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Bell Rock Lighthouse Signal Station

Signal Station to the Bell Rock Lighthouse - 11 miles to the east. Completed 1810 by engineers John Rennie and Robert Stevenson: the oldest sea-washed rock tower in the world

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Signal Tower Museum

Signal Tower Museum, Ladyloan, Arbroath DD11 1PU

DD11 1PU
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About Bell Rock Lighthouse Signal Station

Bell Rock Lighthouse is the world's oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse, and was built on Bell Rock (also known as Inchcape) in the North Sea, 11 miles (18 km) off the coast of Angus, Scotland, east of the Firth of Tay. Standing at 35 m high, the light is visible from 35 statute miles (55 km) inland. The masonry work on which the lighthouse rests was constructed to such a high standard that it has not been replaced or adapted in almost 200 years. The lamps and reflectors were replaced in 1843, with the original equipment being used in the lighthouse at Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland where they are currently on display. The working of the lighthouse has been automated since 1988.

The lighthouse operated in tandem with a shore station, the Bell Rock Signal Tower, built in 1813 at the mouth of Arbroath harbour. The Signal Tower hoisted a ball on a mast to indicate that all was well.

Today this building houses the Signal Tower Museum, a visitor centre detailing the history of the lighthouse.

The challenges faced in the building of the lighthouse have led to it being described as one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. It was built by Stevenson between 1807 and 1810 and the lamp was first lit on 1 February 1811. The design has some similarities to the earlier Eddystone Lighthouse designed by John Smeaton which was also built on an offshore reef using interlocking stones, but also contained newer features, such as rotating lights alternating between red and white. Later, the Chief Engineer on the project, John Rennie, disputed the amount of credit that Stevenson received for the design-Rennie claimed that Stevenson's curve on the base of the lighthouse was inappropriate, though Stevenson had created the earlier designs based on the Eddystone.

Photo credit: Derek RobertsonAaron Bell, Ronniedeas, Stephen McKay



The Red Wheel Placque was unveiled on 2nd September 2022 by John Boath, the light’s last principal keeper until 1988. His retirement signalled the switch to full automation for the famous light.

John was accompanied for the unveiling by  the Museum's lead Rachel Jackson and Natiomnal Transport Trust Deputy Chairman Jerry Swift on a bright sunny day.

A full account with excellent photos appeared in the Dundee daily newspaper, The Courier on 3rd September 2022.

In October 2023 Laura Parker wrote: How stay on Bell Rock lighthouse inspired writer RM Ballantyne - A vivid account by RM Ballantyne shows what conditions were like on the Bell Rock lighthouse and inspired his famous adventure story. © The Courier October 16 2023  Click here  to download article

The Signal Station Museum:

Facing the sea in Arbroath, on the A92 close to Arbroath harbour.


The Lighthouse:

By Boat: 11 miles off the east coast of Scotland near Arbroath. 

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)

Parker, Laura. How stay on Bell Rock lighthouse inspired writer RM Ballantyne - A vivid account by RM Ballantyne shows what conditions were like on the Bell Rock lighthouse and inspired his famous adventure story. © The Courier October 16 2023 . October 16 2023

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR