St Mary’s Lighthouse Whitley Bay
St Mary’s Lighthouse at Whitley Bay stands on a small island, but can be reached on foot from the mainland at low tide. Access is via a causeway and tide tables are on display in the car park advising when crossing is possible.
St. Mary’s was built in 1898 and was a working lighthouse until 1984. When it stopped working, local people got together and persuaded North Tyneside Council to buy it from Trinity House; ensuring that the public would continue to have the right of access to one of North East England’s more unusual attractions. The seas around Whitley Bay can be treacherous and shipwrecks on the rocks were common place before the lighthouse was built.
Before the Lighthouse there were many Shipwrecks
In the Laing Art Gallery, in Newcastle there is a painting by John Charlton entitled “The Women” celebrates the bravery of the women of nearby Cullercoats, in 1861. On New Year’s Day in a blizzard, “The Lovely Nelly” ran aground on rocks. The local women helped drag the lifeboat for almost two miles and all the crew, with the exception of a young cabin boy were saved.
30 years later, on a foggy June day, a Canadian ship “The Gothenburg City” floundered on rocks to the north of the island. No lives were lost on board, but the ship’s cargo of wood and coal were flung overboard in a vain attempt to refloat the ship, providing an unexpected source of fuel for local people.
Climb 137 Steps to the Top of the Lighthouse
The lighthouse has 137 spiral steps from ground level to the lantern room. From the top of the tower, there are sensational views of the Northumberland Coast and the River Tyne. There is a live video streaming from the top of the tower to ground level, enabling anyone unable to climb the tower to experience the view.
There are also displays outlining the history of the lighthouse and the island. There is a small charge to climb the lighthouse but the gift shop can be visited free of charge. There is no cafe on the island, but there are vending machines at the lighthouse selling drinks and snacks. On a nice day the best idea may be to pack a picnic.
Away from the lighthouse, the rest of the island is a nature reserve providing a home to a wide range of marine life and birds with rock pools, freshwater ponds, cliff tops and a beach.
Opening Hours Depend on the Tides
Given the unusual location, the opening hours are dependent on the tides. A local guide to the tides are available online , but this is only guidance and more up to date information can be obtained by phoning the Friends of St Mary’s Lighthouse on 0191 200 8650
The island is off the A193, Whitley Bay to Blyth Road, just over 2 miles north of Whitley Bay.
The 308 Bus to Blyth runs every 15 minutes (20 minutes on Saturdays and
30 minutes on Sundays) from Newcastle Haymarket Bus Station and Whitley Bay.
Take the Tyne and Wear Metro to Whitley Bay then take the bus.