Chanonry Point

Lighthouses on the East Coast of Scotland

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Chanonry Point - Rosmarkie
Flag of Scotland
© Compiled by:
Bob Schrage
page updated: 14-02-2021
Barns Ness
Bass Rock
Bell Rock
Buchan Ness
Buddon Ness
Clyth Ness
Covesea Skerry
Elie Ness
Fife Ness
Gridle Ness
Isle of May
Kinnaird Head
Noss Head
Scurdie Ness
St Abbs Head
Tarbat Ness
Tod Head

Under Construction

Place of the lighthouse

Fife Ness (Scottish Gaelic: Rubha Fiobha) is a headland forming the most eastern point in the Firth of Fife. Anciently the area was called Muck Ross, which comes from the Scottish Gaelic Muc-Rois meaning "Headland of the Pigs". It is situated in the area of Firth of Fife known as the East Neuk, and forms the muzzle of the dog-like outline when viewed on a map. Ness is an archaic Norse word meaning "nose".

The Lighthouse

Fife Ness was home to a Coastguard station and an important point for the Northern Lighthouse Board. The Fife Ness lighthouse was build in 1975 by P. H. Hyslop, as a warning to vessels for the headland and shores of the North Carr. The lighthouse was built to replace a series of lightvessels that guarded the treacherous rocks, as it had proved impossible to build a permanent lighthouse on the rocks themselves.

This is not a lighthouse in the traditional sense, this building is nevertheless an important light guiding vesselping around Fife Ness and warns of the North Carr rocks, which were for many years indicated by a series of lightvessels. Fife Ness lighthouse was built 5 km northeast of Crail in 1975 and was always automated. It was designed by Peter H. Hyslop, the Northern Lighthouse Board's engineer, and comprises a rectangular building 5m in height, with a curved glass front which faces out to sea. Located on a rocky point 12m above sea-level. The light flashes red and white every 10 seconds and has a range of 34 km / 18 NM. There is a coastguardstation nearby. The lighthouse replaced a lightvessel station just off the cape.

Carr Beacon

The North Carr Reef is situated at the turning point for vessels entering the Firth of Forth coming from the north and bound for the Tay or further north or from the south. Before being marked, it was responsible for numerous casualties. After representations had been made to the Commissioners by the 'vesselmasters and Officers Protection Association' of Scotland, and others, consideration was given to marking the rock by means of a lighthouse at Fife Ness, by establishing a light on the North Carr itself. (owing to the expenses involved in laying a suitable foundation on the friable rock, is this not executed), but by means of a lightvessel. Preference was for a lightvessel to be placed 1.8 km due east of the rock, approximately 19 km from Bell Rock and 13 km from the Isle of May in which position it would do away with the need for the low light at Isle of May.

Between 1800 and 1809 16 vessels are been lost in this area. It was not possible to build a lighthouse on the rocks and the 'Northern Lighthouse Board' first moored a buoy on the rocks in 1809. The buoy broke its moorings, five times and was then decided to put a lighted beacon on the rocks. This was difficult to do, but it was finally completed in 1821. The beacon still stands till today, but the reef is now guarded by the Fife Ness lighthouse on the mainland

Description Fife Ness Lighthouse is a major light built by the Northern Lighthouse Board to plans by the board's engineer, Peter H. Hyslop, and became operational in 1975. The lighthouse is a single rectangular building comprising the lantern and adjacent engine room and control room. The lighthouse is located around 12m above sea level on the point of Fife Ness, a prominent peninsula on the northern side of the shipping entrance to the Firth of Forth. The lighthouse is a single storey brick building measuring 5m in height, with a flat roof, and rendered walls with painted dressings. The lantern is contained within a glazed extension to the engine room. A concrete roof supported by large cantilevered concrete beams, together with painted astragals formed by extruded hollow stainless-steel tubes and welded bars, act as a framework into which the polycarbonate glazing has been fitted. The light faces in a north-east direction with an arc of around 240° towards the treacherous navigation hazard of the Carr Rocks, a partially submerged reef that extends around 2.5km out to sea from Fife Ness. Fife Ness Lighthouse remains operational (2020). Historical development The construction by the Northern Lighthouse Board of a lighthouse at Fife Ness represents the last in a series of initiatives by the board over a period of more than 150 years, to mark the treacherous reef of the Carr Rocks in order to safeguard shipping at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. While engaged in the construction of the nearby Bell Rock Lighthouse, Robert Stevenson had recorded the loss of sixteen vessels on the treacherous Carr Rock over a nine-year period, 1800-1809 (Stevenson 1824; 52). On the orders of the Northern Lighthouse Board, a floating buoy was anchored off the Carr in September 1809, but this frequently broke its mooring chain. The Northern Lighthouse Board decided to replace the floating buoy at Carr Rock with a tide-operated bell tower built from Fife sandstone. The building of this was unsuccessful but a cast iron beacon was eventually completed in September 1821. Robert Stevenson considered that beacons, without a light or bell, were an imperfect solution for marking reefs to warn shipping. He considered that the situation at Carr Rock might be improved by provision of additional leading lights, either on the Fife mainland, or the Isle of May. These were not initially progressed on cost grounds (Stevenson 1824) but in 1843–44, a low-level lighthouse (Canmore ID 57878) was built on the Isle of May in a position so that when the two May lights were observed one above the other, mariners knew that they were in line with the Carr Rock to the north. Ultimately however, North Carr Beacon did not prove to be particularly successful on its own, and the first of a series of light vessels took up station at the North Carr in the 1880s. The last of these remained in service until 1975, when the Fife Ness lighthouse became operational. Fife Ness Lighthouse continues to mark Carr Rock in conjunction with a cardinal navigation buoy 1.5km to the east [2020]. Statement of Special Interest Fife Ness Lighthouse meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons: Fife Ness Lighthouse is a relatively unaltered example of a mid to late-20th-century design by Northern Lighthouse Board's engineer Peter H. Hyslop and retains much of its original form and character. Although part of a relatively common building type, Fife Ness Lighthouse does have some unusual features, such as the single storey form and the lantern supported by cantilevered concrete beams in the style of wartime defences. The lighthouse forms part of the last phase of construction of major lights in Scotland after the First World War and is particularly notable as being the first un-manned major light to be built in Scotland. As the first un-manned major light to be built in Scotland, Fife Ness Lighthouse is of social historical interest in helping us to understand how the operation of lighthouses changed during the 20th century. Architectural interest Design Fife Ness Lighthouse is of design interest as one of the last major lighthouses to be built in Scotland, the work of Northern Lighthouse Board's engineer Peter H. Hyslop (Munro, 1979;240). Hyslop's design of the lighthouse at Fife Ness clearly draws inspiration from the Stevensons' 'house style' with architectural details included the astragals painted in Northern Lighthouse Colours. However, Munro calls Fife Ness 'unconventional in several ways.' The building makes use of 20th century adaptations in materials and plan form and fits within its landscape context. Hyslop appears to have designed a building similar in style to the area's Second World War coastal defences including a pillbox (SM6461), directly in front of the lighthouse, that was part of the network of defences for Crail Airfield. The light was purpose-built for mains electric power with a standby diesel generator to operate the light and radio beacon in the event of failure of mains power. As a full 360° arc of light was not required, the lantern could be incorporated within a single storey building as an extension to the engine room. The light itself comprised parts of a large fixed section lens which originally came from Stoer Head, using a 3.5kw 100-volt lamp to mark the Carr Rocks offshore. Setting The location for lighthouses and beacons is critical to their function. Fife Ness Lighthouse occupies a promontory looking out towards the Carr Rocks, a long reef system extending in a north-easterly direction from Fife Ness that represented a significant hazard for vessels either entering or leaving the northern approaches to the Firth of Forth. The nearby setting of Fife Ness Lighthouse contributes to our understanding of its function or historical context. Around 2.5km to the north east is the North Carr Beacon, constructed to a design by Robert Stevenson. The construction site for the beacon is located around 160m to the north west of the lighthouse. Together, these features demonstrate the steps taken by the Northern Lighthouse Board to safeguard shipping at this important but hazardous location of the Scottish coastline over a period of more than 150 years. Historic interest Age and rarity Fife Ness Lighthouse is of interest as it belongs to the last phase of major light construction in Scotland and is one of only 15 built during the period 1900-1977. Of these, only five (including Fife Ness) were built after the First World War (Munro 1979). Fife Ness is also unusual as it is the first to be built as an un-manned station. It therefore forms an important chapter in the story of Scotland's lighthouses. There are over 200 operational Northern Lighthouse Board lighthouses within Scotland, with many other examples either decommissioned or operated by other organisations and groups. They range from elegant stone pinnacles on remote reefs far out to sea, to small navigational beacons and modern modular lights. Of these, around 150 lighthouses of various shapes, sizes and types are currently designated as either listed buildings or scheduled monuments, representing a wide range of specific navigational dangers that required marking at night. Social historical interest Fife Ness Lighthouse is of social historical interest as it was the first un-manned major light to be built in Scotland, and also as it is one of only two purpose-built electric major lights. The significance of Scotland network of lighthouses and beacons to the country's history is high. As an island nation with over 18,000 kilometres of coastline and over 900 islands, maritime industries such as fishing, coastal trade and transportation have long been significant social and economic factors. Scotland's coasts are also located on international sea-routes linking northern Europe with the rest of the world. The use of lighthouses and beacons was therefore vital to the safety of shipping in Scottish waters. Prior to the construction of Scotland's lighthouses, most navigation markers were landmarks visible only during daylight, and so nautical navigation at night or in poor conditions was a highly dangerous but sometimes unavoidable undertaking. This is reflected in the large numbers of records of ships and sailors lost in wrecking incidents around the coasts of Scotland during the 19th and 19th centuries. The first lighthouse in Scotland was established on the Isle of May (SM887) in 1636. This light aided navigation into the many harbours around the Firth of Forth and took the form of a stone tower mounting a coal fired brazier. Although the Isle of May beacon was far from as bright as later examples, in good weather it good be seen from as far as the entrance to the Tay, and it would remain operational for 180 years. The Isle of May was followed by several other lighthouses and beacons being built from the late 17th century, improving navigation for the Tay, the Solway and the Clyde. A common factor in all the lights established in the first 150 years was that they were conceived, built and operated by private interests and organisations, such as local magistrates, councils and individuals, supported by the king and parliament when necessary. By the early 1780s, however, there was a growing recognition that many shipping and navigational dangers existed far beyond the profitable harbours and estuaries that had driven the development of the early lights. To address this, in 1786 parliament passed "An Act for erecting certain Light-houses in the Northern Parts of Great Britain" and established a board of Commissioners (subsequently to become the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses and then the Northern Lighthouse Board), initially to undertake the work of building and maintaining lights at four locations, including Kinnaird Head (LB31888), Eilean Glas (LB13487), Mull of Kintyre (LB19874) and North Ronaldsay (SM6596). These lights were the work of the Board's first engineer, Thomas Smith, and his assistant Robert Stevenson, and used improved lighting technology in the form of whale oil burners and mirrored reflectors to enhance the brightness. Following the 1786 Act, the number of lighthouses around the coasts of Scotland began to rapidly grow, along with the technology and engineering skills employed. By the early 19th century oil lamps were replacing the earlier coal burners, and Robert Stevenson had been able to design and build a lighthouse on the Bell Rock (LB45197). Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Robert Stevenson and his descendants continued to push the boundaries of technology and engineering to expand the network, including lights on Skerryvore (LB17489), Muckle Flugga (LB17479), Dhu Heartach (LB12320), and the Flannan Isles (LB48143). With the advent of reliable electric lighting, Northern Lighthouse Board continued this tradition of innovation by beginning a programme of electrification of its lighthouses, starting with the first purpose-built electric station at Strathy Point in 1958, then Fife Ness (1975). Many of the major lighthouses in Scotland were electrified during the 1960s and 1970s. Fife Ness Lighthouse is also of social historical interest in helping us to understand how the operation of lighthouses changed during the 20th century. During the 1890s, Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) employed more than 600 lighthouse keepers around Scotland. These numbers generally reduced in response to advances in lighting technology and communications that allowed lighthouse operation to become increasingly automated. In addition to the advantages electrical lighting brought over oil, paraffin and acetylene gas technology in terms of power output and reduced requirement for fuel storage, electrical lighting could be controlled with a switch and this reduced the need to have keepers perpetually on watch. Fife Ness is the first major light to be built as an un-manned station. Association with people or events of national importance The buildings do not have a close historical association of national importance. Fife Ness Lighthouse is amongst the first Northern Lighthouse Board lighthouses in Scotland, not to be designed by one of the Stevenson family. Fife Ness Lighthouse was designed by Peter H. Hyslop, board Engineer (1955 -1972) and Engineer-in-Chief 1972-1978). Hyslop also designed other major stations: in Scotland, Strathy Point (1958) and Point of Fethaland, Shetland (1977); and in the Isle of Man, the manned lighthouse Calf of Man (1968).

North Carr Lightvessel; Carr Beacon Pending the building of a new Lightvessel, Trinity House offered to supply one of their lightvessels on loan to the Commissioners with an experienced officer on board for a time. This offer was accepted and the lightvessel was towed from Blackwall, near London, by a tug and placed in position on 7 June 1887, on which date the light from the low tower at Isle of May was discontinued.

The crew consisted of Master, Mate and nine seamen of whom one officer and six seamen were always on board. The Master received £115.10.7d per annum with uniform; the Mate £97.0.7d per annum with uniform and the seamen £69.6.8d per annum with uniform. It was a condition of their employment that the officers and crew resided in Crail. When they were at ashore, they find themselves in a store, which had been built for coal and other provisions (the coal which was delivered to Crail Store at was required to drive fog signal machinery on the lightvessel). It was also duty for the officer and three crew members ashore to man the Attending Boat, which sailing weekly to the Isle of May and fortnightly to the North Carr. To help this arrangement Alex Watson, Isle of May Boatman, was appointed Mate of the North Carr Lightvessel; Mr John Kirkpatrick, Boatswain, "Pharos" was appointed as Master.

The Trinity House Lightvessel was replaced in July 1889 by a timber vessel, the hull of which was built by Alex Stephen & Sons, Dundee. It was 103 feet in length, 23ft 6ins broad and had tonnage of 255. Five years later in 1894 it was decided to service the North Carr Lightvessel and Isle of May from Granton and only a Signalman would be needed at Crail (The Coastguard Boatman in Crail, was appointed as Signalman for £8 per annum). This decision was not well received in Crail and on 27 August 1894 the Provost submitted a letter transmitting a memorial from a large number of inhabitants of Crail against the proposed transfer of the Shore Station to Granton. Mr H T Anstruther MP supported the protest and the Secretary for Scotland wrote to the Commissioners on 28 August 1894 asking for the Commissioners' views on the matter. All were assured that it was in the best interests of the Northern Lighthouse Board as well as economy and had the Board of Trade's sanction.

The original Attending Boat had been replaced on 6 June 1888 by the Steam Launch "May" - built by Messrs Hawthorn & Co Ltd, Leith for £510 for which a special berth had been obtained in Crail. On transfer to Granton she continued in operation until May 1899 when she was sold for £150. The SS " May" took over with the officer and crew on shore from the Lightvessel forming part of the crew when she made ordinary gas, buoy and relief work. The officers alternately acted as Mate of the "May" for which they received an extra 1/- per day all the year round. In 1902, when the Bell Rock light was being altered, these duties were increased to include all necessary trips to the Rock.

Carr Beacon The wooden vessel (sold subsequently to Mr H Hinks, Appledore, North Devon for £275) was replaced on 3 April 1933 by the present vessel which is iron below water line and steel above and which created quite a stir in Edinburgh on account of her fog horn being tested while lying at a point ¾ mile outside Granton in the Firth of Forth. As the fog horn had a range of approximately 10 miles, north Edinburgh could hear it loud and clear and the complaints to the Office, Newspapers and Police were numerous - particularly as it was being sounded in clear weather. "Hundreds of city dwellers have had no sleep over three consecutive nights"; "The most flagrant individual breach of the peace is as nothing compared with the ceaseless boom and consequent suffering of the past three nights"; "Firth of Forth torment"; "An Edinburgh grievance which has left rankling memories in the selection of Granton for the fog horn test" were typical of statements made and written at the time. She was built by A & J Inglis Ltd, Pointhouse vesselyard, Glasgow, is 101ft in length and 25ft in breadth and 250 tons in weight; her hull and superstructure are painted red and the name North Carr is painted on both sides of the hull. It has been suggested that the wooden lightvessel should be replaced by a lighted buoy and automatic fog gun but the suggestion has been dismissed on account of their being considered too weak in power and range to be effective for such an important situation.

Since taking up her position the lightvessel, has done yeoman service sharing with the Abertay Lightvessel the distinction of being one of the only two such vessels in Scottish Waters. During the war her place was taken by an automatic lightbuoy while she herself did duty at a point between the Mull of Kintyre and the Mull of Galloway. With one notable exception her only absences have been for routine overhaul every third year.

She has no motive power of her own, so has to be towed whenever she is required to move. This means, of course, more space available for the generators and other installations with which she does her job. Her engine-room, for instance, is given over to three Diesel Generators and three Diesel Air-Compressors together with large fuel storage tanks and containers or "receivers" for compressed air - all catering for the requirements of the light and fog signal. The chain locker is another distinctive department, housing two spare cables, as well as the "slack" left over from the one now in use. The links of this are studded and made of metal 15/8 inches thick. The anchor weighs 3 tons; two spare anchors, of 30cwt apiece, are also carried.

Up on the deck, the dominating feature is the lighthouse tower, surmounted by its lightning conductor 40 feet above the sea. At one time a fixed white beacon was shown. But now, from sunset to sunrise, the signal is two flashes in quick succession every half minute - a beam of half a million candlepower visible for over ten miles. The source is a 1,000 watt electric bulb, magnified by the usual prismatic lenses which are rotated around it by a small electric motor. In the event of a power breakdown, a paraffin lamp can be substituted, while the lenses can be turned manually. Naturally enough, the whole system has got to remain vertical, despite any movement of the vessel in rough weather, from stem to stern or from port to starboard. This problem is solved on the pendulum principle, the lamp and its adjuncts swinging on a set of gimbals, with a weight attached below.

The fog signal, with it two blasts every minute and a half, can be turned to any point of the compass, and is very similar to its counterparts on dry land. But it does have a special enemy to contend with - marine growths, which must be prevented from growing near the all-important sea-water injection valves. Here the remedy lies in a pressure boiler, which blows out hot steam and keeps the passage clear.

Sea-life also presents another kind of difficulty, for limpets and barnacles take up residence in prolific number on the vessel's bottom. To deal with this as far as they can, the crew make use of an elephantine back-scraper, like an out-size garden hoe. But even in spite of these exertions, about six tons of barnacles have to be dislodged when the vessel comes into port for her periodic overhauls.

The only regular visitor is the lighthouse tender from Granton, which arrives every fortnight with mail, stores, rations, newspapers and reliefs. The lightvessel crew consists of eleven men:- 1 Senior Master, 1 Assistant Master, 3 Senior Enginemen, 3 Assistant Enginemen and 3 Seamen, of whom 1 Master, 2 Senior Enginemen, 2 Assistant Enginemen and 2 Seamen are on board at the one time. The two Masters spent alternatively two weeks afloat and two weeks ashore and the other members of the crew spent, in rotation, a month afloat with two weeks ashore.

North Carr Lightvessel

The occasion referred to earlier, on which she moved off station, took place on 8 December 1959, during a severe gale when the Lightvessel broke adrift from her moorings and the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat, Mona, which went to her assistance, capsized and was lost with all hands. The Lightvessel managed to anchor about 900 yards off the rocky shore at Kingsbarns, near St Andrews and the crew was taken off by two Bristol Sycamore helicopters from Leuchars on 9 December, after an attempt to tow the Lightvessel had failed. The rescue was made in extremely adverse conditions. A full gale was blowing and the Lightvessel was rolling and pitching heavily. To assist in the rescue operations the crew cut away the 40ft aftermast, which allowed the helicopters to fly as low as 5ft above the lantern and pick up members of the crew from the chart house roof. The Lightvessel was eventually taken in tow by the Admiralty tug "Earner" on 11 December, repaired at Leith and put back on station on 16 March 1960.


Character: Iso WR 10s 12m 15-12M

Engineer: Peter H. Hyslop

Lat, Lon: 56°16.747' N, 02°35.196' W

Established: 1975
Character: Isophase White/Red every 10 secs.
Range: White: 27.8 km / 15 nM
: Red: 22.2 km / 12 nM
Elevation: 12 meters above sealevel
Tower: 5 meters
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to:

Automated: 1975
Last Keepers: No Keepers attached
Fog horn: No
AIS: MMSI No 002320798

Status: Operationel
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Cat.B listed - LB54557 - 04/12/2020

Fife Ness lighthouse
Fife Nes lighthouse
Fife Ness map
Fife Ness map

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