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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse

You don’t see lighthouses in Switzerland, for obvious reasons. Although there are lamps on the lakes which flash orange to warn sailors of approaching inclement weather – which I really must photograph one of these days – the tall, distinctive towers are usually a treat for when I visit the UK or Italy. I say “treat” because I love the aesthetics and history of lighthouses: buildings which serve not to house people nor to decorate the landscape, but whose only purpose has been to save lives since the 17th century.

The classic lighthouse of the children’s storybook is a tall white tower, banded with red and surrounded on most sides by the sea, looming above treacherous rocks and shining its light far and wide to tell people to stay away. The Tarbat Ness lighthouse, on the north eastern coast of Scotland on a spit of land between the Dornoch and Moray Firths, is just such a classic lighthouse: bright and shining in the daytime and visible from miles around. Although we visited on a calm day, the surrounding rocks, shelving shallowly into the water, were a blatant indicator of why the nearby 53-metre-high lighthouse was erected in the 19th century.

Rocky coastline on the Dornoch Firth