Tarbat Ness

Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is located at the North West tip of the Tarbat Ness peninsula near the fishing village of Portmahomack, on the east coast of Scotland.


In November 1826, sixteen vessels were lost in a storm in the Moray Firth.  This prompted many applications for lights to be erected on either Tarbat Ness or Covesea Skerries. Tarbat Ness was given priority as it had been named in 1814, and was highly regarded by the Caledonian Canal Commissioners.

The Lighthouse was engineered by Robert Stevenson and the light was first exhibited on 26 January 1830. James Smith of Inverness was the contractor responsible for building the lighthouse.

The navigation light was an Argand Paraffin Lamp with 4 burner until 1907 when it was changed to an incandescent pressurised lamp with 55mm mantles. The lightroom machine in use at the present time was installed in 1892 and remained in use until the automation in 1985. The lens and machine are now on show in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Earthquake shocks were sometimes reported at Tarbat Ness once shook so that the shades and lamp glasses rattled.

Most of the Tarbat Ness peninsula is farmland, but it remains an attractive amenity area, and an asset of East Ross. It has geological and ornithological significance. The geological interest lies chiefly within the foreshore stretch between Rockfield and the lighthouse, especially east of Wilkhaven Farm. The sedimentary structures in the Upper Old Red Sandstone, intertidal weathering in calciferous rock and deeply weathered rock are well displayed here. There are also Jurassic outliers on the shore. Oyster plants and other interesting coastal plants occur. Tarbat Ness is the stopping-off point for migratory birds during the autumn migration. It is of special interest for the observation of seabird passage through the Moray Firth, and Manx and Sooty shearwaters, great arctic and pomarine skuas as well as other seabirds may be seen. There are also considerable falls of Scandinavian migrants, including redwing, meadow pipit and wheatear.

According to Highland folklore the site of the lighthouse was used as a meeting place for witches covens and before that it used to be a Roman Fort.

The lighthouse tower is the third tallest in Scotland after North Ronaldsay and Skerryvore.  It has two distinguishing broad red bands.


Year Established



Robert Stevenson


Latitude   57°51.908'N
Longitude 003°46.600'W


Flashing (4) White every 30 seconds


53 metres


18 nautical miles

Public Access


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