Barns Ness Lighthouse

Barns Ness Lighthouse

Barns Ness Lighthouse, three miles from Dunbar, marks the southern approach of the Firth of Forth.

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Dunbar became an essential port in eastern Scotland, exporting grain and potatoes and having a large fishing fleet. Trade here has since declined.

Construction began on the lighthouse in 1899, and it took two and a half years to build, using stone quarried from Craigie and Barnton.

Barns Ness Lighthouse

The lighthouse was established on 1st October 1901, displaying three white flashes every thirty seconds. The light source was initially a paraffin vapour burner, and a clockwork mechanism turned the optic.

During the Second World War, the lighthouse was machine-gunned, but the buildings did not sustain any damage.

Until 1966, two lighthouse keepers were stationed at the lighthouse, each having a cottage. When the lighthouse was electrified it became semi-automatic, housing a backup generator and emergency battery.

Barns Ness beach

In the same year, the optic was removed and replaced by three banks of sealed beam lamps mounted off-set on a gearless pedestal, rotating once every thirty seconds; the off-set banks allowing the previous character to be maintained.

It was the first such sealed beam system used by the Northern Lighthouse Board, and over the next twenty years, in lighthouses across Scotland, many glass optics would be replaced by more utilitarian sealed beam units.

This system initially had a range of 25 miles. However, on full automation in 1986, the light’s range was reduced to 10 miles.

Barns Ness

In the mid-1990s, the sealed beam unit was removed and replaced with a polycarbonate unit with a character of isophase white every 4 seconds (equal periods of light and darkness), with a range of 10 miles.

Following a review of navigation aids by the General Lighthouse Authorities, the lighthouse was no longer considered necessary for navigational requirements, and the lighthouse was decommissioned on 27th October 2005.

The lighthouse and dwellings were sold in the following spring and the complex was bought in 2007 by Lafarge, who own the neighbouring quarry.

Lighthouse cottage

In 2009 work commenced on building a new road from Dunbar to the lighthouse, and the previous route was subsequently closed to allow quarrying in the area to continue.

The Barns Ness headland attracts migrant birds, and you can often see rare species along this stretch of coastline.

Dunbar East Links features Barns Ness Lighthouse at its ninth hole.


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Established: October 1901
Discontinued: 2005
Engineer: David A Stevenson
Tower Height: 37 metres
Elevation: 36 metres
Automated: 1986