Buddon Ness
Buddon Ness lighthouse

East Coast

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Update: 22-03-2024

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Buddon Ness High
Buddon Ness Low
Barns Ness
Bass Rock
Bell Rock
Buchan Ness
Buddon Ness High
Clyth Ness
Covesea Skerry
Elie Ness
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Kinnaird Head
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Scurdie Ness
St Abbs Head
Tarbat Ness
Tod Head

Place of the lighthouses

Buddon Ness lighthouses are at the southern tip of the Barry Links, in a dune-like area, which marks the entrance to the Firth of Tay. The nearest town is Carnoustie. The city was founded at the end of the 18th century and grew rapidly in the 19th century due to the growth of the local textile industry. In addition, it became popular as a tourist resort from the early Victorian era through the second half of the 20th century, due to its seaside location, and is best known for the Carnoustie Golf Links course, which often hosts the Open Golf Championship. Carnoustie can also be considered a commuter village for the nearest town, Dundee, which is 18 kilometers to the west. It is served by the Carnoustie train station and to a lesser extent the Golf street train station. The nearest major road is the A92.

The village Buddon at the Barry road, lying in the dune area, dates back to around 1850. In 1897 the Earl of Dalhousie sold the area to the War Office for use as a military training area. The area is still used by the various military units, such as the Panmure Battery of the Forfarshire Artillery Brigade, and others.

Light Beacon

The sandbanks at the mouth of the River Tay have always posed a hazard for shipping. There were lights to give shipping a safe passage as far back as the 17th Century. In 1687, the first Beacon of light was placed on the Buddon Ness headland. This beacon was an open fire fired by coal. Characteristics of an open fire are that it burns unpredictably and strongly depends on the weather conditions. The result is an unclear light. Due to technical developments, open fires, fired with coal, were outdated in the middle of the eighteenth century.

The 'Old' Lighthouses

That is why the Trinity Board of Dundee made plans for a new lighthouse, equipped with the latest technology at that time. This lighthouse, Buddon Ness High, was built about the year 1747. It is connected to the northeast gable of a two-storey lighthouse keeper's house. Originally the tower was 25 meters high. This is now truncated and is topped with a conical, tiled roof at roughly the same height as the adjoining house (see photo at the right). The lighthouse has three small window openings around the base. The lighthouse keeper's house has a gabled porch attached to the front elevation and an extension at the rear.

The lighthouse had a constant white light made with 3 small (oil-)lamps, each equipped with reflectors with a diameter of 60 centimeters. The first lighthouse keeper was James Martin. For his work he received a salary of £60 a year and for free use of the house and garden.

In 1813 a second lighthouse Buddon Ness Low was built with the aim of improving the visibility of the high lighthouse. Both lighthouses were placed there 'in a line'. The idea was that when the two lights align, ships could safely set a course for Dundee in the mouth of the Tay. The principle of a light line is simple; two lights ashore - one at a high point (background) and the other at a low point (foreground), a navigating ship sees two lights. When both lights can be seen exactly in line above each other, the ships know that they are on a good and safe course.

This second lighthouse was 20 meters high and painted white on the outside. The light was constantly white. The light is made with two (oil) lamps in combination with two reflectors, each with a diameter of approximately 50 centimeters. A small keepers house was also built there, one storey high and an adjoining garden. The first Keeper for this lighthouse was William Graham. He received a salary of £40 a year for this, and the free use of the house and garden.

The 'New' Lighthouses

view to Buddon Ness
View on Buddon Ness Low Light (foreground) and the High Light (background)
Due to the displacement of the sandbanks and changes of the flow in the Tay, the need arose for new lighthouses. In 1865-66 the two new lighthouses (High light and Low light) were built at Buddon Ness by David and Thomas Stevenson for Trinity House of Dundee. These lights replaced the earlier lighthouses.

The Buddon Ness Highlight (background) were constructed close by the former lighthouse and keeper's cottage in the northwest and is about 30 meter high.

The Buddon Ness Low light (foreground) was placed approximately 800 meters to the east. This Low lighthouse is approximately 14 meters high with a round brick tower with lantern and gallery.

Both lights are positioned to form a light line into the mouth of the Firth of Tay. Rivers and estuaries are subject to silting and changes in the depth of water as sand or mud move with time, also in the Forth of Tay. This led to a unique operation in 1884 to bring both towers back into alignment.

The Low Light on Buddon Ness was moved to the northeast between 5th May and 4th June 1884. The tower of 14 meter high, built of brick with a weight of 440 tonnes, was 60 meters hauled through the dunes, by a steam engine over greased wooden rails. This engineering feat was remarkable for its time. It is the earliest known instance of a masonry lighthouse being relocated in one piece. The keeper’s house was left remaining in his original position. The cottage of the Low light is now in a dangerous condition, unroofed with some walls collapsing and are fenced off to prevent public access.

After deactivation in 1943, the High Light served for some years as an observation post, and after 1987 it carried a radar scanner as part of Dundee University research project. Site and both towers are closed and still owned by Forth Ports PLC and is now part of the Barry Buddon Training Camp used by the Ministry of Defence

Today the sandbanks and coast of the Forth of Tay are marked only by small beacons and buoys that mark the navigation route.

The video (see right column) shows the two Buddon Ness lighthouses. You can clearly see the rounded end of the cottage by the High Lighthouse, which was the base of the earlier tower. You can also see the remains of the Low Light cottage towards the end of the clip.

Buddon Ness


Character: (discont.)

Buddon Ness map
(click to enlarge the map)
Engineers: David Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
: Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon: 56°28.136' N, 002°45.014' W

Established: 1687 - Coal-fired tower
: 1747 - High - Tower att. to dwelling
: 1813 - Low - Tower att. to dwelling
: 1866 - Present towers
: 1884 - Low tower moved
Character: -
Range: -
Elevation: -
Towers: 1 tower of 30 meters,
: 1 tower of 14 meters
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

Automated: Never
Last Keepers: ??? - PLK
: ??? - ALK
: ??? - ALK
Fog horn: Never

Status: Discontinued 1943
: Current use: Radar Beacon
Authority: Forth Ports PLC
Old house: Cat.C listed - LB4633 - 15/01/1980
High tower: Cat.B listed - LB4634 - 11/06/1971
Low tower: Cat.B listed - LB4635 - 11/06/1971

Buddon Ness lighthouse
Keepers house with remains of the high tower

Buddon Ness lighthouse
Light- and Keepers house in the past

Video of Buddon Ness area

Buddon Ness footage- Youtube Rockwellmedia(c)