Northern Lighthouse Board – Edinburgh, Scotland - Atlas Obscura

Northern Lighthouse Board

A miniature of a lighthouse acts as a beacon for what transpires inside this location.  

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The capital of Scotland is not short on its share of monuments. There are some dedicated to the famous, such as The Walter Scott Monument. Others highlight the more nefarious, such as the Melville Monument commemorating Henry Dundas. Dundas was an 18th-century lawyer and politician involved with the slave trade.

However, not far from these two towering creations, on one of the city’s most prestigious streets, is a minuscule model of a lighthouse with a working and revolving lantern. This happens to be the headquarters for The Northern Lighthouse Board. The board provides marine navigational aid for the coastal areas of Scotland and the Isle of Man

This small-scale beacon has been in operation since 1950 and was constructed on the premises. The board was founded in 1786 and moved to this current Grade A listed location in 1832. Their purpose is to preserve and manage nearly 200 buoys and over the same amount of lighthouses dotted across the country’s waterways.

Along with the mini-model lighthouse, there are a series of flagpoles that fly three flags: Isle of Man, the Scottish Saltire, and The Commissioners’ Flag. The latter depicts a blue lighthouse against a white backdrop. It’s also the only banner that depicts the pre-1801 Union Flag. It does not include the red stripes that indicate Northern Ireland’s inclusion into what was to become the United Kingdom

Know Before You Go

The exterior of the building is accessible at all times. Consult the website for entry into the interior.


The Northern Lighthouse Board often participates in Open Door Days. This usually occurs over the 3rd weekend in September. Tours and lectures are often given in conjunction with this event.


Robert Stevenson, the father of Robert Louis Stevenson, was a civil engineer and builder of lighthouses. A bust and several objects pertaining to him are contained within the Northern Lighthouse Board. He is buried in New Calton Cemetery.

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