Heritage Locations

Rattray Head Lighthouse

Built on a rock accessible only at low tide in 1895 at a point where many ships had previously run aground.

David Alan Stevenson

Period of construction:
1850 - 1899

Transport Trust plaque:

Transport Mode:

Rattray, peterhead AB42 3HA

AB42 3HA

Nearest Town:

Heritage Centre:

In 1849 Mr Alan Stevenson, Lighthouse Engineer, undertook a series of experiments to find out whether Rattray Briggs could be effectively marked by a red arc shown from the flashing light of Buchan Ness. On the completion of these experiments in 1857 he reported that such a scheme was not possible. In 1859 the Commissioners again sanctioned experiments after a suggestion by Captain Bedford, who reported that the lantern at Buchan Ness be altered. The Engineers reported In October 1862 and January 1863 that it had been found impossible to obtain a cut off which would be of any practicable value, and that Rattray Briggs should be marked by the aid of a light. The matter rested until 18 November 1874 when the Sheriff of Renfrew and Bute called for a light at Rattray Head. Once again the Engineer was asked to report and once again he recommended the erection of a Lighthouse. Consequently, on 17 December 1874, Trinity House was asked to agree. On 18 January 1875, Trinity House wrote stating that the dangers of Rattray Briggs could be avoided by use of lead and by not coming under 20 fathoms of sounding and refused permission. It was decided that the Commissioners' Inspection Committee should examine the site during their Inspection Voyage. Having done so they resolved to continue pressing for the building of a light.

The matter fell into abeyance until 18 March 1887, when William R Lord, Master, SS "Critic" reopened the subject by writing to the Commissioners, "It is a rare thing to pass this dangerous point without finding a ship of some sort stranded and it is one of the most prominent turning points of North East Scotland. Mariners will consider it a great boon by having a light placed here". He was informed by the Commissioners that there was no money available for such a project. On 14 November 1889 a further application for a light was received from the local Fishermen of Peterhead and this was sent to the Engineer, David Alan Stevenson, who reported that the area "was notorious among mariners for its foul ground, rapid tides and high and dangerous seas. No part of the East Coast of Scotland was more dangerous than this. Also a light was more important in view of the fact that a harbour of refuge was being built at Peterhead at an estimated cost of £500,000". In March 1890 Trinity House was approached for permission once again. They refused sanction stating that they had "no reason for reversing their previous decision in the absence of any evidence that traders, upon whom the cost of its support would fall, are desirous of a light on Rattray Head and are willing to pay the necessary toll for its maintenance". The Engineer set about obtaining the necessary support.

The Commissioners decided to by-pass Trinity House and forwarded the list direct to the Board of Trade. On 30 December 1890 the Board of Trade wrote stating that they had sanctioned the building of a Lighthouse and Fog Signal at Rattray Head. Trinity House's sanction followed on 8 January 1891.

Bowen, J.P., British Lighthouses, British Council, ASIN: B001A8HS24 (1947)

Denton, A. & Leach, Nicholas, Lighthouses of England and Wales: A Complete Guide, Landmark Publishing, ISBN-10: 1843063190 (2007)

Hague, Douglas and Christie, Rosemary, Lighthouses, Their Architecture, History and Archaeology, Gomer Press, ISBN-0850883245(1975)

Naish, John, Seamarks, Their History and Development Adlard Coles Nautical, ISBN-10: 0540073091 (1985)

Nicholson, Christopher,
Rock lighthouses of Britain; The end of an era?, Whittles Publishing, ISBN 1870325419. (1995)

Payton, Charles, Lighthouses: Towers of the Sea, National Trust Books, ISBN-10: 1905400128 (2006)

Woodman, Richard & Wilson, Jane,
The Lighthouses of Trinity House, ISBN 1 904050 00 X (2002)

Opening Times:
Visible at all times. Visitable only at low tide.

How To Find:
By Road: Rattray lies on the seaward side of the A 90 north of Peterhead.


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