On last year’s trip to Scotland, we also visited Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, a lighthouse all the way on the northeastern tip of the Scottish mainland in Fraserburgh, built in 1787. This lighthouse operated for 200 years. A museum explaining the work of the Northern Lighthouse Board, the institution operating lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man for over two centuries, accompanies the lighthouse. The board was founded after a bad year of storms and shipwrecks on the Northern Scottish coast in 1782 demanded a system of lighthouses be set up. Kinnaird Head Lighthouse was the first lighthouse constructed by the board. The board used to operate all the lighthouses manually, but now all of them are operated automatically through solar power and GPS. The museum contains many old lighthouse lanterns: complex structures of prisms and lenses were arranged in specific ways to maximise the distance the light would travel and to vary the way in which each lantern would flash. Each lighthouse would have a distinct flashing pattern, such that ships could tell them apart. You can see a few examples below. The museum also tells the story of the Stevenson family, who were hugely important in the design and construction of the Northern lighthouses for generations. (Robert Louis Stevenson, writer of Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was one of the only non-engineers in his family!)
As you can see in one of the pictures above, Kinnaird Head Lighthouse was built on top of a castle-like structure. This is Kinnaird Head Castle, built in the 16th century by the Frasers (yes, Outlander fans: Jamie’s ancestors). The town in which the lighthouse stands, Fraserburgh, is also named after the family. In 1786, the family sold the castle to the Northern Lighthouse Board and they modified it and turned it into the lighthouse you can still visit today.
On our way back to Lossiemouth, where we were staying, we drove past the narrowest town in Scotland, Crovie. It is literally a row of houses wedged between the cliffs and the sea. The only road in the town is a footpath, as it is physically impossible to fit a car down it. Crovie dates from the late 18th century, when families were exiled from the Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745 (read more in my previous post here) and started fishing instead, making them settle by the sea. Crovie is considered the best preserved small fishing village in Europe of its kind. The same storm in 1953 that caused the North Sea Flood in The Netherlands (de Watersnoodramp), damaged the village substantially, which caused many of the fishing families to leave. The buildings are now mostly used as holiday homes.
On our way to Inverness, we visited Duff House, an impressive country home in Banff from the Georgian era. You wouldn’t be able to tell now, but Duff House was actually meant to be a much larger building, with east and west wings that were never completed. It remains unfinished, as its commissioner, William Duff, and its architect, William Adam, had a conflict over finances that lead to a court case.
The Duff family have long been art collectors, and parts of their art collection can be admired inside the house, including some Van Dycks and El Grecos. The house also owns a bust of Queen Victoria, sculpted by Sir John Steell, possibly the most famous Scottish sculptor of all time (you may know him from the massive statue of Sir William Scott in Edinburgh!).
The house contains a Jacobite room, so called because almost all portraits in it depict fervent supporters of the House of Stewart. Many Scottish families joined Bonnie Prince Charlie‘s cause of restoring his father to the throne and so did some members of the Duff family. In fact, it created much conflict within the family as William Duff’s, the 1st Earl of Fife (the one who had Duff House built), eldest son joined the Jacobite cause while the 1st Earl himself was a strong supporter of King George III. He even stopped his son from joining the 1745 uprising.
I will finish off this post with a beautiful view of Loch Ness from a cruise we took from Inverness on our last day in Scotland last year! Next post will be on Liverpool, which I visited last Fall. So get ready for The Beatles, a U-boat and some Antony Gormley!