head of a Lego figure (see picture on the right for proof). There are some stunning views from the lighthouse, including across to the Farne islands and to Bamburgh Castle.

Longstone lighthouse in the Farne Islands
Longstone lighthouse in the Farne Islands

We moved on to Seahouses next and North Sunderland Pier Head lighthouse. The lighthouse is an odd-looking structure, not a typical lighthouse at all, but we were incredibly pleased that we chose to stop there as a couple of companies offering boat trips out to the Farne Islands from the pier. Unfortunately they don’t start landing on the islands until Easter, but as we were limited by time that wasn’t a problem. We took the 90-minute tour out around the islands, getting some really good views of both lighthouses, that on Inner Farne above some breathtaking cliffs and Longstone, a fantastic red and white building. Another highlight of the trip was seeing hundreds of seals lining the rocks across a couple of the islands. They were a little smelly (apparently this is the only time of year you are able to smell them), but there were so many colours and some adorable little ones. It was a great trip and I’m so pleased we were able to see some more island lighthouses – the extra effort you put into seeing them makes them a bit more special.

St Mary's lighthouse
St Mary’s lighthouse

Heading south again we passed through Warkworth and headed for Amble to see the Warkworth Harbour lighthouse. When I originally visited on my tour last year I was a little disappointed by it as it just looks like a red and white striped pole with a light on top. It doesn’t help that the end of the pier is not accessible so you don’t get a complete picture of its actual size. One of the interesting things about visiting lighthouses is that you do get a real variety. There are some that you see in some fairly unpleasant locations that you know you won’t want to visit again, while a few miles down the road there is an absolutely beautiful one. This was certainly the case after Warkworth as our next stop was St Mary’s lighthouse on a small tidal island a short distance off of the coast north of Whitley Bay. It makes for a beautiful scene and, although I’ve not yet been able to get across to the island as the tide has been in both times I’ve visited, it is still close enough to the mainland to get some brilliant pictures.

Roker Pier lighthouse, Sunderland
Roker Pier lighthouse, Sunderland

As we were running short on time we bypassed the lighthouses in North and South Shields and headed straight on down the road to Souter lighthouse. At the time I first contacted Bob I was in the process of applying for a job that had come up at Souter. I didn’t get the job, which was probably fortunate in the long-run as my future plans have changed just a little bit now. It is still a great place though, although I’ve still yet to arrive there at a sensible time when The National Trust are running the tours.

The final two lighthouses of the day, Seaburn and Roker Pier, were just a short distance apart. Seaburn lighthouse was originally built on the end of Sunderland’s south pier in 1856, but was dismantled when improvements were made to the harbour. Fortunately, they didn’t just throw it away, they re-erected it in its current location in Roker Cliff Park. The lighthouse on the end of Roker pier a short distance away is a really interesting structure with the stripes created by the use of different types of stone. It is a beautiful tower and we managed to catch it with the first glimpses of the red sunset highlighting the top of the lighthouse (not visible in the picture to the right, unfortunately). It’s a fairly long pier, particularly when you are in a bit of a hurry, and is prone to large waves crashing over it, but it was a calm day with no opportunity to get wet (unfortunately for Bob).

Our main reason for being in this area was to attend the 10th anniversary masquerade ball of Fire and Ice Expeditions. It was a great night and a really good opporunity to meet more people who Bob has been on some of his adventures with. A very enjoyable evening.

The Heugh lighthouse on The Headland in Hartlepool
The Heugh lighthouse on The Headland in Hartlepool

On Sunday we headed for Hartlepool, one of a handful of places I’ve been to in the UK that I don’t particularly want to re-visit. However, there were a couple of lighthouses I had missed on my tour so we managed to “tidy these up” (Bob’s wording) by first visiting The Heugh on The Headland north of Hartlepool. Then we went on a ridiculously long drive through Hartlepool and down to the south, near Redcar. It doesn’t look far on a map, but the roads aren’t fast-moving and it’s a very industrial area so there are really no views to enjoy – for me anyway. The final lighthouse of our weekend was at South Gare. This was a very quick stop as neither of us had a good feeling about the place so we moved on swiftly.

We headed back up the road to Berwick for me to catch my train south as Bob headed north. There may well be another blog post on here in 2 weeks as we are hoping to do some “tidying up” along the south coast. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.