uklighthousetour

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

A weekend in North East Scotland – part two

Having been to Peterhead on Saturday I had pointed out to Bob the lighthouse at the end of the South Breakwater. He asked if it was possible to get out onto the breakwater and I told him it wasn’t. I did, however, feel the need to do some research into access as these things can change. It seems that in recent years the owners of the breakwater closed it to fishermen and the locals who frequently fished there had been campaigning to have it opened again.

It felt worthy of being checked out so on Sunday morning we headed back north from Aberdeen to take a look. In Peterhead we easily found the entrance to the south breakwater and it was clear immediately that access would not be possible. The gates were closed and locked and a sign advised that the breakwater was currently closed due to Covid-19. It was still possible to see and take some distant pictures of it from the gate though.

Peterhead South Breakwater lighthouse

Just back a little way along the road there was a parking area, which also gave some good distant views of it.

The entrance to Peterhead’s Harbour of Refuge

While there isn’t a huge amount to say about the lighthouse itself which was introduced in 1906, the south breakwater as well as the north were a large part of Peterhead’s Harbour of Refuge. The harbour was built from the late 1800s through to the mid-1900s. Much of the manual labour carried out in the area was undertaken by convicts at the local HMP Peterhead. At that time this was the only prison in Scotland to include hard labour for prisoners. It has been suggested online that the prison was actually built here to provide labour for the new harbour. It’s an interesting history and has added to my appreciation of an area that I’d previously not thought much of.

The view from Peterhead towards Buchanness lighthouse

On the way to Peterhead that morning it was absolutely essential that I visit Boddam, home to Buchanness lighthouse. This lighthouse was one of my favourites on my original tour and I am still very fond of it. Although I’d been over to the island before and inside the gate I’d, rather foolishly, not taken the opportunity to walk around the outside of the wall where there is a well-trodden path. It’s a fascinating little island with lots of points of lighthouse history interest. These are always better shown in pictures, so here are a few.

It’s clear that the island receives quite a battering at times with nature trying to destroy anything man made that lies in its path, but to me that adds to the beauty. I’d love to spend more time there and I planted the seed of the idea after my visit by mentioning the keepers’ cottages are holiday accommodation and looking up the price. One day…

Buchanness lighthouse

The rest of the day was lighthouse-free – or at least that’s what I thought. Bob had suggested that Stonehaven had a nice beach for the kids to play at so we headed down that way. As soon as we arrived it became very apparent that it was busy and we drove around the car park looking for a space to no avail. However we did find something else of great interest, a model lighthouse. I jumped out of the car to take a closer look while Bob continued the search for a parking space. The statue was fantastic, made of steel with such great attention to detail. It features a foghorn, birds flying around the lantern and even a tiny padlock on the door.

I looked into the statue a little more later that day and discovered that it was actually one of a number of steel statues that had been installed by an anonymous individual along the town’s coast since 2006. The lighthouse, installed in 2016, apparently also features keepers inside reading the paper and watching TV. I didn’t notice them so will need to go back for a closer look sometime. Among the other statues are a seal, a trawler and – most recently – a bi-plane. Earlier this year the artist was revealed as a local retired fisherman who had been building and installing the statues in private. It’s a wonderful story and you can read more about it here.

Stonehaven’s little lighthouse

Later that evening I was delighted when Bob suggested visiting Girdle Ness lighthouse at sunset. After a takeaway dinner in the hotel room we flung the kids in the car and set off. It was great to see the lights starting to come on and the green light from the north pier lighthouse was flashing away as were the lights from the south pier. We also spotted the front of the Torry range lights in action – the road is currently closed so we couldn’t see the rear light.

Aberdeen North Pier lighthouse
Aberdeen South Breakwater lighthouse

Then we got to her majesty, Girdle Ness. She does look, in my opinion, a bit like the queen piece from Chess with her decorative features. Initially we drove around to the furthest point and hopped out to see the foghorn and I took some pictures of the tower.

Girdle Ness lighthouse
Girdle Ness foghorn

On the way back around (the road to the south of the lighthouse is currently closed due to the harbour extension) we stopped briefly near the gate to the lighthouse complex. The signs there were very clear – no one was allowed in and I had heard that this could be very strictly enforced. My luck was in though as a young couple wandered out and the man told me that I could go in and have a closer look. He explained that one of the residents there doesn’t like people going in, but I got this chap’s permission so in I popped. It’s probably not something I would recommend to the general passerby without permission though.

Girdle Ness lighthouse from the entrance to the courtyard

It was great to see the tower so close, take a picture of it’s plaque and see those lovely details a bit closer. It looked like there were a couple of lights on inside the tower, but I chose not to knock to see if anyone was in.

Girdle Ness lighthouse from below

I felt the need for a different angle on the tower, to capture the colours over the sea. We stopped at a parking area nearby and I strolled up alongside a wall and high fence to try and get a good vantage point with the sun setting behind my back. The high fence is linked to the harbour redevelopment and is currently home to a visitor centre where you can learn all about the work going on. Could be interesting.

Looking over the harbour extension materials

I just wanted a quick view of the tower from the foghorn again as it was growing increasingly dark. When I’d initially looked at it from that angle it looked like the little emergency LED light was flashing instead of the main light source, but this time it was clear that the main light (or sealed beam lamp array) was rotating nicely. I was very excited and could have stayed for another half an hour at least, but was aware that I had a waiting husband and children in the car so we set off.

Girdle Ness lighthouse in action

I’m glad we did though as we found a road heading south from Aberdeen and I was able to get out of the car and see the lighthouse in fully fleshed action from afar. I am useless as taking pictures at night so the resulting images aren’t so good, but I will include one anyway. It was beautiful to see it flashing and the wonderful reflection of the light on the water. A beautiful way to finish a lovely day, which was full of nice surprises. 🙂

Girdle Ness lighthouse flashing from a distance
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Lights in the (increasing) darkness

On Saturday we began our journey down towards Montrose for the opening of Scurdie Ness lighthouse as part of the Angus Coastal Festival (more on that in my next blog post). On the way down Bob asked me which of the lighthouses I felt I needed to visit again to get a closer view. My response was that near enough all of them could do with a re-visit! I’d not been to a number of those harbour lights along the Moray coast since my original tour back in 2012, so my second visit was long overdue.

We realised that we had a bit of a race against the sunset in order to see them well. We failed that miserably so it turned into a ‘seeing the lights as daylight fades and the lights come on’. Our first stop was Buckie where there are two lights to see. The first one we went to (as it was on the way to the harbour anyway) was the one on Cliff Terrace. It’s an odd building, but there were certain details that I’d not noticed on my previous visits, such as engraving on the door and little designs up near the light. The sun was already going down by this point and the light on the tower was great. The only problem was that there were a couple with their dog sitting on the base of the tower in exactly the spot that would have been a perfect angle to get a good picture. Nonetheless I got some pictures anyway and we continued on our way to the harbour.

Buckie Cliff Terrace

Buckie Cliff Terrace lighthouse

I’d only seen the Buckie pier light from a bit of a distance in the past. For some reason I’d not walked right up to it. It’s a really big tower considering it’s only a harbour light – or at least it was when it was operational. It has suffered some damage to the seaward side of the tower and birds appear to have taken up residence near the lantern. It’s a real shame as it would be a lovely lighthouse to have a look around. Judging by the exterior I’m assuming the interior would probably no longer be safe for anyone to enter. It’s sad, but it’s still there and I’m glad I took a closer look this time.

Buckie Pier

The lighthouse on Buckie pier

On the way back to the main road we stopped off again at the Cliff Terrace light to get pictures without people in. The light wasn’t as good at that point, but it’s always worth going back to these places once the people have gone. The sunset seemed to occur quite quickly while we were in Buckie and I discovered afterwards that it was the equinox, and the sun always sets faster at this time of year. In fact, on Saturday it set quicker than on any other day this year.

As we were in the area we stopped at Cullen. I am very fond of the Cullen lighthouse, although I don’t really know why. It’s no longer active and was adopted by the community who did it up after it was falling into disrepair. It’s looking great, if a little strange, now.

Cullen

Cullen lighthouse

Whitehills was our next stop. Rather an odd one again, but the light was well and truly on by this point. It’s a little LED that sits on top of the short tower. The tower looks taller from a distance, but it’s only when you get closer you realise the bottom is the end of the harbour wall painted white and it’s just the little bit on top that is the actual lighthouse.

Whitehills

Whitehills lighthouse

Macduff was a great one. The light in this one is still active, although it was quite difficult to get a good picture of from close range in twilight, mainly because it has a really bright light attached to the side of the tower. That and there was a fishing boat on its way in with an even brighter light. Bob found a fantastic angle for taking a picture from and it helps that he manages to get really good images in low light too. The picture below was taken from a gap in the pier wall and you can see the final little bit of daylight disappearing over the horizon as well as Jupiter sparkling in the sky.

Macduff

Macduff lighthouse at sunset with Jupiter

The final little light of the night, because it was dark by this point, was at Rosehearty. By this point it was cold. It was also difficult to see where you were stepping as we walked along the pier to the tower. Once we got to the end it wasn’t exactly the most inspiring of lighthouses, so I quickly had a wander up the steps to see the door before heading back to the car, while Bob stayed for a minute longer to get some pictures.

Rosehearty

Rosehearty lighthouse

I thought that would be it for the day, but I was busily working away on my laptop in the car and looked up and there was the light on the modern tower at Kinnaird Head flashing away. It looked like it was the back-up light outside the tower that was in use, which was a bit of shame, but it was still nice to be there in the dark. One day I hope they will host another event where they turn the big light back on again. That would be wonderful to see.

Kinnaird Head

The two towers at Kinnaird Head

Again, thinking that was us done for the day and we should head to the hotel, we were just driving out of Peterhead when Bob asked where Buchan Ness was. Of course, I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity of seeing a big lighthouse flashing at night, so I directed us there. I was a little disappointed to find that it is now the LED lights in there, so the light just comes on and goes off rather than there being any sweeping beam anymore. It was still lovely to see though, even if we had no idea where the tower was when the light was off!

It was a wonderful evening and really nice for a change to see the lights coming on, doing what they do best. 🙂

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