Bass Rock
Bass Rock lighthouse
photos: ©

East Coast

Commissioners' Flag of the NLB
In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Vlag NLB
Ensign of the NLB
Lighthouse Map Nightview Map
- Standard + Radar Beacon + AIS - Discontinued - Page Under Construction
East Coast Barns Ness Bass Rock Bell Rock Buchan Ness Buddon Ness Chanonry Clyth Ness Covesea Skerry Cromarty Elie Ness Fidra Fife Ness Girdle Ness Inchkeith Isle of May Kinnaird Head Noss Head Oxcars Rattray Scurdie Ness St Abbs Head Tarbat Ness Tod Head
North Coast Southwest Coast West Coast Inner Hebrides Outer Hebrides Orkney Islands Shetland Islands Isle of Man
NLB Stevensons Technics Useful Links
Update: 22-03-2024

Compiled by:
@ Bob Schrage

page QR_code
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 Bass Rock, or simply the Bass (pronunciation: /ˈbæs/), is an island in the outermost part of the Firth of Forth in eastern Scotland. About 2 km offshore and 5 km northeast of North Berwick. The Bass Rock is a huge rocky island rising from the sea to a height of 107 meters and is approximately 1600 meters in circumference. From East to West a natural tunnel runs trough the rock but is not accessible except for low tide.

The rock is currently uninhabited but Bass Rock has a long and varied history. The monk Saint Baldfred who died about (606) had his cell on the Rock. The first registered owner of the Bass Rock was Sir Robert Lauder, who got permission for it in 1316. The family (Lauder of Bass) owned this rock for about 6 centuries. The family was also involved in setting up a Pre-Reformation Chapel in honour of Saint Baldfred. This chapel was consecrated in 1542. The ruins of this chapel are still present. The family was also responsible for the building of a fortress

The Lighthouse

In July 1897, the commissioners of the Northern Lights - now the NLB - decided to place two lighthouses on the Haddingtonshire coast because the unguarded coast caused concern. A lighthouse was placed on the Bass Rock and the second lighthouse became the Barns Ness lighthouse near Dunbar. The tower guards the relatively narrow passage between the island and North Berwick, rather than the main entrance into the Firth of Forth, from which it is hidden by the main mass of the island. (The Firth of Forth is the main entrance to Edinburgh)

The Bass Rock Lighthouse is a 20-meter-high tower and is built on the south side of the island, under the responsibility of designer David A. Stevenson, who demolished the house of the administrator and some other buildings on the island to use the stones for the construction of the lighthouse and the surrounding technical buildings and keeper’s houses. The construction costs of the Bass Rock lighthouse were in 1902, £ 8,087.

The circular tower is white painted with buff trim, lantern buff with a black dome. The Bass Rock was inflamend on the evening of 1 November 1902. On 17/05/1989 the lighthouse is listed as a category C building.

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon, etc.)

Until the automation in 1986, the Bass Rock lighthouse was lit by glow gas. There was an oil container in the light room to which an air container was connected and the oil was pushed from the container through air pressure to an evaporator where it was converted into a bunter gas for heating a jacket, making it hot. It was one of the last seven lighthouses in service of the Northern Lighthouse Board that was lit with paraffin. After the automation in 1988 a new biform ML300 synchronized bifilament 20-watt electric lamp is used. (such as car lights - LED). The lighthouse has a light character of 3 flashes of white light repeating every 20 seconds. (Fl (3) W 20s). The light has a range of 18.5 km / 10 nm.

A foghorn was installed on the northeast headland in 1907 with a footpath and guardrail leading from the lighthouse. The sound was made by compressed air produced by diesel-powered machinery. There were 45 foghorns around the Scottish coastline, each with a unique interval between the blasts (3 blasts every 120 s.) to allowed a vessel's crew to identify their position.

Operational status

The Bass Rock lighthouse was manned by three guards who were on the station for a month, followed by two weeks in the houses of the keepers in Granton (village near Edinburgh). Their replacements and supplies were provided by the lighthouse vessel 'Pharos' and later the 'Pole Star'. Every day a keeper must climb to the top of the whitewashed tower to clean the lighthouse glass and the reflectors. The last keepers left in 1988 when the light was automated. The Light is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

Blockade of the Bass Rock - 1694

Blockade of the Bass Rock
Blockade of the Bass Rock - 1694
In 1671 Charles claimed the Bas as Royal Property and was sold to the crown for £ 4,000 sterling by the then owner, Sir Alexander Ramsay of Abbotshall, Provost of Edinburgh. The bloody pages of Bass Rock's history unfold now, under another Lauder (dale), known as the Captain of the Bass. The fortress was changed to a prison for Presbyterian ministers. Between 1672 and 1688 about 40 political / religious prisoners died in the dungeons of the rock.

In 1691, during the reign of William and Mary, four Jacobi prisoners escaped from their cells and attacked the fortress when the entire garrison was busy unloading coal. For the next three years, they held the Bas for the Old Pretender and defended them against all government efforts to take it back. Assisted by delivery vessels from France, this unique quartet even performed raids on the Fife and Lothian coasts.

In 1694, a severe blockage of the island resulted and became the Jacobite’s fatal. But they negotiated well and were released under favourable conditions and could leave the fortress as free people. The fort remained a state prison for seven years and was subsequently demolished.

In 1706 the Bas was sold to Sir Hugh Dalrymple, whose descendants still owned it. Up until the First World War, the rock was let to tenants who earned money by fishing, grazing sheep (Bass Mutton was a famous 18th Century Edinburgh delicacy) and by killing young sea birds and collecting eggs. The last tenant of the Bass, Mr. Easton, was a North Berwick fishmonger. Now the rock is home to the largest colony of gannets in the world.

Bass Rock and Gannets

Bass Rock and Gannets
Bass Rock and the Gannets
The true owners of the Bass Rock are, of course, the birds, for almost every available centimetre is occupied by razorbills, guillemots, cormorants, puffins, eider ducks and various gull species. But the bird of the Bass is the Gannet or "Solan Goose" with a breeding colony of 30-40,000 pairs, which making the Bass a mecca for international ornithologists. It is thus only fitting that this superb sea bird's Latin name "Sula Bassana" should be derived from the word Bass. Even as long ago as 1792, the gannets of the Bass Rock were famous both by their quantity and as food. Find out more about the birds of the Bass Rock from the Scottish Sea Bird Centre at North Berwick. Bass Rock lighthouse can be visited via boat trips from the Seabird Centre in North Berwick. (see also the second video in the right-hand column).

Bass Rock


Character: Fl(3) W 20s 46m 10M
(2x fl.0.5s-ec.2.0s, fl.0.5s-ec.14.5s)

Bass Rock lighthouse
Lightcharacter of Bass Rock (click to enlarge)

Engineer: David Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)

Lat, Lon: 56°04.603' N, 002°38.463' W

Established: November 1, 1902
Character: Flashing(3) White every 20 secs.
Range: 10 NM ~ 18.5 km
Elevation: 46 meters above sealevel
Tower: 20 meters, 48 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to:

Automated: December 21, 1988
Last Keepers: F. Bremner - PLK
: G.M. Miller - ALK
: R.C. Middleton - ALK
Fog horn: Type Siren, 3 blasts every 120 sec.
: Discontinued in 1988

Status: Operationel
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Cat.C(S) listed - 14738 - 17/05/1989

Bass Rock lighthouse
Bass Rock

Bass Rock lighthouse
Bass Rock in early times

Bass Rock lighthouse
Seen from the mainland

Video of the Bass Rock

Video of the Bass Rock

Bass Rock- Wikipedia
Bass Rock Drone flight- Dave Russell
Bass Rock visit- Fabiola Forns