Fraserburgh is a long way north of here. I’ve been there a few times and it’s fine. It’s a seaside town, a fishing town, not so far from Rattray Head too. It has at least two claims to fame or at least two which come to my mind. Its football team played The Rangers recently in the Scottish Cup and got beat. Fraserburgh is also home to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, which includes an old lighthouse, Kinnaird Head. If you’re ever in the area, go to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. I grew up by the sea and for much of the time I lived in Dunbar, I could see two lighthouses from my house. By day, Barns Ness, by night St. Abbs Head. One of the earliest lighthouses in Scotland was on the Isle of May, also visible from Dunbar, and the remains of it are still there. Lighthouses are crucial for ensuring the safety of shipping around our coastline and some of them have been built with no little ingenuity and courage, not least the Bell Rock near Arbroath.
All of our lighthouses are automated now and they are controlled from the Northern Lighthouse Board offices in George Street, Edinburgh. For those who know George Street, the NLB offices are right next to Hollister. The NLB are a whole lot less subtle than Hollister’s energy-gulping screens in the windows, with a model lighthouse with a light above the door. The last time I looked, however, Hollister did at least have a loop of waves crashing to the shore playing though those waves were in California rather than North Ronaldsay or off Barra. Whenever I’m on George Street I always like to think of the huge distance in every sense from the city street to the lighthouses in isolated parts of the coastline.
My favourite lighthouse is the decommissioned Barns Ness, not far outside Dunbar. Seeing it from the train involves looking at the right moment between the quarry and Torness Power Station. The best way is to walk there, from Whitesands or Skateraw. That particular bit of coastline is geologically interesting, with limekilns and a whole lot of sediments happening. One of my ambitions is to learn more about geology. Not so far beyond Barns Ness is Siccar Point, Hutton’s uncomformity which helped to prove his theories of geological development. I still haven’t been though some time I will. The views from Barns Ness are good, though, to St. Abbs Head and back towards Dunbar, the Bass and the May. It is on the John Muir Link, a footpath which runs from Dunbar to Dunglass.
I seem to write a lighthouse post at least once a year so apologies if I am repeating myself. Apart from the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, I can also recommend a few other places to learn about lighthouses, including level 4 of the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, the Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath and the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. Or you can go find one somewhere. Just look for the light and go, preferably the next morning.