The lights are going out and the doors closing on a north-east visitor attraction at the end of the month as it prepares to take its first winter hibernation.
The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh says a reduction in visitors due to the travel restrictions in place as part of the ongoing coronavirus lockdown means it’s not viable to stay open this winter, as it usually would.
The ancient lighthouse at Kinnaird Head, also home to a museum, tea room and gifts shop, reopened mid-August in a bid to support the tourism industry in the north-east as it enjoyed a rise people taking holidaying closer to home.
Dr Lynda McGuigan, museum manager, said: “Our visitor profile has been very different this year as we have not seen the international visitors that we normally do. We would usually have European visitors most days as well as Americans and Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders.
“From August until the end of October we pretty much filled all of our tours despite the small ‘tour bubbles’ we had around 36% of our usual visitors for the period.
“We achieved this by doubling the amount of tours from one an hour to two an hour and the response has been fantastic and visitors have really enjoyed the very personal bespoke tours sometimes on a one to one basis.”
However, despite rave reviews online the threat of visitors numbers dropping even further this winter has forced their decision to close at the end of this month, reopening in March 2021.
“We have decided to go into hibernation for the winter in view of the fact that visitor numbers have slumped since the end of October,” Mrs McGuigan added.
“We believe this is due to the fact that much of the country is now in lockdown or in tier three which means travel restrictions apply. This is the first winter closure since 2011/2012 and the first since I took over here at the museum. We are grateful to all the people who visited as their support has made a difference to the museum.”
Unlike many other north-east attractions, the team at Kinnaird Head were able to keep the lighthouse shining thanks to financial support from the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust and making “considerable changes” to comply with social distancing and hygiene requirements.
It even took inspiration from the lockdown to install a new exhibition comparing lockdown to the isolated life of a lighthouse keeper for its shortened 2020 season.
Mrs McGuigan added: “We had a toilet roll still in its packaging which came from a lighthouse, it lay in our store for years and we had never considered it to have very much significance. We also had an empty exhibition space to fill, and our collections manager Michael Strachan realised that lockdown somewhat resembled the isolated life of a lightkeeper.
“The thought first started with the toilet roll but quickly grew to highlight other aspects of lightkeeping which bore some resemblance to lockdown life in 2020. The exhibition compared communication, hygiene, working from home, social distancing and recycling on a lighthouse. Michael’s exhibition was truly fun and inspired by the lockdown and our visitors loved it.”