uklighthousetour

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

Onwards to Bell Rock

on 15/07/2013
The old minor light from Yell in Shetland

The old minor light from Yell in Shetland

What with moving out of London, planning the wedding and juggling a number of jobs, it’s a busy old time at present. However, this is never allowed to get in the way of a bit of lighthouse bagging! A couple of weekends ago I, once again, hopped on the train to Edinburgh for our second attempt at reaching Bell Rock lighthouse.On the way to Arbroath we swung by Buddon to see if we could reach the lighthouses at Buddon Ness. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy as the area is surrounding by a military firing range and, unfortunately, we were not able to get close. While I was driving from Dundee, Bob did manage to spot them from a distance. We are now making arrangements to see them by boat instead and there will be more details to follow… Whilst driving back and forth, however, we did see a small-scale lighthouse in someone’s front garden. This has inspired us to look at the possibility of doing something similar at home in the future!

As we approached Arbroath we stopped in a bus stop as we spotted (for me it was a re-spot) a red lighthouse at the side of the road. We approached the structure and discovered that it was previously a minor lighthouse on Yell in Shetland. After seeing this lighthouse on my tour last year, I couldn’t recall where exactly it was that I had seen it, so it was good to get that a bit clearer in my mind.

In Arbroath, the weather was looking good and we had enough time to spare to visit the Arbroath Signal Tower Museum where there is a lot of information about Bell Rock lighthouse and the building of it. We were asked if we would like to watch a BBC dramatization of the building of the lighthouse and we couldn’t resist. The film itself actually lasted about 40 minutes so we didn’t end up with a great deal of time to look around, but it gave a really good introduction to the amazing feat that was the building of the lighthouse and the problems caused by the tide and resulting short lengths of time on the rock. It was fascinating and I am pleased we had time to watch it before hopping on the boat.

Bell Rock lighthouse with the Pharos in the background

Bell Rock lighthouse with the Pharos in the background

The RIB ride out to Bell Rock lighthouse was run by Arbroath Sea Safari and we were all give lifejackets to wear. This time mine had a pull cord rather than self-inflating abilities so I practiced easily finding the location of the cord before we got on the boat! We were informed as we left the port that the Northern Lighthouse Board’s maintenance vessel, Pharos, was out at the lighthouse, which I was very excited about. I’m not going to say I enjoyed the trip out to the lighthouse – there were a few times I told Bob that I didn’t like it and I’m sure he pretended not to hear! At one point we stopped and turned around as there was a porpoise or something. I wasn’t worried about the porpoise, I just wanted to get to the lighthouse. Once we reached it we circled around and took a ridiculous amount of pictures. It was high tide while we were out there so there was no sign of the treacherous rocks that it sits upon. It was fascinating to think how much hard work went into it so many years ago and how it has stood the tests of time and definitely weathered the storm! I would recommend a visit to anyone – as long as you can handle the boat ride. We sailed around Pharos and waved to the men onboard who were fishing – I suppose there’s not really a lot they can do when the tide is in!

Scurdie Ness lighthouse

Scurdie Ness lighthouse

After arriving safely back on dry land we wandered to The Bell Rock for lunch where we had the famous Arbroath smokie. It tasted really good and I don’t think Bob will ever be satisfied with haddock now unless it’s a smokie!Moving on up the road we headed for Scurdie Ness lighthouse, a bit of a re-visit for me. We managed to make the same mistake as I did by walking along the beach rather than further inland and Bob then had to drag me up a steep slope to get onto the path. It was incredibly hot by this point so I was struggling a little. It was a long walk than I remembered it being, but I was reminded of how well-maintained the tower is. It stands out as one of the brightest, whitest lighthouse towers I’ve seen to date.

Heading further up the road we took a quick turn off to see Todhead lighthouse. This one has been put up for sale since I was last in the area and it looks like there are now lots of flats in the adjoining buildings. It’s not the kind of lighthouse you could spend a long time at due to its close proximity to people’s homes and the fact that it is just at the end of a single-track road with no other paths around.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Onwards we travelled with a stop off at Dunnottar Castle to stroll around the grounds. It had closed shortly before our visit, but we still enjoyed having a look around the beautiful coastline trespassing a little bit – of course! Bob then drove through Aberdeen to show me some of his old haunts from his university days (mostly involving alcohol!). I’d never realised before how expensive Aberdeen was. It has some stunning buildings and huge houses. On the way out of Aberdeen we also passed through some very well-to-do villages. I wouldn’t say I felt at home there!

We then took a drive inland along the A93 and had a quick swing around the entrance to Balmoral. I think the Queen (or someone) must have been home as the gates were closed. We took a drive through Braemar and then found our spot to camp for the night. It wasn’t quite the spot Bob was hoping for as in the numerous years since he last camped in the area, they have now barred off the area where he used to camp. So, in amongst the midges Bob threw the tent up and we hurled everything in. After enjoying a supper of Hula Hoops and wine we went to sleep and I awoke in the early hours in what felt like a sauna. When Bob finally woke up (although it was only just after 7am, it felt like it should have been at least midday) he informed me that it was 38 degrees in the tent. We developed our plan of attack on the midges that Bob would go and unlock the car and I would throw the contents of the tent out to him and then dash to the car while he dismantled the tent. It turned out that our plan was completely unnecessary as there was very little sign of any midges once we got outside.

View from the top of The Cairnwell

View from the top of The Cairnwell

Our main objective on Sunday was to walk up some hills so we drove to Glenshee Ski Centre and had a bit of breakfast before setting off for the summit of The Cairnwell (my first Munro) and Carn Aosda. We wandered up one of the ski slopes (snow-free) – or should I say Bob wandered up while (stopping frequently to make sure he didn’t leave me behind) I meandered very slowly. We reached the top and enjoyed the views whilst being highly amused by a ptarmigan pretending to be hurt so as to protect its baby. Fascinating! We also saw a couple of hang gliders which we were (I was) captivated by for a while. We then descended and wandered along to Carn Aosda, which was a lot easier seeing as we had already done the majority of the height gain in getting up The Cairnwell. I was pleased to achieve my first and second Munros in the same day. Apparently I’ll get addicted now, but I’m not sure about that.

On our way back to Edinburgh we paid a brief visit to Rosslyn Chapel, which was incredibly busy, but a really beautiful building. By this point we were both rather sunburnt from our day on the hills. It was great to see the chapel and get a discount too as we had so little time to look around before they closed!

It was a wonderful weekend and very varied with a bit of everything thrown in.

The next instalment of the UK lighthouse tour will most likely come once I have become a fully fledged resident of Scotland! Until then… 🙂


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