Place of the lighthouseThe Buchan Ness Lighthouse is located near the coastal village of Boddam in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is 47 km north of Aberdeen and 4.8 km south of Peterhead. Sea cliffs rise to 61 meters, south of the village. A coastal path leads along these to the Bullers of Buchan. Bullers of Buchan refers both to a collapsed sea cave and to the adjacent village. The small hamlet of cottages here is also known by the same name, and was historically a fishing village launching small boats from the bay below (the slipway may still be seen at low tide)
The cliffs at the Bullers provide a nesting site in spring for colonies of seabirds, including kittiwakes, puffins, fulmars, shags, razorbills and guillemots along with herring gulls and great black-backed gulls. Eider ducks may also be seen here, and gannets are frequently seen passing en route to their colonies north at Troup Head and south at Bass Rock. Grey seals may be seen in the bay, and dolphins are often seen passing by offshore.
The LighthousePetitions were received by the Commissioners in 1819 from the Magistrates, town Councils and Harbour trustees of Peterhead, to have a lighthouse erected on Buchan Ness or any more eligible part of the coast. The area was surveyed by Robert Stevenson, Engineer to the Board, who decided on the present position of the village Boddam. It was not, however, until 1827 that the light was exhibited.
The tower is constructed from large blocks of local granite and stands 35 metres in height. The gallery around the top of the tower is decorated in a style similar to the Egyptian Styles used at Ardnamurchan Point and Covesea Skerry, although unlike them, the Keeper's houses nor any other features of the design follow this style. John Gibb of Aberdeen was the contractor responsible for the building of Buchan Ness.Description Robert Stevenson 1824-7. 118' high tapered circular coursed granite tower with gothick corbelling below gallery and cupola. White painted with red band. Cantilever spiral staircase. Concentric semi-circle of buildings at base on W. forming 5-window bow, cornice, blocking course 2 octagonal shafted chimneys, flat roof; flat-lintelled doorway links to symmetrical wings, 2-window to W and 2-window and centre door in court.
The area around the headland of Buchan Ness was for many centuries the point from which trading and whaling voyages departed across open ocean, bound for Archangel, Greenland and Spitsbergen amongst other destinations.During the Second World War, a drifting mine washed ashore and exploded 50 yards south of the station. No one was injured and the material damage consisted of 3 lantern panes cracked and 12 other glass panes broken in the tower, engine room and dwelling houses. Part of the ceilings of the kitchen and one bedroom of the 1st Assistant's house were brought down and the locks, hinges and bolts of 4 doors damaged. There were also 20 slates blown off the roof storehouse. There have been many changes since 1827 in the light, in 1910 to dioptric, in 1978 the lantern was especially enlarged with the candlepower raised from 6,500 to 786,000 and in 1978, it was converted to electric operation, candlepower 2,000,000. The lighthouse was automated in 1988 and is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh. The fog horn was discontinued in 2000. It should be noted that at some sites the Northern Lighthouse Board have sold some redundant buildings within the lighthouse complex and are not responsible for the maintenance of these building. At the base of the tower is a semi-circular tower, giving access from the outside, as well as directly from the Keeper's house, unlike some stations at which the tower is separated. Between the two houses is a courtyard with a high wall to protect it from the wind. The tower was left as natural stone-colour when it was built, but it was painted white with a broad red band half way up, giving its distinctive daymark seen here, in 1907 During WWII, like several Lighthouses along this coast, it was damaged by explosives. In Buchan's case, it was a floating mine that washed ashore and exploded 45 meters to the south of the Walled Compound. The resulting damage was the destruction of 3 glass panes in the Lantern, 20 panes destroyed in the houses, engine room and tower itself, Locks, hinges and bolts of 4 doors being damaged as well the ceilings of the 1st Assistant's Kitchen and Bedroom collapsing and 20 slates being blown from the Store Room's roof. Amazingly, no one was injured. There are 166 steps to the lantern room, which was extended outwards towards Peterhead slightly in 1978, to allow for the range of the light to be increased in that direction without the removal of the 1910 to dioptric lens system, which remains in place today. At this time, the light was also electrified. The light currently gives 1 White flash every 5 seconds, giving a beam visible for over 28 Nautical Miles. A Racon Radar beacon replaced the fog horn at the Lighthouse in 2000, although it remains in place. The fog horn which is seen today replaced an earlier one, which like other fog horns picked up a nickname; The Buchan Coo. The Racon beacon, which aids vessels during weather in which the light can not be seen, transmits a signal with a distinctive character, which enables the vessel to gain an idea of location; it is mounted on the gallery above the Emergency Light, which is formed of several LED units. Today, the Lighthouse remains fully functional and is remotely controlled from Edinburgh, whilst the Keeper's Houses, which are now surplus to the requirements of the Northern Lighthouse Board have been sold off to private owners who rent the cottages as holiday accommodation. The village of Boddam lies just to the south of Peterhead, and separated from it by Sandford Bay and Peterhead Power Station. Opinions differ as to whether Buchan Ness, a headland reached by a bridge from the village, is in fact the most easterly point in mainland Scotland: it depends on whether you count Keith Inch just over two miles to the north. Once an island, this now forms part of Peterhead harbour and projects a little further east than Buchan Ness. Being so close to Peterhead, it is inevitable that Boddam tends to be overshadowed by it. This wasn't always so: a map produced in the 1600s showed Boddam to be larger than its northern neighbour. Just to the south stood Boddam Castle, built by the Keiths of Ludquharn in the 1500s. The most notable early member of the family to be born at Boddam Castle was Sir William Keith (1669-1749), who went on to become Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware. Today only fragmentary ruins remain of Boddam Castle. The headland location chosen by the Keiths for their castle was guarded by the start of the cliffs that run for five miles south west from here to Slains Castle and Cruden Bay. About half way along this stretch of cliffs is the Bullers of Buchan, a collapsed sea cave forming an almost circular pot and an arch. Boddam's early development was largely due to the shelter afforded by Buchan Ness, which made it an attractive base for fishing boats. This led to a short-lived fishing station being established here by the Dutch in the years around 1700. But the development of modern Boddam dates back to a decision in the 1820s by the Northern Lighthouse Board to build a lighthouse on Buchan Ness. This was completed in 1827 by Robert Stevenson. The lighthouse tower is 35m high, and there are 166 steps leading to the top. The distinctive red band was added in 1910. Buchan Ness Lighthouse was automated in 1988, and the foghorn, known locally as the Boddam Coo fell silent in 2000. The arrival of the lighthouse was followed in 1831 by the construction of a harbour. In the 1840s the harbour was greatly expanded by George Hamilton-Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen. Further harbour improvements were made in the 1870s to provide for vessels exporting the red Peterhead granite being quarried in ever larger quantities from Stirling Hill, a mile to the south east. These included the construction of a tramway linking the quarries with the harbour. The quarries also helped attract the railway to Boddam: a branch line from Ellon arrived in 1897. The early decades of the 1900s saw much of Boddam's fishing fleet attracted away by the better harbour facilities available at Peterhead. The railway closed to passengers in 1932, and to freight in 1945. After the Second World War, Boddam became home to RAF Buchan, an important Cold War radar station tracking Russian aircraft over the North Atlantic. Until 2005 this was also home to one of the UK's two "Control and Reporting Centres", which oversaw the UK's air defences. This role has since passed to RAF Boulmer in Northumberland, and the RAF Buchan "domestic site" in Boddam is due to be redeveloped. Like many other communities across Aberdeenshire, Boddam has benefitted considerably from the oil boom since the 1970s. Boddam harbour has at times served as an oil support base, and in 1976 rebuilding took place to allow the harbour to be used to support the new oil-fired Peterhead Power Station, which continues to dominate views north west from the village. In the early 1990s the power station was converted to be able to use gas as well as oil. Boddam harbour remains home to a number of small fishing boats, and to Thistle Seafood's fish processing plant. There have been many changes since 1827 in the light itself such as in 1910 to dioptric and in 1978 the lantern was especially enlarged with the candlepower raised from 6,500 to 786,000. Then in 1978, it was converted to electric operation with a candlepower of 2,000,000. Boddam, a rising fishing village of E Aberdeenshire, in the parish, and 3½ miles S of the town, of Peterhead. Of its two harbours, separated by the beach of round stones that joins Buchan Ness to the mainland, and screened by that lighthouse peninsula from the sea, the southern admits only fishing boats, but the northern has a good pier, capable of receiving vessels of moderate draught, and constructed chiefly at the cost (over £2000) of the late Earl of Aberdeen about 1845, when Boddam was made a port by Act of Parliament. ... Hide further information... The fisheries of herring, haddock, and cod employ some 65 boats, and the fish dried here have a high repute. Three furlongs to the S are the ruins of Boddam Castle, the seat of the Keiths of Ludquharn; and at the clean and well-built village itself, which stands at an altitude of 70 feet above sea-level, are a post office under Peterhead, an Established chapel of ease, and a handsome public school (rebuilt 1876), which, with accommodation for 270 children, had in 1879 an average attendance of 169, and a grant of £137,11s. Pop. of village (1840) 460, (1861) 550, (1871) 803 (1881) 1010; of registration district (1871) 1310, (1881) 1766.—Ord. Sur., sh. 87,1876. Buchan Ness Lighthouse The light at this lighthouse on the coast at Boddam, built for the Northern Lighthouse Board, was first exhibited in 1827 at a height of about 130 ft above high-water level. The circularmasonry to wer, 118 ft highwith 166 steps, and light keepers’ accommodation, was designed by Robert Stevenson and built by contractor John Gibb. In 1907, on the instructions of David A. Stevenson, a broad red band was painted on the tower to distinguish it as a day mark. Stevenson’s ‘twinkling’ light, produced from an array of Argand burners with silvered copper reflectors revolvingmore quickly than any previous light, was a success. In 1879 Lord Kelvin considered it one of the three best revolving lights in the world. In order to accommodate a dioptric lens in 1910 a sector of the lantern had to be projected out in the form of shallow bay. The lighthouse station is situated on a rocky promontory which was at one time an island and in 1834 was connected to Boddam by means of a timber bridge with nine spans of about 20 ft. The bridge was about 17 ft high and 8 ft wide and was erected by John Gibb under Stevenson’s direction for about £200. Where does the name of this lighthouse come from
Building of the Lighthouse
Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon)
There have been many changes in the lightpower since 1827, in 1910 to dioptric, in 1978 the lightpower increased from 6,500 to 786,000 candela and in 1978, it was converted to electric operation to a lightpower of 2,000,000 candela.The lantern house
The red band was painted in 1907 to help passing vessels determine their location and for many years a foghorn (locally known as the 'Boddam Coo' or also as the 'Boddam Bear', prior to reequipping in 1978) was installed, this being officially turned off in 2000.
A Radar Beacon Radar beacon replaced the fog horn near the lighthouse in 2000, although the foghorn still remains in place. The fog horn which is seen today replaced an earlier one. The Radar Beacon beacon, which aids vessels during weather in which the light can not be seen, transmits a signal with a distinctive character, which enables the vessel to gain an idea of his location; it is mounted on the gallery above the Emergency Light, which is formed of several LED units.The foghorn was nicknamed the Boddam Coo (cow) and is no longer sounded. It had been installed in 1904 and would give three blasts every ninety seconds. Prior to its installation Boddamers would beat tin basins with spoons to alert sailors in the fog of the coastal hazards
Information about the lighthouse specific
Additional information for lighthouses in general or as a reference
During the Second World War, a drifting mine washed ashore and exploded 45 meters south of the lighthouse. No one was injured and the material damage consisted of 3 lantern panes cracked and 12 other glass panes broken in the tower, engine room and dwelling houses. Part of the ceilings of the kitchen and one bedroom of the 1st Assistant's house were brought down and the locks, hinges and bolts of 4 doors damaged. There were also 20 slates blown off the storehouse roof.
Character: Fl W 5s 40m 18M
(fl. 0.3s - ec. 4.7s)
|Engineer||: Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)|
|Lat, Lon||: 57°28.227' N, 01°46.474' W|
|Character||: Flashing White every 5 secs.|
|Range||: Original 51.8 km / 28 nM,|
|: Changed in 2013 to 33.3 km / 18 nM|
|Elevation||: 40 meters above sealevel|
|Tower||: 35 meters, 166 steps to the top|
|Init. Costs||: £ 11,912, 5s. 6d.|
|Econ. Costs*||: £ 58,640,000. (2019)|
|*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com|
|Last Keepers||: R. Duthie - PLK|
|: ??? - ALK|
|: ??? - ALK|
|Fog horn||: Siren - Installed in 1904|
: (3 blasts every 90 sec)
|: Nicknamed Boddam Coo|
|: 1989 replaced by an Electric emitter|
|: Discontinued in 2000|
|RACON||: O(---) 14nM|
|Authority||: Northern Lighthouse Board|
|Remarks||: Red bands (hand painted in 1907)|
|: Cat.A listed - nr: 16367 - 16/04/1971|
|Buchan Ness Drone flight||- mprov 2016|