Bell Rock Lighthouse

An Illustrated history by Michael Strachan

Bell Rock Lighthouse tells the story of the Northern Lighthouse Board’s tower from its conception to the present day, illustrated with a fantastic collection of photographs, paintings and architects’ plans.


Since its completion in 1811, the Bell Rock Lighthouse has been revered as an industrial wonder of the world. The iconic tower was built on the Inchcape Rock, a submerged reef some 12 miles off the coast of Arbroath, and now stands as the oldest sea-washed tower in the world, surviving over 200 years of violent storms and crashing waves.


The construction of the Bell Rock made the name of the Stevenson family, a dynasty of lighthouse engineers who dominated Scottish lighthouse engineering for 150 years. Robert Stevenson was the first man on the reef and the last man off, a personal commitment which saw the Bell Rock’s actual Chief Engineer, John Rennie, almost deleted from the building’s history.

The Bell Rock is, however, more than just Stevenson and Rennie. Not only was it a remarkable feat of engineering, but one which played host to a remarkable way of life. The light-keepers undertook nightly vigils on the rock for 177 years, their often mundane and monotonous duties occasionally being punctuated by technological improvements and world events.

The keepers are now all gone but the Bell Rock continues to show its familiar flash for the safety of all.

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