Lighting the Way

The Bell Rock, off the coast of Arbroath in the mouth of the River Tay, is the oldest rock lighthouse in the world. It was designed by Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850), grandfather of internationally-known writer Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Stevenson family built most of the 208 lighthouses around Scotland's coast.

The Bell Rock Lighthouse was one of the Stevenson's most challenging projects, the scene of many shipwrecks, around six every winter.

It took five years to complete the 115ft (35 metres) high structure, and involved a constant battle against massive waves and fierce storms.

200 years of the Bell Rock lighthouse

Flashing once every five seconds, it warns ships away from the rock. The working of the lighthouse has been automated since 1998, and is run by the Northern Lighthouse Board in Edinburgh.

This remarkable feat of engineering is being celebrated as the central part of a National Museum of Scotland exhibition 'Shining Lights: The Story of Scotland's Lighthouses' which charts Scotland's vital role in the creation of lighthouses. It runs until April 3, 2011.

A year of celebrations is also lined up in Arbroath to mark the bicentenary of the Bell Rock.

A series of events called Year of the Light have been organised to commemorate its role.

This will include a spectacular firework display, a yacht regatta and a memorial service to those who have lost their lives on the Bell Rock over the centuries.

More on Scotland's inventions and inventors

Last updated 20 May 2014