Caught by the River

Lighthouses of the UK #3: Rattray Head

Ben Langworthy | 8th May 2018

Illustrator Ben Langworthy continues his mission to draw each of the 300+ lighthouses which litter the UK coastline

Listed as a building of architectural and historical interest, this 120ft tall lighthouse sits on the beach at Rattray Head in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Like many sea-washed lighthouses, it is only accessible at low tide, via a narrow causeway which is lost beneath the sea as the tide encroaches upon the land.

It was built in 1895 by Alan Stevenson. The Stevensons were a family of engineers made famous by their skill in lighthouse design. They built on the work of earlier engineers such as Smeaton, and their impact can be seen around our coastline in the many lighthouses they helped to build.

The lighthouse at Rattray Head saw a new direction in the Stevensons’ design. It housed the first combination of a first class foghorn (housed in its stout granite base) and a rock lighthouse.

It is a remarkable survivor too. During WWII, a German bomber spotted the lighthouse and decided to attack. The bomber circled the tower, machine-gunning its light and dropping no less than three bombs – yet despite this, the lighthouse never even stopped working!

In 1982, Rattray Head’s last lighthouse keepers closed its doors forever, and the light’s operation was automated.