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Lighthouses of South East Scotland

Discover the lighthouses of South East Scotland. The region extends from the Scottish Borders at Berwickshire, through Leith and Edinburgh, Fife and Angus.


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.

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Lighthouses of South East Scotland

Berwickshire

The Berwickshire Coastal Path starts from the English border heading up to the fishing town of Eyemouth.

On October 14th 1881 a storm raged around Eyemouth, with the consequent loss of 23 boats and 129 men.  The museum at Eyemouth tells the story, and also the history of the fishing and herring trade in the area.

Just beyond Eyemouth is the headland of St Abbs Head, part of the St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve.  The village of St Abbs is tucked into the bottom of the cliffs.  From here the cliffs rise up to 300 feet.  The short tower of St Abbs Head Lighthouse stands perched on the edge of the cliffs at St Abbs Head. 

St Abbs Head Lighthouse
St Abbs Head Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Lothian

The train from Berwick to Edinburgh is a scenic route, and passes Barns Ness Lighthouse, just a few miles from the fishing harbour at Dunbar. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 2005 and now offers holiday accommodation. 

The ruined Tantallon Castle, near North Berwick, is one of the best places for impressive views out to Bass Rock.  

Bass Rock is about 1½ miles offshore, and rises to around 350 feet.  It is now a sanctuary for gannets, puffins and other seabirds.  It was also a refuge, and from 1691 – 1694 a garrison for James II against William III.

The lighthouse and its now silent foghorn was established in 1902. 

At North Berwick, the Scottish Seabird Centre Boat is worth a visit.  Webcams have been set up to watch live streams of the birds on Bass Rock.  Boat trips go out from North Berwick out to Bass Rock and Fidra islands. 

Bass Rock
Bass Rock Lighthouse

Close to Dirleton at Yellowcraig Beach, the island of Fidra is just offshore, and the lighthouse is clearly visible from here.  Fidra Lighthouse was built in 1885 and is now operated by Forth Ports plc.

Heading towards Edinburgh, the coastal suburb of Portobello affords fine views into the Firth of Forth.

Edinburgh

Leith was Edinburgh’s port for centuries and was absorbed into the city of Edinburgh in 1920.  From here the Water of Leith enters the Firth of Forth.

There is a wealth of lighthouse history and places to visit in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. For more information take the Edinburgh Lighthouse Tour.

The former tender Fingal is now permanently moored in Leith a luxury floating hotel. 

Newhaven was a fishing harbour and has a pretty lighthouse in the harbour, which has been decommissioned.

NLB HQ Edinburgh
NLB Headquarters at George Street, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a lively and historic city, with much to offer.  The headquarters of the NLB are located in George Street with a working replica lighthouse above the entrance door.

At Baxters Place near Calton Hill is the former home of the lighthouse Stevenson family, now a luxury hotel and restaurant.

Several museums in Edinburgh have lighthouse optics and artefacts.  If you get the chance to visit the National Museum of Scotland, you will see several impressive optics. 

If you are interested in the Stevenson family of lighthouse engineers, there are several cemeteries in Edinburgh to visit.

From the Royal Mile, the Scott monument is worth a climb with impressive views across the Firth Of Forth.

Heading north along the harbour, the former lighthouse depot at Granton rises alongside warehouses in the street.  This was the training depot, and the harbour was used nearby by the lighthouse service. Close by the former shore station used by families of lighthouse keepers can be seen at Salveson Cresecent.  These are now private residences.

Firth of Forth

In the Forth estuary are several islands, including Inchkeith which is dominated by its lighthouse. Oxcars was the first to first manned Northern Lighthouse Board lighthouse to be converted to automatic operation in 1894. Boat trips can be taken out into the estuary from South Queensferry.

Oxcars
Oxcars Lighthouse

Fife

Heading across the Forth Bridge into Fife, the impressive bridges span the estuary.  The former North Queensferry Lighthouse is in the shadow of the rail bridge.  The lighthouse is sometimes open to the public and you can light the lamp.

Along the coastline, the former lighthouse at Burntisland was relocated to Leith. Nearby at Kinghorn are fine views across the estuary to Inchkeith Lighthouse, around 3 miles away in the Firth of Forth.

At the old fishing port of Elie, a lovely walk takes you to the distinctive castellated Tower of Elie Ness Lighthouse.  It once had a lantern but now has a modern lamp on its top.

Elie Ness
Elie Ness Lighthouse

The Fishing town of Anstruther and harbour looks out to the Isle of May, where three lighthouses remain. Boat trips sail regularly out to the island from Anstruther, and you can land and visit the island.  At the end of the pier at Anstruther is the Chalmers Lighthouse.

The Low Light on the Isle of May is a bird observatory.   The island is well worth a visit if you have the time.

On the eastern promontory of Fife is the most modern NLB lighthouse of Fife Ness, built in 1975 close to the golf course.  The lighthouse marks the offshore North Carr rocks and Carr Brigg.  Built in 1975.  Nearby is the footprint of the construction site of the North Carr Beacon, which was built in 1821.

The golfing and university town of St Andrews has a small lighthouse near the ruins of the castle. St Rules tower was said to have been used as a navigation aid.

At the mouth of the Tay estuary, Tayport has some interesting lighthouses.   Prior to the construction of the Tay Bridge, Tayport was a thriving ferry port for Dundee. Just offshore from the marina, you can see the decaying Tayport Pile Lighthouse, also known as the Larrick Beacon. 

A short distance along the coast, the Tayport High and Low lights can be found.  They can be easily accessed via a footpath though they are now both private residences.

Dundee

Just underneath the Tay Bridge on the Dundee side is the relocated lighthouse of the Telford Beacon.  The lighthouse marked the entrance to King William IV Dock in Dundee and was established in the mid-1830s.

Close by at Discovery Point is the RRS Discovery.  In 1901 the wooden sailing ship took Scott and Shackleton to Antartica.

At Dundee City Quay, North Carr Lightship is moored.  She was previously moored in Anstruther after being removed from her station in 1976.  The vessel is currently awaiting and badly in need of restoration.

North Carr Lightvessel

On 8th December 1959, the North Carr Lightship broke adrift during a storm.  The lightvessel survived the storm, and the crew were able to get an emergency anchor to hold. 

However, the crew of the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat, Mona were less fortunate. Having been called out to assist the lightvessel, their lifeboat capsized, with the loss of all on board.  Alongside the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat station is a memorial to the crew of the Mona.

Angus

At Barry near the golfing town of Carnoustie, red flags will indicate if it is not safe to enter Barry Buddon Firing Range.  Firing times are published, so best to check first.

It is a lovely walk down onto the headland from here to the two former lighthouses of Buddon Ness.

Entering the town of Arbroath, a mini Red lighthouse welcomes you to the town.

At Arbroath harbour is the Signal Tower Museum. The tower was used to signal to the lighthouse keepers at the offshore Bell Rock Lighthouse on a daily basis.  The signal still is operated by cranking a ball and is still in working order.  The museum is well worth a visit.  From the harbour, Bell Rock Lighthouse can be seen around 11 miles offshore in clear weather.

Bell Rock and Pharos
Bell Rock with NLV Pharos Alonside
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Boat trips go out to Bell Rock from Arbroath.  The lighthouse was built in 1811 by Robert Stevenson.

Heading north, Montrose at the mouth of the Esk is a busy port.  The river flows into the tidal nature reserve at Montrose Basin.

At the foreshore stands the tall white lighthouse of Scurdie Ness, built in 1870.  The cottages are privately owned but it is possible to walk down to the grounds and the beach.

Two daymarks formed a transit mark, and across the harbour in the docks are two further harbour lighthouses.

Also near the harbour is a memorial to a St Bernard dog called Bamse, who became the mascot of the Norwegian forces during the Second World War. As well as saving the life of a sailor, he was known for rounding up the crew of his ship in Montrose to escort them back to their vessel. His memorial faces out to his twin memorial in Norway.

You can read the full story in the book Sea Dog Bamse by Andrew A Orr.


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