Sunshine at Noss Head!

Today was the first of four lighthouse-filled days on the north coast of Scotland alongside friends from the Association of Lighthouse Keepers (ALK) and it’s been a fabulous day. As the relatively new Events Coordinator (along with two others) for the ALK this was the first trip that I’ve done the majority of the organisation for so there is that added element to this one that I’ve not really experienced before. If the first day is anything to go by though then we should have no problems for the rest of the trip.

We began the morning by heading to Noss Head. I’ve been to Noss Head a few times and unfortunately it has always been very overcast or raining and always with fairly strong wind. The presence of the sun and absence of strong wind when we arrived was fantastic. I had been in contact with the owners of the cottages and they had very kindly offered to open up one of the cottages for the group to have tea and coffee inside, which was a really nice touch. The priority though was getting inside the tower, which we had managed to arrange with the Northern Lighthouse Board and their Retained Lighthouse Keeper who was ready and waiting for us when we got there.

noss head
Noss Head lighthouse

There’s not a huge amount to see inside the tower itself. It’s not particularly tall so most of it is staircase until you are at the “control room” (or whatever its technical name is). From here we were able to get out onto the balcony, which was fantastic. You’re not a lot higher up from there, but it certainly gives you a better idea of how the coastline in the area looks – and as long as you were around the side where you were sheltered from the slight breeze it felt like the height of summer up there. It certainly was a peaceful place to be today. Having a chat to one of my lighthouse friends and waving to the others below was nice. It’s not something I’ve experienced very often, for two reasons: firstly, because I’m not often able to get inside the towers, and secondly, there often aren’t so many others around to enjoy the experience with. Back inside the final ladder takes you up to the lantern room. This lantern room has seen more than its fair share of comings and goings of light apparatus. It started with a proper lens (more on that later) and has, in the past year, just been changed again. The set up in there now is a very similar to the arrangement that has just been installed at Ardnamurchan with the two lights. Although I had seen it in Ardnamurchan and not been that impressed, I appreciated it a little more this time – and I think we were all surprised by how interesting we found it to be.

inside noss
The new light arrangement inside Noss Head

After we had all been up the lighthouse there was still time to hang around and chat. The owners of the cottages had brought out some of the old pictures they had of some of the lighthouse families, obviously taken when the station was manned. They also have an array of lighthouse-related books on the shelves there. It was a really great morning. The weather helped, but the company was very good too.

We had lunch in Wick, pre-arranged with the staff at Mackay’s. I wouldn’t normally mention meals, but they had printed a sign for us at the entrance of the room we were in saying “Welcome to the Lighthouse Keepers Lunch”, which I thought was very sweet.

After lunch we took a stroll around Wick harbour and, in particular, up to the lighthouse at the end of the south pier. Everyone was getting in each others pictures, but we were all jokingly telling each other to move or not to move, which was amusing. We still had the blue sky on our side and the white lighthouse certainly looks much nicer in the sunshine, as most things do. We also saw the other light in the harbour. They are doing a lot of regeneration work at the harbour in the near future and I do worry that this “lantern with legs”, as I came to call it, will become a casualty of this work. Hopefully it won’t, we will just need to wait and see.

wick harbour
The lighthouse on Wick south pier

Continuing to walk back around the harbour we arrived at Wick Heritage Centre, which houses the old lens from Noss Head lighthouse. Ian, who showed us around the Museum initially, was very aware of why we were all there so gave a brief introduction before taking us along to see the lens. It’s a beautiful piece of art – as well as performing a very important function back in the day of course. They have installed a bulb inside the lens so you can get the effect of the flashing as Ian spun it around for us. I had seen the lens here before on a previous visit (I recall being very pregnant at the time so probably had other things on my mind), but didn’t appreciate it as much then as I did today. Perhaps that comes from having seen more lenses since. I can’t really do it justice by describing it so I will just add a picture below.

old noss lens
Inside the old Noss Head lens

Interestingly, the Museum have managed to secure the light apparatus that has just recently been removed from Noss Head, so they will now have two generations of light history from Noss Head at the museum. Although the latest addition to the museum will not be anywhere near as impressive as the old lens, it’s still great that they are making something of it and almost creating a timeline of the changes of light at the lighthouse. A really great idea and I’m so glad that they are doing it. The group seemed to really enjoy the rest of the museum too, which was great.

recent noss removal
The recently removed apparatus from Noss Head lighthouse, ready to be re-built

All in all, it’s been a really good day. Very enjoyable time spent with some lovely new friends. More fun to come tomorrow 🙂

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