One of the main objectives for starting my blog was to start showcasing some hidden gems around the country. I have lived in the Aberdeen area for most of my life it took me nearly 34 years to discover the lighthouse at Rattray Head. Located just 40 miles from Aberdeen, the lighthouse is one of the most photogenic lighthouses I have ever had the privilege of seeing.
The lighthouse is located off the beaten track, travelling there by car is really the only option. The area can be reached by taking the A90 through Peterhead towards Fraserburgh, taking the turn off for Rattray around a mile passed the St Fergus Gas Terminal. After taking the turn off follow the road to the next turn towards Rattray, there will be a white cottage on the right hand side prior to the junction. Carry on along this road out towards the lighthouse. One thing i would advise before a journey to the lighthouse is to check the local weather. The second time i travelled to the lighthouse was initially a beautiful day, however this changed as i walked to the lighthouse, the fog started rolling in eventually obscuring it from view!
Points of Interest:
Along the road to the lighthouse there is two other points of interest to note. On the left hand side will be the Loch of Strathbeg which is a designated Special Protection area maintain by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). Three bird hides are located around the Loch, to watch the local wildlife, which include 260 species or birds, 280 insects and 26 species of mammals. The Loch itself is relatively young in a geological terms. The site was formerly an open estuary to the sea and the location of Starny Keppie Harbour, around which Rattray grew. The harbour was an important trading post, so much so that two castles were built to defend it. To the East of the estuary the Castle of Rattray, to the West stood Lonmay Castle. Over time the harbour began to silt up, before eventually being cutoff completely following a huge storm in 1720. The storm caused a large shift in sand blocking the estuary outlet as well as burying the remaining ruins of the Castle of Rattray.
On right hand side of the road sits St. Mary's Chapel, a late 12th/early 13th century chapel. The chapel was built at or around the same time as nearby Castle of Rattray, as a private place of worship for the Comyn family. There is a lay-by opposite the chapel for parking if you would like to stop and see the ruins.
Approaching the Beach:
Continuing on from the chapel the road begins to narrow and become more broken up with large potholes, which are deep in places and often filled with water, making it difficult to judge their depth! At the time of my visit, visibility was reduced in areas due to tall plants growing along the sides of the roads so it was difficult to keep an eye out for oncoming traffic. You will need to be prepared to reverse back a fair distance to a sufficient passing place if meeting another vehicle. There is parking available at the end of the road just passed the Rattray Head Eco Hostel.
The lighthouse is just a short walk from the car park through the sand dunes until you reach the beautiful beach. The 37m tall lighthouse was built in 1895 and masterminded by the Stevenson Brothers David and Charles, the pair helped build over 20 lighthouses around Scotland. The lighthouse was manned until 1982 when an automated system was installed, it is only accessible at low tide via a causeway. You can find more information about the lighthouse through the Northern Lighthouse Board using this link.