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St Abbs Head Lighthouse

St. Abbs Head Lighthouse is a stumpy little structure located on a small promontory 60m (200 feet) above the sea and 3¾ miles (6 km) north northwest of Eyemouth. It is an important aid to navigation, marking the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth. The lighthouse is reached by a flight of steps, protected by whitewashed stone walls, which descend from the lightkeepers' accommodation above. These buildings are accessible by a 1¼ miles (2 km) single track road from the village of St. Abbs to the south, although the National Trust for Scotland, which runs the surrounding Nature Reserve suggest that it is used only by disabled visitors as there is limited parking.

A signal station was established here before 1820, but it was after the sinking of the paddle steamer Martello on the Carr Brigs in 1857 that the Northern Lighthouse Board recommended the building of a lighthouse. This was designed by brothers David Stevenson (1815-86) and Thomas Stevenson (1818-87) and comprises a lantern sitting on top of a single storey building, reaching a height of only 9m (29 feet). The light was first illuminated on 24th February 1862, initially using an oil lamp which was converted to incandescent power in 1906 and to electricity in 1966. The light was turned off during much of the First and Second World Wars to prevent it being used by the enemy, although it was illuminated when convoys were scheduled to pass. Today the light flashes white every ten seconds and has a range of 26 nautical miles (48 km).

A foghorn is mounted on a small building situated in front of the lighthouse, even closer to the cliffs. The Northern Lighthouse Board's first foghorn was introduced here in 1876, although it was not Scotland's first as Little Cumbrae Lighthouse (operated by the Clyde Lighthouses Trust) got one in 1865. The original foghorn was driven by hot air before being replaced by an oil-powered engine in 1911 and diesel in 1955. The foghorn was discontinued in 1987 as better navigation aids became widespread. St. Abbs was also used to site an experimental radar navigation beacon in 1961, replaced by a permanent installation in 1968.

The lighthouse and its associated structures were B-listed in 1971, although some of the buildings were sold following automation in 1993. St. Abb's Head served as the communication control station for the Firth of Forth lighthouses until it was automated, and the lightkeepers were also kept busy recording and reporting the weather.


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