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Girdle Ness Lighthouse

A prominent A-listed landmark overlooking Girdle Ness at the eastern end of the Balnagask Headland (Aberdeen City), Girdle Ness Lighthouse is situated 2 miles (3 km) east southeast of the centre of Aberdeen. This unique lighthouse comprises a white tower 37m (121 feet) in height, with corbelled-out galleries at two different levels and keepers' cottages and other associated buildings clustered around the base, which is 56m (183 feet) above sea level. Designed by the noted lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), it was constructed in 1833, following the loss of the whaling ship Oscar as it approached Aberdeen Harbour in 1813, with only two survivors from a crew of 45. Stevenson was assisted by his son Alan (1807-65), who was resident engineer, while the builder was John Gibb of Aberdeen.

The lighthouse was originally fitted with two fixed lights: the lower light was installed in a glazed gallery constructed around the outside of the tower about one third of the way from the base, with the upper light occupying the traditional dome. This was a system unique in Scotland. Illumination was originally by vegetable oil burners, but these were later replaced by paraffin lamps. The main light was replaced in 1847, with the old lantern transferred to Inchkeith Lighthouse. In 1860 Girdle Ness was visited by the Astronomer Royal, Professor George Airy, as part of a Royal Commission who described it as "the best lighthouse that I have seen". The lower light was removed in 1890 and the upper light replaced by a brighter optical system which was rotated by a clockwork motor. Today, the light has a range of 22 nautical miles (40 km).

A foghorn, known locally as the 'Torry Coo', was added in the 1880s, powered by compressed air. The lighthouse was damaged when a mine drifted ashore and exploded in 1944. The foghorn was withdrawn from service in 1987, although the cast-iron structure remains in situ on its concrete podium. The light was automated in 1991 and is now remotely monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board's headquarters in Edinburgh.

Since 1998, Girdle Ness has been one of three lighthouses in Scotland which act as reference stations working in conjunction with Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to enhance navigation, the others being the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse and Sumburgh Head Lighthouse.


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