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The Island of Inchkeith

We’ve had our eye on Inchkeith for quite some time and we finally managed to organise a trip out to the island before Winter properly set in.

Inchkeith sits in the Firth of Forth between Edinburgh and Pettycur and its believed to have been used by people for several hundred years. Its most recent use was during the World Wars when the island would act as a defence against any ships wishing to sail up the Firth of Forth. Most of the buildings that were left over from those days still remain on the island in various states of repair.

Inchkeith is like nowhere we have explored before and is rarely visited by people other than those looking for a day out on their boats. We set out in the early morning to catch the high tide, making launching our preferred method of transport slightly easier, and off we went to the island.

Our first port of call was the harbour where we came ashore and moored the boat. We had a stunning day weather wise however the harbour did its job of sheltering us from the swell of the Forth.

Inchkeith Harbour

The harbour sits on the west side of the island looking towards the Forth Bridges and Edinburgh. Above it sits one of the many gun emplacements the island is littered with. With so much to explore we set out to the west fort which has numerous underground storage areas dug into the rock. The view from the top of the fort looking across the island was spectacular.


Here you can see the highest point of the island which is home to a still operational lighthouse.

At the top of the west fort is one of the large gun emplacements which looks up the river towards the Forth Bridges.

Inchkeith Gun Emplacement

This one was soon to be eclipsed in size by what we found later.

From there we made our way to the centre of the island and the lighthouse we had glimpsed from the west fort. As you reach the top of the hill you are met with a number of old houses which, given how long they have been there, are still in reasonable condition.

Inchkeith House at Sunset

The wooden roof frames are still intact along with the sash windows, minus the glass though. Inside the buildings still retain their wood finishings and this tiled fireplace.

Inchkeith Fireplace

We made our way further up the hill to the lighthouse.

Inchkeith Lighthouse

The lighthouse is no longer manned however is inspected regularly and is in full working order. The inscription on the front of the building reads:

“For the direction of mariners, and for the benefit of commerce, this lighthouse was erected by order of the commissioners of the nothern lighthouses.
It was founded on the 18th day of May in the year of 1803, and lighted on the 14th of September 1804.
Thomas Smith, Engineer”

The area directly in front of the lighthouse is a former helicopter pad with a few service buildings adjacent to them. We were surprised to find that some equipment was left over and hadn’t been recycled yet.

Inchkeith Dials

There were also a few large boilers or tanks next to these however our knowledge of industrial machinery, or lack thereof, meant we couldn’t identify their former use.

Inchkeith Fog Horn Equipment

From there we scaled one of the other buildings at the highest point and were greeted with a spectacular view of the Firth of Forth looking out towards the North Sea.

Firth of Forth from Inchkeith

There were a few large container ships anchored here and if you look closely enough you should be able to make out the Bass Rock on the horizon.

We then made our way towards the south part of the island negotiating a very overgrown cliff top path which hasn’t seen visitors in years. Before reaching the next gun emplacements we found more housing, although these did not fair as well as the previous ones. Nature has made a hardy attempt at reclaiming these buildings with small trees growing inside a few of them.

Inchkeith Houses

We pressed on from there and finally reached the south gun emplacement. Again there were various storage areas cut into the rock of the island which we assumed were for the ammunition of the large guns.

Inchkeith Ammo Lift

We presumed this hoist was used to transport the massive shells from the storage area to the gun situated directly above.

The gun emplacement itself has a spectacular view of the Firth of Forth and must have been massive when it still stood. To give you an idea of perspective when you stood in the centre of this “ground level” would have been at shoulder/head height.

Inchkeith Gun Emplacement

A final shot of the lighthouse of the island.

Inchkeith Lighthouse

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13 Responses

  1. I worked for Sir tom Farmer who owns inchkeith and went over with my brother to repair a huge waterpump and spent several hours looking round. What a place it has Napolionic war battlements there and loads of other buildings. I was given a load of papers about the Island and copied them they told how the water was collected in huge concrete trays and how there  were several hundred men stationed there, I gave the papers to the man who sailed the maid of the forth as he had an interest in the place. Would like to go back someday

    Cheers Colin

  2. The Tanks are most likely to have been Air Receivers, many Lighthouses had them to operate the Fog Horns, a Compressor would have been in the Engine Room and pipework ran from there to the Air Receivers.

  3. I was stationed on Inchkieth island fo many months as a serving Naval rateing whilst they were doing bombing trials on the battleship H.M.S NELSON. I would love to be able to visit the Island once again, would this be possible. I am now 84 years of age and would love to revive memories of my time spent there

  4. Amazing article. Surprising to find everything weathered so well after all these years. Have looked over to the island tons of times when walking dog down the east coast but never realised there were so many remains. Thanks.
    And someone, please: take Alfredo back.

  5. Wonderful article and beautifully presented. You have satiated my intrigue of such a wondrous place many of us can only see from a distance. Thank you for this perspective!

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