Following the decommissioning of the original Kinnaird Head Lighthouse in 1991, the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Fraserburgh was first opened in 1995.
The museum has an impressive collection of lighthouse optics, the largest in Europe. The Museum also holds records from the Northern Lighthouse Board archive. Former lighthouse keepers and their families have donated other artefacts.
The lenses on display include those from Rhinns of Islay, Dunnet Head, Fair Isle South and Neist Point. However, there are many more. Other optics are on loan, and there are more in storage.
The lighthouse tower of Hoxa Head, Orkney is on display inside the museum, and there is an excellent exhibition area.
On the first floor, the Stevensons Gallery tells the story of the different generations of the Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers. Other lighthouse equipment and artefacts are on display. Also on this floor is the top half of the former Sanda Lighthouse optic.
As part of your visit to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, a guided tour is recommended; this needs to be booked.
The tour includes a visit to the old lighthouse, passing the new tower and now redundant fog signal en route. The lighthouse was actually sited atop the 15th-century castle in 1787. The tower inside was added in 1824 by Robert Stevenson. This means that some of the rooms are round, as they form part of the tower.
From the top of the lighthouse, the Wine Tower, also within the museum grounds, can be seen. Built by Alexander Fraser, it is said that he chained the lover of his daughter in a sea cave below as he disapproved of their relationship. As a result, his daughter threw herself to her death. It is said that an apparition can be seen by the tower whenever there is a storm.
Outside, the former keepers’ accommodation, built later by Robert Stevenson, has also been turned into a museum. This includes an exhibition about Tod Head Lighthouse. Alongside is the former engine room.
In the main museum area, an interesting 15-minute film gives a brief history of the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers.
No visit would be complete without a visit to the shop and museum cafe.
The staff at the museum are very friendly and knowledgeable. Prepare to spend longer at the museum than you think!