Bass Rock Lighthouse

Bass Rock Lighthouse

Bass Rock Lighthouse is about 3 miles northeast of North Berwick at the entrance to the Firth of Forth.

The steep-sided mass of volcanic rock rises to 350 feet at its highest point and is about a mile in circumference. A natural tunnel runs from east to west through the rock, which is only accessible at low tide.

Bass Rock was owned for hundreds of years by the Lauder of Bass family. In 1706 Sir Hugh Dalrymple bought Bass Rock, and his descendants still own it.

Bass Rock

A chapel dedicated to an early Christian hermit, St Baldred, was erected in 1542, and a castle dating back to at least 1405 was later used as a prison. Between 1672 and 1688, around 40 political/religious prisoners died in this prison for Presbyterian ministers.

The 13th-century keep or governor’s house and some other buildings within the castle were demolished, and their stone was used in the construction of the lighthouse.

By 1897 there was concern about the lack of lighting around this part of the coastline. Subsequently, Barns Ness Lighthouse was built in 1901, and Bass Rock established on 1st November 1902.

Bass Rock Lighthouse

The lighthouse was initially lit using a paraffin vapour burner.

The now redundant fog horn is visible on the top of the northeast end of the island. The foghorn was installed in 1907 with a footpath leading from the lighthouse. It used compressed air to produce its audible signal.

fog horn

Bass Rock Lighthouse was automated in 1988 when the Lighthouse Keepers left for the last time. Its fog signal was discontinued at the same time.

The island is covered with gannets, around 30,000 – 40,000 pairs, covering every spare inch of space.

Bass Rock and its lighthouse can be seen from the Scottish Sea Bird Centre at North Berwick.

Bass Rock optic
Former Bass Rock optic
Photo courtesy of Coastal Communities Museum

The former optic from the lighthouse is on display at the Coastal Communities Museum, also in North Berwick.

Established: 1902
Engineer: David A Stevenson
Tower Height: 20 metres
Light Character: Fl (3) W 20 s
Light Range: 10 miles
Elevation: 46 metres
Automated: 1988
Fog Signals: Discontinued 1988