The Bell Rock

(Inchcape, Inch Cape)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2022.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Bell Rock or Inchcape, a reef surmounted by a lighthouse in the German Ocean, off the coast of Forfarshire, 11¾ miles SE of Arbroath, and 17 ENE of St Andrews. The reef lies in the direct track of navigation to vessels entering either the Firth of Forth or the Firth of Tay; and, prior to the erection of the lighthouse, was regarded by mariners as the most dangerous spot on the eastern coast of Scotland. It consists of red sandstone; measures about 2000 feet in length; lies all, at high water of spring tides, under a minimum depth of 12 feet of water; and to the extent of about 427 feet by 230, is uncovered at spring tide ebbs to a height of about 4 feet. The lighthouse on it was erected, in 1808-11, at a cost of £61,331; has a circular form, of similar structure and on similar principle to the late Eddystone Lighthouse; consists of granite in the basement and the exterior casing, of sandstone in the interior work; and has a diameter of 42 feet at the base and of 15 under the cornice, the outline being an elliptical curve. It rises to a total height of 120 feet, including 15 in cast-iron octagonal framework; has a revolving light, showing alternately red and white every minute, and visible at the distance of 15½ nautical miles; and contains two bells, rung by machinery during thick weather. The name Bell Rock, however, refers to an old tradition, made popular by Southey's ballad of The Inchcape Rock. This tells how the pious abbot of Aberbrothock here fixed a bell upon a tree or timber, which, ringing continually by the motion of the sea, warned sailors of their peril; how Sir Ralph the Rover wantonly cut the bell away; and how a year after he perished on the rock himself, with ship and goods, in the righteous judgment of God. See Dr Wm. Marshall's Historic Scenes in Forfarshire (Edinb. 1875), and the -Life of Robert Stevenson (Edinb. 1878), by his son, David Stevenson.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better