Souter Lighthouse was one of the country’s most advanced and ground-breaking lighthouses in its heyday. Now it is a pivotal part of the region’s history and a monument to be admired.
A few weeks ago I was invited by the National Trust, who now owns the property, to have a look around. I didn’t pay for my visit, however, I am under no obligation to post on my blog about my visit so all my opinions are my own.
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Let’s get into it!
I don’t want to spoil too much of the history of this site for you, because if I did then there would be no need for you to ever go. So instead I want to give you some snippets that I found to be the most interesting and impressive, to draw you in!
The lighthouse was built in 1871 to protect ships from crashing into the rocks between the river Tyne and the River Wear. It was also the first lighthouse in the world which was purpose-built to be powered by electricity.
During its 117 years of service, it saw many changes and advancements. Many don’t realise that there were actually two lights on this house, one at the very top, and one further down. The higher light had a further reach and could therefore protect ships that were further away. However, there were merchants and smaller boats closer to the shore which kept crashing into the rocks because the original light went literally above their heads and they missed it. So another was installed to protect them.
A village once lay in the shadow of the lighthouse. Whitburn colliery was a former village which housed the miners from the former coal mine on the opposite side of the lighthouse. This village was home to 700 people at one point. Unfortunately, the mine closed in 1968 and this village was demolished as people moved to Marsden instead.
Despite the efforts from the lighthouse, there were many wrecks off the shores here and it is a very popular diving location. Since maritime records began in the 1700s, there have been 320 chips wrecked off the coast.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988 due to advancements in technology which means ships no longer need lighthouses. It was then bought by the National Trust and turned into the site we know today.
Visiting Souter Lighthouse
Inside the site, you can get a sense of what everyday life was like as a lighthouse keeper. The first part is a museum with living quarters on display which you can walk through.
You can actually book to stay over in the Lighthouse keeper’s cottages. There are two of them and each sleep 4 people in two bedrooms. However, you must stay for 3 nights minimum. You can have a look at booking it here.
After this, you get to see more of the technology and machinery used throughout the lighthouse’s time in operation. From the numerous light bulbs to the machine that creates the loud fog horn.
The final part is the accent up to the top of the lighthouse. This involves climbing a spiral staircase, followed by a steep ladder-like staircase to the very top. This final part of the site is not wheelchair or pushchair friendly. And if you are uncomfortable with these stairs then you won’t be able to make it up.
It is this final part that is the highlight of the site. Not only are you graced by the incredible view out over the coastline and the north sea. But there is also a guide here who, if you get the same man that was there when I was, was incredibly knowledgable about the history and was able to answer any questions you might have.
He went through the mechanics of the site and told some stories about its history of the site. He was also able to switch the light on for us.
When you’re here, be sure to keep an eye out for the dolphins which pass by most days!
Again, for national trust members, it is free to visit. However, for non-members, you do need to buy your tickets at the door.
Family tickets are also available, more info is on the trust website.
The on-site cafe is open 10am – 5pm 7 days a week, with the rest of the site opening at 11am.
The lighthouse will be closed from November 7th for the winter and will reopen in the spring. The cafe however will remain open.
Please note that the site closes from 1pm-1:30pm every day. The last entry is 30 minutes before closing.
Parking at the Lighthouse
There is a decent-sized car park right on the doorstep of the lighthouse, as well as an overflow car park nearby.
Postcode: SR6 7NH
The car park is free for National Trust members but non-members will need to pay. It costs:
1 hour – £1
2 hours – £2
4 hours – £3
All day – £4
If you are simply visiting the lighthouse, I would budget between 1-2 hours. However, the lighthouse is in a perfect location for exploring the wider coastline here. You can wander north along to South Shields, or head south to Whitburn and Seaburn.
Overall I had a great day visiting Souter Lighthouse. Having not been since I was a kid it was fascinating to go back and uncover some of the history attached to this site. I often drive past it however, now I will look at it in a different way as it was such a pinnacle of people’s lives.
If you are a local, and you have never been, I really do think it is not only important but well worth the visit.
Thank you for reading this post and I hope you have enjoyed it. If you are interested in National Trust sites then have a look at my National Trust Page which has a whole load of guides to many different sites in the North East.
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