Worldwide Lighthouses

Inchkeith Lighthouse


General Information

Established: 1804

Current Lighthouse Built: 1804

Height: 19 Metres (62.34 Feet)

Automated: 1986

Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board

Designer: Thomas Smith & Robert Stevenson

Light Information

White: 22 Nautical Miles

The Lighthouse on Inchkeith Island, just off of the shores of Edinburgh, is a completely yellow-painted complex, used throughout its history not just to guide mariners in the Firth of Forth, but to test new Lighthouse Technologies; a role it still serves today, given its close proximity to the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh.

The 19 meter high tower was built in 1804 to the design of Thomas Smith; a street-lamp maker from Edinburgh and his stepson Robert Stevenson, one of Scotland's most famous Engineers, who was later responsible for the construction of the Bell Rock Lighthouse; a feat of engineering recognised even today, over 200 years on.

The station has seen many changes over the years, including the replacement and development of various lighting systems, illuminants, different designs of lanterns and ultimately with the withdrawal of Lighthouse Keepers from the island in 1986.

One of the more recent light sources tried at the Lighthouse was the introduction of Sealed Beam Units when the station was automated. The arangement of lights is similar to a group of parabolic relfectors or car headlams and mainly consist of a mirrored dish reflecting a light source. This system of lighting has been spread throughout scotland and is used in a majority of major Lighthouses as a replacement of the higher maintainance Fresnel Lenses. The turntable that these lights rested on was friction-free, so required small ammounts of power, as it used the principals of an electromagnet's copper coils to slowly rotate.

Like an increasing number of Scottish Lighthouses, the current light; an LED setup is powered by an array of solar panels mounted on the gallery railings.

A fog signal was established on the Island in 1899 and consisted of one of the NLB's easily recognised red fog horns, mounted on a white painted semi circular building, which allowed the horn to be pointed into the fog. The horn itself was powered by compresed air, compressed by machines and then stored in large red air tanks. The air which controlled the horn not only produced the sound but also rewound a clockwork machine powered by weights, which would determine how many blasts of the fog horn would give, giving the island its destinctive character of two blasts every 90 seconds. (each a duration of 3.5 seconds)

The fog horn was not popular with local residents and on one occasion sounded for more than 5 days without stopping. Following automation, the fog horn and all of its components were removed. Some of the parts have appeared in museum exhibitions in Edinburgh over the years.

The entire island was fortified in WWII but the fortifications were removed between 1945 and 1956, at which point the military transfered ownership of the whole island to the Northern Lighthouse Board, who have renovated several of the Island's buildings. The tower is now listed as a building of Architectural and Historic significance.

The Island and its tower can be seen from much of the accessible coastline of Edinburgh.