On one of our recent school holidays, we drove a bit of the Scottish Coastal Trail, a historical
Heading north from Aberdeen, we thought we could make a few unplanned stops, end up somewhere fun for lunch and then slowly make our way back home in time for a late dinner.
We stopped first when we saw the Buchan Ness Lighthouse, which I later discovered you can actually stay in. How fun that would be!
The boys scrambled all over the rocks, as they always do, and we walked a grassy path that went all the way around the lighthouse peninsula.
I’ve been so fascinated by the history of seafaring since we’ve moved to Scotland. Living on the coast and constantly seeing memorials to loved ones who have been lost at sea has made me want to know the stories of Scottish sailors and fishermen.
Every time we get near the sea, I find myself kind of wishing we could get out on a boat.
I love the way it smells along the coast and there are all these darling little villages by the sea as you drive the Coastal Trail.
Our next stop was in Fraserburgh at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.
Museum trips are generally met with varying degrees of enthusiasm among our children, but everyone found something to enjoy about this trip to the early days of lighthouse keepers. Now all lighthouses are automated, so no one has to live there to make certain that the lights don’t go out or to blow the foghorns.
The highlight of the trip to the museum is the tour of Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, which is behind the museum and was built on top of an old 16th century castle in 1787. It has been lovingly restored since it is part of the museum and there is lots of evidence of its working days.
This lighthouse was designed and built by Thomas Smith, who trained his stepson (and son in law) Robert Stevenson. Robert is sort of the grandfather of all the lighthouses in Scotland, as all three of his three sons also became engineers. For over one hundred and fifty years Robert Stevenson and his descendants designed most of Scotland’s Lighthouses. He was also the grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson.
In fact, I read somewhere that it was visits with his family to remote lighthouses that may have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s books.
“There is scarce a deep sea light from the Isle of Man to North Berwick, but one of my blood designed it.
The Bell Rock stands monument for my grandfather;
the Skerry Vhor for my uncle Alan;
and when the lights come out along the shores of Scotland,
I am proud to think that they burn more brightly for the genius of my father.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
The details of Kinnaird Head Lighthouse are exquisite. I loved the staircases and the glass lights.
The lighthouse has withstood winds of up to 143 mph! Yikes. I would not want to be up on this balcony on a windy day. I had not really imagined how rough the life of a lighthouse keeper was before we heard that it was possible to be stuck for months at a time on duty, especially on some of the islands around Scotland. Sometimes food had to be air dropped to a lighthouse keeper because a boat could not safely reach them in the stormy sea.
From the top of the lighthouse, you could see far out to sea and also behind you, the city of Fraserburgh.
From the lighthouse we went on to explore a bit of Fraserburgh. We stopped for lunch across from this tower building downtown.
Our last stop was in a tiny seaside village called Banff where this ancient water fountain stood in the town square.
We walked around the village and the kids ran all over this beach before we piled in the car to head back home. Of course the sun set on us as we drove back to Aberdeen.
We got home late, but we were all still full from this wonderful feast we had at Finlay’s Fish Bar in Fraserburgh. I had the fish stew, while everyone else had fish & chips or fish & prawns. We don’t ever seem to get tired of this meal, which is a good thing because I heard this week that there are 10,000 fish and chip shops in the UK! It feels like we have already eaten at a lot of them, and I can say for certain that the closer we are to the sea, the better a platter of fish & chips tastes!
Is there anything more lovely than driving along a coastline? If you go, you can download a map marked with places of interest from Visit Scotland.