Barns Ness
Barns Ness lighthouse - Dunbar
photos: ©

East Coast

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Update: 22-03-2024

Compiled by:
@ Bob Schrage

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Barns Ness
Bass Rock
Bell Rock
Buchan Ness
Buddon Ness
Clyth Ness
Covesea Skerry
Elie Ness
Fife Ness
Girdle Ness
Isle of May
Kinnaird Head
Noss Head
Scurdie Ness
St Abbs Head
Tarbat Ness
Tod Head

Place of the lighthouse

The Barn Ness Lighthouse is located 5 km southwest from Dunbar. This lighthouse marks the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh. The lighthouse is on low rocky ground, close to the sea.

The Lighthouse

The commissioner for the construction of the lighthouse was the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh. The reason for the construction of this lighthouse is not known to me. (if someone has information, let me know). The Lighthouse at Barns Ness was built by David Alan Stevenson, Engineer of the Commissioners (NLB).

A tall, slightly tapering; circular-section tower with circular lantern with triangular panes and domed top. The tower is white painted; the lantern dome is black. The tower is 37 meters high, and is constructed with stone from Craigree (near Cramond) and Barnton quarries near Edinburgh, as are the other buildings. The stone was tough, when Barns Ness was being shot during the World War II, no damage sustained. The keepers' houses are single-storey with a flat-roofed structure. The lighthouse is easily accessible by road and includes a solar, flagpole and Keepers' House. The lighthouse area is surrounded by a stone wall.

The light is inflamed on 1 October 1901, approximately 2.5 years after building operations commenced.

The original and current lighting system

The lighthouse was originally equipped with an old mantle and paraffin-operated light. In April 1966 the lighthouse was electrified with a sealed beam system of up to 1,300,000 cd. This was the first installation of its kind at the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The optical equipment consisted of a gearbox, manufactured by AGA (UK) Ltd, with a series of eighteen sealed jet lamps mounted similar to modern car headlights. The sealed beam light was powered by standard power supply. In case of power failure, an emergency power supply would have been activated. As last resort there was a 12Volt DC battery backup.

The lighthouse was automated in 1986 and was remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

The lighthouse originally had a light character of an Isophase white light every 4 seconds and had a range of 9 NM ~ 16.5 km. (Iso W 4s - An isophase light, abbreviated "Iso", is a light which has dark and light periods of equal length. The prefix originates from the Greek iso- meaning "same".

Operational status

Until July 11, 1966, the lighthouse was manned by two light owners; Due to the change to semi- automatic operation, the occupation of the lighthouse was adapted to one lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse was automated in 1986 and remotely controlled from the headquarters in Edinburgh (NLB).

In January 2005, the three General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland issued a consultation document following a joint review of Aids to Navigation of the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The Review addressed the current and future requirements of national and international vesselping and those of Mariners. Each Aid to Navigation - light, buoy or beacon - was studied in isolation, as well as in relation to the other Aids to Navigation in its vicinity. As a result of this review, it was agreed to discontinue the light at Barns Ness, which only served as 'waypoint'. Barns Ness Lighthouse was therefore permanently discontinued with effect from 27 October 2005. After the lighthouse is deactivated, all equipment is removed from the lantern house.

Ownership and Accessibility

The two 1-storey keepers houses and the other light station buildings are leased as private residences. In 2006 the Northern Lighthouse Board placed the light station on sale, and it was sold for more than £ 100,000 to the Lafarge Company, which already owned the keeper's houses. The area surrounding the light station is a public preserve, with free parking and beach access. Site and tower are closed, but the lighthouse can be viewed at close range from the surrounding parkland.

It should be noted that at some sites the Northern Lighthouse Board have sold some redundant buildings within the lighthouse complex and is not responsible for the maintenance of these building.

Barns Ness Fossils - place of special interest

Barns Ness Fossil
Barn Ness Fossil
Barns Ness is a great place to find fossils, the remains of the life that thrived in tropical seas 320 million years ago. At Barns Ness you can see body fossils - the remains of the actual animal or plant, and trace fossils which are the remains of the burrows or trails left by an animal.

With a short walk along the shore from White Sands to the Barns Ness lighthouse, allows you to discover the most extensive limestone outcrops in central Scotland. There are also other sedimentary rocks including sandstone, mudstone and coal, and plenty of fossils.

The rocks are over 320 million years old (the Carboniferous Period) and were laid down as soft sediment when Scotland was located just south of the Equator, and the climate was tropical, both hot and wet. Sea level kept rising and falling, so that at times this area was under shallow sea water, and at other times it was a flat coastal plain.

The sea level changes were caused by subsidence of this area and changing global sea-levels due to ice ages. The abundant corals in the limestones indicate that they lived in tropical, warm, shallow, clear seawater. However, rivers were flowing from the mountains to the north; they brought mud and sand to silt up the shallow sea and reclaim the land, producing muddy coastal swamps and deltas with low-lying sandbanks and river channels. Eventually this new land was colonized by lycopod forests (similar to mangrove swamps in the world today). Later, the land would subside once more or global sea level would rise, drowning the forest and starting a new sediment cycle.

Barns Ness


Character: (discont., was Iso W 10s)

Barns Ness map
(click to enlarge the map)

Engineer: David Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)

Lat, Lon: 55°59.237' N, 002°26.716' W

Established: October 1, 1901
Character: Iso White every 4 secs. (former light)
Range: Discontinued
Elevation: 37 meters above sealevel
Tower: 36 meters, 169 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to:

Automated: November 31, 1986
Last Keepers: W. Ritchie - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: No

Status: Discontinued October 27, 2005
Authority: Lafarge Company
Remarks: Cat.B listed - LB1465 - 18/03/1986

Barns Ness lighthouse
Barns Ness at sunset

Barns Ness lighthouse
Barns Ness

Barns Ness lighthouse
Barns Ness in earlier times

Barns Ness drone flight

Barns Ness Fossils- UK Fossils Network
Barns Ness Drone flight- Alan Walker