or a number of years John and I have planned to visit Scotland and her lighthouses. At long last we made the decision last autumn to make the trip in March of 2007. John was in charge of the transportation, airline and car, and I was given the responsibility of lodging and itinerary. I was very fortunate to have met through the Internet a number of people from England and Scotland through my research for Leading Lights magazine and I quickly contacted them. They were all most anxious to help with our plans.
We arrived in Edinburgh mid-morning Saturday having been already greeted by air with our first Scottish lighthouse, a little red and white one called Oxcars sitting in the middle of the Firth River. Our adventure had started!!
John quickly acclimated to driving on the “wrong” side of the road and navigating round-abouts and we drove to our cottage in Kirriemuir, birthplace of J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.
Sunday dawned a bit drizzly so our plans for renting an airplane were postponed and we headed to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish Aviation Museum followed by a drive up the coast to see the first of several magnificent lighthouses designed by the famous lighthouse engineering Stevenson family. The Northern Lighthouse Board maintains many of the larger lighthouses in Scotland and they do a wonderful job. Barnes Ness is one of their best examples.
Heading up the coast we caught glimpses of several other lights from a distance, the remote and romantic Fidra, the inaccessible Bass Rock and the three lights of Isle of May.
Monday was sunny and clear so we went flying. John was pilot in command and our pilot companion for the day was a local, Malcolm Spavin, the perfect tour guide! Our trip was along the coast from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and we saw and photographed at least 30 lighthouses on the way up the coast.
Tuesday we were invited by David Taylor to visit the Arbroath Signal Tower, the place that was used as housing for the builders of the famous Bell Rock. We saw Bell Rock from a distance but the weather was too windy to take a boat out for a close-ups. We left there and headed for Montrose where we were met by a member of the ARLSH (Amateur radio and lighthouse society) Ewan Cameron. I’d been put in touch with him through another ARLHS member Bill Newman from England and what a treat we had in store. Ewan showed us a number of harbor lights around Montrose and then we followed him up to the magnificent Scurdie Ness, another one of the Stevenson masterpieces. From there we headed a bit further north of the lighthouse that proved to be my favorite of the entire trip, the small harbor light called Gourdon and then capped the day with Tod Head.
Wednesday we were given a tour of the Coast Guard base in Aberdeen and followed that up with a visit to the Girdle Ness light and many of the little Aberdeen harbor lights. Harbor lights in Scotland are very common and play a very important role in the day-to-day operations of North Sea shipping traffic. From there we headed north seeing several lights on the way to the Scottish Lighthouse Museum and the Kinnaird Head lighthouse complex.
Thursday through another generous contact, David Kett, we’d been invited to visit the North Carr lightship, the only lightship still in existence in Scotland. She is beautifully preserved and cared for by volunteers like Mark McGowan who was our tour guide. From there we drove down the coast to see our last official lighthouses of our brief trip. We drove in and out of tiny fishing villages visiting many harbor lights until we came to the beautiful Elie lighthouse, my second favorite of our visit. We got there near sunset and the light shining on her bright white structure was a beautiful way to end our lighthousing.
Our last day in Scotland was spent having a real Scottish breakfast at Visocci’s, a Kirriemuir legend, meeting the daughter of a former Tayport lighthouse keeper, Davina Burnett, visiting a wonderful small aviation museum right in Kirriemuir run by a WWII vet Richarde Moss and then a trip to the Tullibardine Distillery with a special tour given to us by a lovely man, Gavin Cuningham. On our last night in Scotland David Kett from the North Carr lightship invited us out to a real Scottish pub to wish us well on our trip back to the States.
On our final day as we flew out of Edinburgh, `we bid a sad farewell to our first Scottish lighthouse, little Oxcars. The lighthouses, food, castles, golf courses, distilleries, aviation history but most of all the warm, generous people of Scotland will stay with us always and we will be returning.
This story appeared in the
November 2007 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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