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Lighthouses of North East Scotland

Discover the lighthouses of North East Scotland. This area includes the lights of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Inverness and the Black Isle and North East Highland.

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Please note that some of these lighthouses offer holiday accommodation or may be privately owned.  

Please take care not to trespass or drive on private property.

Lighthouses of North East Scotland

Aberdeenshire

Nestled between Kinneff and Catterline is the headland of Tod Head.   The cliffs rise steeply and are a haven for wild birds.  Tod Head Lighthouse was decommissioned in July 2007.  The tower was sold in 2012 and is now privately owned, beautifully converted into a private residence.  The former keepers’ cottages are located alongside the short tower and are also privately owned. 

Just south of the Granite City of Aberdeen is Nigg Bay, where a new harbour is now being developed, welcoming cruisers into the city.   Girdleness Lighthouse dominates the headland, and its redundant foghorn, known as the Torry Coo stares silently out to sea. The lighthouse is unusual in design with its central gallery – inside are impressive engravings.  The lighthouse offers holiday accommodation in the former keepers’ cottages. 

Girdleness Lighthouse
Girdleness Lighthouse and the Torry Coo foghorn just visible on the headland

Dolphins can often be seen in Aberdeen harbour, where there are several harbour lighthouses. The nearby Torry lighthouses are made of cast iron and located within an industrial estate, but worth a visit.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum is well worth a visit if you have the time.  Amongst its exhibits is the former optic from Rattray Head Lighthouse.  The mechanism spans over three floors, and you can sit at its base and admire it from the ground floor cafe. 

Also worth a visit is the small town of Footdee (pronounced Fittee) on the northern shore of the Aberdeen harbour entrance.  The houses all face inwards towards the communal squares.  The village was designed in the early 19th century with the aid of the fishermen.  Just along the coast from here the long esplanade offers impressive views across the harbour.

The River Don flows from the north of the city, and beyond here the beach stretches for miles with soft sand dunes protecting the coastline.

Just south of Peterhead is Old Slains Castle, which was destroyed by James VI in 1594, but sections of it were later added to.  It is still a ruin and there are some impressive views, but watch the drop!

A short walk at the Bullers of Buchan leads to an impressive rocky inlet with a narrow path leading around its edge, 100ft above.  The sea turns it into a whirling cauldron, and a hole has been eroded into the rock by the sea.

A few miles further north from the Bullers of Buchan is the village of Boddam.  Linked to the island by a bridge is the distinctive Buchan Ness Lighthouse.  It is possible to walk around the perimeter of the island with care. 

Buchan Ness Lighthouse
Buchan Ness Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

There are great views from the lighthouse to the fishing town of Peterhead, where trawlers can often be seen braving the choppy waves out to sea.  Within Peterhead’s harbour are several lighthouses, one of which, the former South Harbour Light has been moved.

Passing the massive gas and oil terminals at St Fergus, a bumpy road leads out to Rattray Head Lighthouse, which stands offshore. Its former keepers’ cottages are close by and there are beautiful views along the dunes and miles of sandy beach.

Fraserburgh is one of the busiest fishing ports in the northeast.  It stands on the turning point of the north sea and Moray Firth, and a harbour lighthouse guards the entrance. 

A castle was built at Kinnaird Head in 1570, and this was later converted into a lighthouse in 1786, one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland. A modern lighthouse has since replaced the tower which now forms part of the impressive Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. The museum displays numerous lighthouse optics and you can take a tour of the castle lighthouse and engine room.  Be prepared to spend longer than you think there, and don’t forget to visit the cafe. 

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse
Kinnaird Head Lighthouse
at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

From Fraserburgh, the coastline turns in towards the Moray Firth, and many harbours are dotted along the way.

Rosehearty has a castellated harbour lighthouse, and the nearby village of Pennan is nestled into the cliffs at the bottom of a steep windy road.  You have to park at the top and walk down. The houses are sheltered gable end into the cliff to protect them and a sheer drop leads down from the main street onto the beach below.  The film Local Hero was filmed here, and the red phone box used in the film is still evident.  There are some magnificent walks along this stretch of coastline.  The nearby villages of Gardenstown and Crovie are also worth a visit.

The harbour of Macduff has a fishing harbour and is divided by the River Deveron.  The fourth Macduff Lighthouse was built in 1905 and is one of the tallest on the Banffshire coast.

Macduff Harbour Lighthouse
Macduff Harbour Lighthouse

Crossing the River Deveron to the town of Banff, a seven-arched bridge spans the river. This bridge was designed by John Smeaton, architect of the Eddystone Lighthouse which now stands on Plymouth Hoe.  The small Banff Harbour Lighthouse was built in 1832 on the north pier.

Whitehills Lighthouse was established in 1900 and built into the harbour wall.  At Portsoy, the lighthouse sits on top of a square tower overlooking the harbour. Portsoy was once a fishing village, and featured as the fictional island of Todday in the 2016 remake of Whisky Galore!

Moray

The small iron tower at Cullen is located at the end of the eastern breakwater. Cullen is famous for its delicacy Cullen Skink, a delicious soup made of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions.

Between Cullen and Findochty is the impressive natural sea arch of Bow Fiddle Rock.  The disused lighthouse at the former fishing port at Findochty was built in 1904 on the western pier. 

There have been two lighthouses at Buckie which worked originally as leading lights.  Its rear range light is no longer operational.

Covesea Skerries Beach
Covesea Skerries Lighthouse

The fishing town of Lossiemouth came into being after the port of Spynie silted up. Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum has the former optic from Covesea Skerries Lighthouse on display, and there are various maritime resources available within the museum. Covesea Skerries Lighthouse is no longer operational but is open to the public, and there are cottages available to stay in.

Inverness and the Black Isle

Inverness straddles the River Ness and the Caledonian Canal. The canal links the Moray Firth to Loch Ness and the west coast of Scotland, alleviating the need to travel around the northern tip of Scotland. Bona Lighthouse at Lochend marks the northern end of the canal and guided ships into the Caledonian Canal from Loch Ness.

Chanonry Lighthouse
Chanonry Point Lighthouse

On the Black Isle, overlooking the headland at Fort George is Chanonry Point Lighthouse, built in 1846. The water between the two land points is narrow here and it is one of the best spots in the area for watching bottlenose dolphins, porpoises and seals.

Marking the entrance to the Cromarty Firth, Cromarty Lighthouse is no longer operational.   The lighthouse was built in 1846 and discontinued in 2006. It is now home to the University of Aberdeen as a base for their Field Station, the School of Biological Sciences. 

Highland

At the entrance to the Dornoch Firth, near Portmahomack, stands the third tallest lighthouse in Scotland. Tarbat Ness Lighthouse with its distinctive red and white bands was built in 1830 and marks the offshore Gizzen Briggs.  Its former optic is on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse
Tarbat Ness Lighthouse

Lybster was once a busy herring fishing port and is dominated by the white octagonal lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour, built in 1884.

Clythness Lighthouse is one of the more recent lighthouses, built during World War 1 to guide warships.  The cliffs here drop almost vertically to 45 metres.  The lighthouse was decommissioned in 2010 and is now a private residence.

The ancient harbour of Wick was once a thriving fishing town for the herring industry, but this declined after the 1900s.  The south and north pier lighthouses still mark the harbour. In the town, the Wick Heritage Centre houses the former optic from Noss Head Lighthouse and is well worth a visit.  In the town, Mackays Hotel is located at Ebeneezer Place, reported to be the shortest street in the world! 

Marking the southern tip of Sinclair’s Bay, Noss Head Lighthouse was built in 1849. There are some impressive views across to the former Sinclair Girnigoe Castle, and the cottages are available for holiday let.

Noss Head aerial
Noss Head Lighthouse
Photo courtesy of Ben Makin

Duncansby Head Lighthouse marks the turning point into the Pentland Firth on the northeast tip of mainland Scotland.   From Duncansby Head, Stroma Lighthouse can be seen just across the Pentland Firth. A short walk on the headland leads out to the beautiful chasms and arches below with Duncansby Stacks. 

The former Duncansby Head Lighthouse fog horn has now been relocated to John O’Groats.

Although John O’Groats claims to be the most northerly point of Scotland, Dunnet Head is in fact a further two miles north.  There are stunning views across to Orkney from Dunnet Head. Dunnet Head Lighthouse was built in 1831, and its original 1908 optic is housed at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh. Her Majesty The Queen Mother visited Dunnet Head lighthouse whilst staying at the Castle of Mey, which she bought in 1952.

Dunnet at sunset
Dunnet Head Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

From Scrabster, ferries run to Stromness in Orkney.  The former lighthouse at Holburn Head is located close to Thurso Lifeboat station.  Built in 1862, it was discontinued in 2003 and is now a private residence.


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Discover more lighthouses and places to visit in North East Scotland

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