Fraserburgh Lighthouse Museum – Every kid seems to love a lighthouse – clearly a site of adventure summoning up images of storms, great ships, sailors, pirates, mermaids and deep sea creatures (perhaps an Octonaut or two).
I had no clue that Scotland’s very first lighthouse was just up the road from me so we bundled the tots into car and drove north to the fishing town of Fraserburgh to visit the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.
The museum alone is a pretty strong offering. Children can dress as a ship’s captain and explore the quite beautiful lens, and interact with the hands-on displays, such as seeing how light shines through certain lens or how building a lighthouse with interlocking bricks is a smarter idea than not – build them up and knock them down! For kids there’s also a little colouring-in station and tactile semaphore flags to wave.
Of course the highlight of the trip is the lighthouse itself. The Northern Lighthouse Board bought Kinnaird Castle and in the mightiest of makeovers transformed it into the lighthouse you see today, historically illuminating it on 1 December 1787. To gain access to the building guests have to take part in a guided tour – times change throughout the year but currently they’re running hourly from 11am, with the last one departing at 4pm.
Our guide took us across the blustery cliffs and we ascended the first flight of stairs. Mr Toddler bounded ahead. Although there are 72 steps in total visitors stop on each floor to visit a key room so it’s pretty easy going for youngsters. On the first floor we saw rows of tanks and learned how the keepers had to carry cans of fuel several flights of stairs at regular intervals.
On the second floor was a keeper’s bedroom where the social history of the site was the focus – keepers would spend several years in their postings and were moved with their families and encouraged to grow crops in the lighthouse gardens and live a full life in the community.
The third floor was the lantern itself: a thing of beauty and quality engineering. Here it was explained that every 30 minutes the keeper had to turn a wrench round 70 times to keep the lighthouse operational – this was extremely physical work. This lighthouse’s particular ‘code’ was a white light flash every fifteen seconds which mariners would recognise from sea. This section of the building is quite tight, as you reach the narrow pinnacle of the lighthouse, so our children were relatively patient as the guide explained the 18th century mechanics.
And lastly, the highlight, we climbed a ladder to reach the balcony of the lighthouse. Mr Toddler had no problem scaling the ladder like a wee cat, though I did worry if he’d ever make it down. The views from the top are fantastic. You can see the harbour, the town and the coastline from a new perspective. The guide gave us all time to take it in because you sense that the keepers stood here in all weathers, centuries before you, and it’s quite a powerful feeling. I absolutely loved it despite the high winds.
Once we’d help Mr Toddler descend the ladder and carried little Mr Baby down in daddy’s arms there were the lighthouse auxiliary buildings to explore. Here were multiple information boards with lots of history to take in as you wished, our tribe was more interested in the knot table where Mr Husband relived his sailing days and I showed the kids how to ‘cast on’ for knitting – we are a riveting pair.
The lighthouse does have a slight rival in the form of the museum’s tearoom. Not only are the views pretty darned awesome, with adult and kiddie binoculars for wildlife spotting, the place also sells cake. Which is the winner? You decide.
For other things to do in Aberdeenshire, consider it’s renowned Castle Trail.
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