Girdleness Lighthouse

Girdleness Lighthouse

Built to warn ships of the dangerous wave-cut platform which extends around the peninsula, Girdleness Lighthouse was first exhibited in October 1833.

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Aberdeen Harbour is one of the major ports around the North Sea rim, historically a fishing port.  Over the last fifty years, it has been expanded to cater for the North Sea oil and gas industry, yet despite all the activity, the harbour entrance is also a feeding ground for bottlenose dolphins. 


The lighthouse is unusual in design, with a gallery built around a third of the way up the tower.  Initially, a form of double light was displayed, showing two distinct fixed lights; in the lower gallery, an array of 13 lamps and reflectors were displayed in a circular arrangement and were shown in conjunction with the upper light.

The main light was changed in 1847.  The original lantern for the new optic was too small, so it was transferred for experimental use to Inchkeith Lighthouse.  The lantern was later acquired in 1996 by the National Museums of Scotland and revealed several castings of ships, lighthouses and dolphins.

Embossed designs in the lower lamp room

In 1870 a special paraffin burner with multiple wicks was successfully trialled at Girdleness for a month.  The double lights at Girdleness were discontinued in 1890, with the removal of the lower lighting system.

On 18th November 1944, a mine drifted ashore during the Second World War, exploding and causing damage to the doors and windows in the house and tower, but nobody was hurt. 

Following the War, 5ft concave parabolic mirrors were placed behind the burners.  Although probably intended as a stop-gap due to the shortage of prismatic ground and polished glass, their use continued for a considerable time.

Experience at other lighthouses had shown that high walls had caused “strong whirls of wind” in the courtyard, which interfered with the keepers’ lookout.  In 1907 the walls at Girdleness were lowered for this reason.

Girdleness Lighthouse is one of three in Scotland which houses a DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System).  The system was installed in July 1988.

Torry Coo

In front of the headland, on the opposite side of the road, stands the now silent fog horn, formerly known as the “Torry Coo”.  It was completed in 1902 to replace an earlier fog horn located to the east of the current structure and used compressed air to produce 4 blasts every 2 minutes.  The foghorn was discontinued in 1987 and sold in 2012 to the Harbour Authority.

In 2003 the Lighthouse Board announced its intention of removing the foghorn, which was discontinued in 1987. The Aberdeen City Council intervened, and the foghorn, known locally as the Torry Coo, has been preserved. Located on Greyhope Road, on a headland southeast of the entrance to the River Dee in Aberdeen. 

In 2017 work commenced building the new South Harbour in Nigg Bay, providing facilities for the oil industry and attracting cruise ships to the area. 

Just around the headland, the Leading Lights in Torry are thought to be amongst the oldest cast-iron lighthouses in the world and were built in 1842.  The Granite City of Aberdeen is less than a mile from the lighthouse.

There are 182 steps to the top.



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Established: 1833
Engineer: Robert Stevenson
Tower Height: 37 metres
Light Character: Fl 2 W 20 s
Light Range: 22 miles
Elevation: 56 metres
Automated: 1991
Fog Signals: Discontinued 1987