uklighthousetour

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

A military firing range, a new car and plot-hunti​ng in Glencoe

Buddon Ness High lighthouse

Buddon Ness High lighthouse

The weekend before last we had planned to take a RIB ride from Arbroath (using the same company who ran the trip to Bell Rock). This would take us south towards the River Tay and then just west into the river to, hopefully, get us a view of the two lighthouses within the military firing area at Barry Buddon. We’d previously looked into access to the lighthouses from the land, but with the military security and possible firing taking place we’d decided not to risk it.

Unfortunately, we were informed towards the end of the week by the owner of the RIB that the sea conditions weren’t looking good for the weekend and he added that the entrance to the river was likely to be treacherous. With this in mind we decided to postpone the trip and head down to Dundee anyway to see one of Bob’s friends.

Buddon Ness Low lighthouse

Buddon Ness Low lighthouse

We arrived and it was then that I discovered that plans had been afoot to get us even closer to the lighthouses than I thought possible. Through a very brilliant contact we were able to gain access to the military area! After some brief discussions which we were not involved in, we headed through to the first lighthouse, which is within a contained area. I think some activities may have been going on, but were put on hold for our visit! Not only were we able to see the lighthouse, but we could actually bag it too! While Bob was busy wondering why there was a radiation warning sign on the door of the lighthouse I was enjoying taking some photos.

After leaving this lighthouse we then made for the second. This one was derelict and a little sad-looking, but (as with the Point of Ayre lighthouse in north Wales) it’s often those that are a little weathered that have the most personality. I was pleased to find that these were actually the first two lighthouses bagged by our wonderful guide and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come for them!

After saying our goodbyes and thanks and heading separate ways, Bob and I drove north(ish) towards Perth for a quick stop on the motor mile. Living on the north coast can, for some, feel quite cut off and we’d decided that I’d need my own car in order to get about for work and personal use around the Highlands. We were planning on sticking to just looking at that stage, but when I saw the brilliant yellow Clio I fell in love, so we went down on the Saturday just gone to collect her!

On the Saturday evening we drove west towards Dalmally and Loch Awe. We’d booked a room at a B&B at the side of Loch Awe, but had forgotten to print out a map of the location. So, we headed for the village of Loch Awe, assuming the Loch Awe House B&B would be there. There was a long-winded series of events, including a visit to the Loch Awe Hotel to ask for directions (at the hotel the lady on the desk asked a young staff member who suggested asking the hotel manager who then phoned her neighbour, Rona,  who provided the useful information that we were on the wrong side of the loch). We eventually found the place and what a beautiful B&B it was! We had stunning views when we awoke and a really lovely big room and bathroom.

Bob with his parents and the Kemps

Bob with his parents and the Kemps

On the Sunday morning we drove north to Glencoe where we had arranged to meet Bob’s parents who were playing host to Bob’s sister-in-law, Maria’s parents. It was a complete surprise to them that we were there and it was really lovely to meet them (I look forward to meeting their daughter as well as Bob’s brother in a few weeks). We drove through Glencoe, stopping to take pictures every now and then. We then went to the forest where Lord and Lady Kerr (Andrew and Maria) have a plot of land, their wedding present from Bob. After a lovely walk through the forest we found ourselves hunched over as we pushed our way through the trees, following the GPS device Bob had brought to locate the land. It was a really enjoyable afternoon and the end to a very exciting weekend! 🙂

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Just a typical Sunday evening RIB ride

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I am now better located to visit the abundance of lighthouses on the islands surrounding Scotland and here is a perfect example.

On Sunday morning, shortly after agreeing that we would head over to Wick to catch one of the regular wildlife boat tours that sail around Duncansby Head, Bob received a call from Caithness Seacoast to say that they would be heading out to Muckle Skerry that evening. Previously, while I was living in London and needed to head back on a Sunday afternoon/evening, we would have had to turn the opportunity down and hope for a future Saturday trip to go ahead. With my recent relocation to the north coast we can now be a lot more flexible and change our plans, particularly when it means bagging a new lighthouse!

Muckle Skerry sits about 7.3km (4.5 miles) north east of Duncansby Head (the most north easterly point on mainland UK) and is the largest of the four uninhabited islands that make up the Pentland Skerries. Pentland Skerries lighthouse is on the north of Muckle Skerry and is partnered with another tower (without the light room and optic).

As we left home we saw the rain clouds moving in, but we were suitably attired in our waterproofs with hats and gloves at the ready. Anyone who has read my previous posts will probably know that I’m not the biggest fan of getting about by RIB, but it is essential that I tolerate them in order to fulfil my lighthouse-bagging ambitions. We had been reliably informed as well by Caithness Seacoast that the sea conditions were calm as they would not run to the island if it was rough. This was useful information and very welcome!

A lighthouse-esque beacon in Wick harbour

A lighthouse-esque beacon in Wick harbour

Being as self-sufficient and well-rehearsed in these boat trips as we are, we were equipped enough to only require the lifejackets from Caithness Seacoast and not the full waterproof suits. We climbed into the RIB with Bob choosing prime position at the front (luckily it was calm). The ride out was beautiful even though my poor face was being pelted with high-speed rain (this was enhanced by the speed of the RIB, it wasn’t actually high-speed). We enjoyed the views of the two beacons in Wick harbour (one of which we’d popped to quickly for a photo shortly before we left) on our way out and were greeting by Noss Head lighthouse a short while later. Duncansby sea stacks followed where we stopped for a while to get some pictures (and enable Bob to assess his climbing routes!) before moving on to see Duncansby Head lighthouse perched on top of the cliff. At the same time we were able to see the change in the sea condition straight ahead of us as the Atlantic hit the North Sea. Fortunately we veered east at this point!

Ben Barvas on Little Skerry

Ben Barvas on Little Skerry

We were treated to views of the three other islands that make up the Pentland Skerries before we arrived at Muckle Skerry itself. Louther Skerry and Clettack Skerry at high tide are little more than clusters of rock that barely appear above the surface of the water. Little Skerry, however, was particularly interesting as the remains of Ben Barvas, which was wrecked on the island in 1964, are still very evident. The crew of the ship were all rescued thankfully and you can see a reconstruction of the events on the day of the wreck on YouTube.

We soon arrived at Muckle Skerry and shuffled off of the boat using the sections of carpet put down on top of the seaweed by the Caithness Seacoast staff to prevent us from slipping. We made it to safety up onto the island and we could immediately see the lighthouse, so off we went.

Pentland Skerries lighthouse

Pentland Skerries lighthouse

We bagged the lighthouse successfully and enjoyed the views of it from numerous angles and took in the surrounding geology (as well as an egg shell I saw laying on the ground and became quite fond of). When we arrived there had been dull clouds hanging around, but as the rain stopped the sky cleared and we could see more easily back over to Duncansby Head and then across to the other islands towards mainland Orkney. We recalled a boat trip we had been on over to Orkney and how we had seen the Pentland Skerries lighthouse in the distance. Accessing the island isn’t easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way and Bob always has the will with these things!

Sun setting over Wick harbour

Sun setting over Wick harbour

On the trip back to Wick we took a more direct route and Bob said he thinks its the longest journey he’s ever taken on a RIB. After the soaking from the rain I was feeling quite cold and so there were some pictures taken of me looking decidedly grumpy before Bob realised he wasn’t likely to get a smile out of me! There was consolation though as we saw Duncansby Head and Noss Head lighthouses in action on the way back. Beautiful!

The harbour looked wonderful when we arrived back as the sun was setting and the lights were all on. A beautiful end to a really interesting and enjoyable trip. I would recommend taking to ride out to anyone who enjoys coastal scenery, doesn’t mind a RIB ride every now and then, and likes a lighthouse (of course)! 🙂

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Some east coast stopovers on the way home

This is a slightly delayed post as I’ve been busy with the exciting developments that are currently taking place, including moving to my new home on the north coast of Scotland, getting married and semi-changing employers (I am still working for Alzheimer’s Disease International, but will now spend more time working with a local company in the north of Scotland called Dementia Friendly Communities).

So, the following actually occurred the week of 5th August on the way from the flat in London to the house in Scotland.

Never content to just do a journey with a single purpose, Bob and I decided we would take a couple of slight detours on the way up the road to visit a couple of lighthouses on the east coast of England that I had, for one reason or another, not yet managed to get to.

Afraid of the carving knife

Afraid of the carving knife

We stayed over in Ipswich on the Sunday night after leaving the flat and went for dinner in the town. We had very mixed feelings about Ipswich as we went for an evening stroll through its streets. It very much seems like a place where the young have moved out and left behind a number of older communities. There are signs though that it is on the up and I hope it continues that way. We had a wonderful Brazilian dinner at Rios where we helped ourselves to salad and hot dishes, but also had a wooden block on our table that let the chef know whether or not we wanted more meat delivered (if the green half was facing up they would arrive with their meat on a hot poker and a massive carving knife, if the red half was up they’d leave you be). It was great food, but I think we were both “meated out” by the time we left as Bob in particular was keen to try each type of meat they had on offer.

The Lighthouse in Aldeburgh

The Lighthouse in Aldeburgh

The following morning we set off for Aldeburgh where I’d read that a boat trip went around the nature reserve that encompassed Orford Ness. In a previous post I mentioned that a news story had been brought to my attention about the switching off of the light in Orfordness lighthouse as it was expected that the structure would fall into the sea within months. Having done some more research, I was then more reliably informed by the BBC website that it will, in fact, be another 7 or 8 years before it is swept away. We’d agreed that we would attempt to visit it after leaving London, but I then found out that the boat that goes across to the Ness from Orford doesn’t run on a Sunday or Monday.  I thought that finding Aldeburgh River Trips was a temporary answer to this problem, but alas it was not to be as the boat travelled west along the river rather than south. It was nice to get some fresh air anyway and we stopped off at The Lighthouse, a restaurant in (a rather posh ) Aldeburgh for fish and chips. We then drove around the Orford to get some long-distance pictures of the lighthouse. We will be back for this one (again) and certainly within the next 7 years!

At Whitby high lighthouse with my "Trinity House green" cardigan

At Whitby high lighthouse with my “Trinity House green” cardigan

From Orford we drove back inland and then north towards our next stop in Whitby. During my tour I had struggled to find the high lighthouse on the cliffs here and I know that with Bob’s mapping software at hand we stood a much better chance. As we approached Whitby I did some online research on my phone to look for its location and discovered that, apparently, it is something of a tourist attraction! How this can be I don’t quite know as there are no signposts and the road you take to get to the lighthouse just looks like a narrow road leading to a farm! Another online instruction suggested to follow the light to get there – this is the most unhelpful direction if trying to access it by road. Nevertheless we found it I managed to get a quick “bag” in the cold wind before diving back into the car again. It’s a very Trinity House lighthouse and Bob pointed out that I was wearing a cardigan that matched the Trinity House green – anyone would think that was intentional! The lighthouse cottages are owned by Rural Retreats so it is possible to stay there, which would be fantastic at some point in the future, but we needed to get a move on before dark so our visit was fairly brief.

The rest of our journey was, sadly, void of lighthouses as we needed to get back to the house by the most direct route (with a night’s stay in Glasgow as I was too tired to keep heading north through the night), Fortunately though, my destination was home where I am treated to a beautiful view of Dunnet Head lighthouse flashing at night and, a couple of nights ago, I could even see some of the lights on the islands around Orkney flashing. On our daily evening walks I can also spot Strathy Point lighthouse, although it is no longer in operation. I am now well-located for visiting some more remote lighthouses on the many islands that Scotland has to offer. More news of this tomorrow!

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