Islands, ports and an estuary in south east Scotland – part 1

Last weekend I headed to Edinburgh to meet Bob for another weekend of lighthouse bagging and visiting some of those I missed during my original tour. The problem with lighthouses in Scotland is that there is currently no full list of lighthouses that I have been able to find. Some mapping software that Bob uses is now available to me and not only shows me where the lighthouses are, but also makes it clear which are actual lighthouses and which are classified as beacons.

The beautiful cliffs of the Isle of May
The beautiful cliffs of the Isle of May

Our original priority for the weekend though was to attempt to reach Bell Rock lighthouse, a fantastic structure that has acted as template for many other since it was completed in 1811. However, the weather wasn’t ideal for the trip and the RIB didn’t run, but Bob managed to make another booking at short notice for another RIB that was heading out to the Isle of May. So, on Saturday morning we headed along to Anstruther to catch the boat and while we were kitted out with lifejackets and the boat was wiped down ready for us I was a little concerned. Not being able to swim does make me worry a little about being on the water, but I was mainly worried about whether we would be bouncing over waves and thrown about all over the place. Fortunately, the journey out to the island was smooth and as we got closer we saw our first puffins of the day. I was starting to believe that they didn’t exist because I was told they would be in certain places, but they were never there. So, it was lovely to see them finally. We also saw some seals before we travelled around the fantastic coast with its sea stacks and bird-covered cliffs. We arrived at the small harbour and had to make our way (with our hoods up) through a large number of nesting terns.

Isle of May lighthouse
Isle of May lighthouse

At the top of the island is the Isle of May lighthouse, which is a beautiful building with castle-esque elements. We sat at a bench behind the lighthouse for lunch with some wonderful views back towards the mainland and Bass Rock (which has a lighthouse and fascinates me). We then wandered to the north of the island to see the (very lighthouse-looking) beacon. It is now a holiday cottage that sits a short distance from a beautiful stretch of coastline where you can see the puffins going into and coming out of their burrows. We got some amazing pictures of the puffins from here. After this was headed up to the foghorn at the south of the island and again enjoyed the views and more puffin encounters. The journey back from the Isle of May wasn’t quite as calm as the ride out, but I enjoyed it (Bob had offered to sit on the side that was most likely to get wet). It was great to head out to the island and see the nature and, of course, the beautiful lighthouse.

The lighthouse (or is it?) at Anstruther
The lighthouse (or is it?) at Anstruther

After enjoying an ice cream in Anstruther whilst walking out along the pier to the lighthouse (although it doesn’t appear to exist on the mapping software) we drove north through St Andrews and to Tayport to visit some more lighthouses. The two lights at Tayport aren’t quite as enjoyable to visit as others as they are now on private land, so it was more a matter of jumping out of the car, taking a couple of quick photos and getting back into the car. It took a little while to find the road to the lighthouses, but we were also able to the see the pile lighthouse (that’s actually a beacon) in the sea just off of the coast.

We were both craving fish and chips and couldn’t seem to find anywhere decent in the area, so we hurried back down to Anstruther where we had seen plenty of shops serving exactly that. On the way back to Edinburgh we stopped off briefly in Elie so I could show Bob the Elie Ness lighthouse, which is just past the lovely little Ruby Bay. I like this lighthouse in particular as it looks like a tiny castle and has its own bridge leading to it. We walked around on the rocks near the lighthouse and Bob taught me a bit about the geological processes that had happened there.

The derelict lighthouse in Leith docks
The derelict lighthouse in Leith docks

Before we finished for the day we stopped off in Leith, just north of Edinburgh, to see the lighthouses there. On the way to the end of the west pier we spotted Newhaven harbour lighthouse, which I had seen from a distance during my month-long tour. We wandered out to the lighthouse for a brief visit and then continued on our way. After a short walk we made it to the west pier lighthouse and could see across to the east breakwater head lighthouse as well as the flashing of the light on Inchkeith out in the Firth of Forth. The west pier lighthouse is possible one of the most neglected I have seen with no windows and grafitti. We attempted to reach the east breakwater lighthouse, but were unable to get a closer look due to closed gates in the docks. We had seen its red flashing light from the other side though, which was good enough for me.

This ended a busy, but very enjoyable, day. But there was more to follow…

One thought on “Islands, ports and an estuary in south east Scotland – part 1

  1. Great blog, Anstruther lighthouse ( known as Chalmers lighthouse) is no longer lit but it still has an active foghorn.

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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.