Climbing the Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

Now that our time in Scotland is done, and our short trip to Amsterdam is over, we’ll be spending the next several months in the north east of England. It’s a place that neither Brian nor I have spent much time, only a few holiday trips over the years.

Now that we have a few months to really get to know the area, we did what we love to do most. We got in the car and drove with no clear destination in mind. We packed our jackets and umbrellas, a couple of water bottles and pulled out of the driveway with a general plan of going “that way”.

“That way” was towards the coast, specifically Whitley Bay.

 

We stuck with our tradition of hunting brown signs, which has never steered us wrong yet. It wasn’t long before one of those signs let us know there was a lighthouse nearby.

 

I love lighthouses for all their picturesque beauty and rugged surroundings. There are quite a few of them on my Bucket list, and I’ve long dreamed of climbing every one of them and learning their stories of shipwrecks, storms and foggy nights, their tales of lonely and isolated lighthouse keepers, their histories of families and children who grew and played on their rocks in good weather.

 

For all of that dreaming, do you know how many I have actually visited? How many towers I’ve climbed to look at their now dark beacons?

Exactly one.

Including this one.

This one happened to be St. Mary’s Lighthouse, built in 1898 on the site of a former monastery which had a small beacon light to guide passing ships. There has been some form of a guide light on this little island since Medieval times. The light went dark for the last time in 1984 when the island and buildings were purchased by the local council and turned into a visitor’s center.

You sure you want to climb that?

 

The 137 steps to the top can still be climbed for a small entrance fee (£2.60) which also gives you access to their little museum and children’s learning center.

About 120 steps into the climb I was wondering if it was worth it. Huff. Puff. Huff. Puff.

I reached what I thought was the top I was so relieved. I made it! I made it to the top, and was really disappointed to find a sparse room with no lamp. It took me a minute to find the rest of the stairs.

Or should I say ladder? The last bit of the climb was very steep on short and narrow steps hugging the inside curve of the highest part of the tower.

 

And SO worth the effort!

Top of the ladder/stairs.

 

The view was amazing. We had been treated to a rare clear September day and I could see for miles in every direction. The little half door which gives access to the outside walk was locked tight, but who cares? I didn’t need to go outside to see the beautiful views.

 

It was a rough life for the keepers a hundred years ago, with no electricity, no fresh water piped in, and hard labor in all kinds of horrible weather but I bet they loved days like this.

 

After what could have been fifteen minutes, or two hours at the top I finally made my way back down.

 

And down, and down, and down, and down. Stopping only long enough to enjoy the view back to the mainland.

Low tide

Once again, we got lucky. We found this place by accident without any idea it even existed before we got there, we arrived on a beautiful clear day, we arrived at low tide, and we had a few coins in our pockets to pay for my entrance to climb up.

We spent all morning climbing all over the island. More to come about that later, but I couldn’t wait to show you the lighthouse first.

Lighthouse number one marked off the Bucket List, about a thousand more to go.

On the map: Click here to see this location on our Google Map.

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About akil3655

A Scotsman and his American photographer wife traveling the world and writing about it. Tales, reviews, photos, interviews and crazy goings on. Because you never know what's going to happen.

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4 Responses to Climbing the Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

  1. Nancy B October 3, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    Low tide and all that space for tide pools!! What a treat!! Nana has said the years spent on the lighthouses were the happiest of her early life. I’m sure that’s one of the main reasons she enjoys reading so much. Not much to do after chores during the winters when the days are short. Having a link to a lighthouse keeper and his family is something I cherish. I think it makes us unique! It’s too bad they aren’t in service much any more. Sometimes technology isn’t as interesting or hands on. GPS tracking has made most lighthouses obsolete. Such a shame……………..

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      October 3, 2012 at 5:37 am #

      I have a picture on my computer of Nana’s lighthouse, and I really want to visit it next time I’m down in San Diego. I’ve seen it from a distance, but didn’t get a chance to go in. I love that connection too!
      akil3655 recently posted..Climbing the Lighthouse in Whitley BayMy Profile

  2. Expat Mum
    Twitter: ToniHargis
    October 5, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    There’s a very historic lighthouse on the other side of the Tyne at South Shields. Can’t remember what it’s called but you just drive down the coast a tiny bit from the mouth of the river and it’s right there. Worth a visit.
    Expat Mum recently posted..Blogging – What’s Changed in Five Years?My Profile

    • akil3655
      Twitter: kiltandacamera
      October 5, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      Ooh, thanks for the info. The Metro stops in South Shields and my brother-in-law is visiting next week. Sounds like a day trip is in order.