The South Breakwater Lighthouse at the entrance to Aberdeen Harbour is located on the southern side of the entrance to the River Dee, about half a mile from Girdleness Lighthouse. The breakwater was built in 1815, and the lighthouse was established in 1866.
Act of Parliament was obtained in 1773 for the erection of a pier on the north side of the harbour entrance. The pier was completed in 1781. It was partly built by John Smeaton and later extended by Thomas Telford, then extended again by William Dyce Cay in 1874-77.
The North Pier Lighthouse was established in 1866.
A port has existed at Aberdeen since at least the 14th century. The modern harbour developed from around 1770 onwards, and industry has included fishing, shipbuilding, and offshore oil and gas.
Just around the headland from Girdleness Lighthouse, the Leading Lights in the busy working harbour at Torry are thought to be amongst the oldest cast-iron lighthouses in the world, built in 1842.
The leading lights are positioned approximately 240 metres apart at Sinclair Road. They were due to be decommissioned in 2013 but were later reprieved.
Both lighthouses were built to the design of James Abernethy and his cousin James Abernethy. Abernethy was the resident engineer at Aberdeen Harbour from 1840 to 1851. He converted the tidal harbour into a dock, and the idea of using cast iron towers was influenced by his cousin James Abernethy who owned an ironworks at nearby Ferryhill.
The two lighthouses were first established on 10th May 1842, using sperm whale oil to fuel the lamps until the 1860s when other oil and paraffin became available.
In 1874 the southwest tower was realigned about 6 metres to the north.
They were both converted to gas operation around 1877.
Cast iron sections were added to the base of the towers around 886-87, raising the height of the towers from around 7 to 12 metres respectively.
The northeast tower was moved in 1896. A keepers house beside the southwest tower was later demolished.
The towers were converted from gas to electric in 1928, and the external ladders and lantern gantries were removed sometime after 1980.
In 2013 the northeast tower was moved again by a few metres following the widening of the navigation channel.
The towers continue to operate and are controlled from the Marine Operations Centre at the North Pier.