For hundreds of years, countless lives were claimed and ships sunk by the long and treacherous reef lying in the North Sea some 12 miles east of Dundee known as Bell, or Inchcape.

That was until Bell Rock Lighthouse was constructed on the reef by Scottish civil engineer Robert Stevenson between 1807 and 1810, using 2,500 specially-cut blocks of Aberdeen granite.

The world’s oldest working sea-washed lighthouse, Bell Rock was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Industrial World by the BBC in 2003 - alongside the likes of the Hoover Dam and the Brooklyn Bridge.

One of 208 lighthouses operated and maintained across Scotland and the Isle of Man by The Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB), it is remotely monitored from the NLB’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

While the lighthouse has been demanned since 1988, NLB engineers do require to make the trip out to The Bell Rock for it to undergo regular maintenance.

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That was the case this past week when a team of four electrical technicians were taken by helicopter for a nine-day stint on the 36-metre tall structure. 

Among the group was James Addison, who, despite having been “almost everywhere” in his six years with the NLB, was making his maiden visit to the tower off the Angus coast. 

He told The Herald: “It’s one heck of a sight. We got a helicopter out there. There’s a wee landing pad that comes out the water during low tide but you need a really low tide to get out there. 

“On normal days at low tide you get the helipad but you don’t get many rocks to walk around on. 

We only tend to land on the low, low tides when you can actually get around the base of the tower as well.

“I’ve done ‘pillars’ before, we have four in total and I’ve done them all now. But The Bell Rock is really nice actually, I really enjoyed that one. It’s one of the cleaner sites that we’ve got and there’s plenty of space in comparison to the other ones.”

While nine days on Bell Rock might seem like a long stint for four NLB technicians, the 25-year-old confirmed it is a standard period of time to spend conducting maintenance.

He said: “We tend to schedule our regular maintenance visits over the tidal period. So we’ll land on the lowest tide on one week and then you’ve got to wait just under two weeks for the next low tide. 

“I’m not sure on the exact figures. I’m not much of a meteorologist but it’s just between the tides basically. 

“We tend to give these jobs such a long time like that just in case we do come across a fault or something needs fixed then we’ve got the extra days there to play with as well.”

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There’s always the chance that the weather is going to keep us on there as well if the helicopter can’t land so we’ve got to prepare for that every time as well.”

However, it wasn’t all work, with Mr Addison confirming the four had “plenty of down time”.

“There’s not very far you can go. You can go a metre left, you can go a metre right, and you can go a metre forwards and backwards. Whenever we are not working we tend to have a little seat in the kitchen. It’s sort of our communal area. 

“We took fishing rods with us and did a bit of fishing out there. We had plenty of luck. There’s tons of fish. They all seem to flock around there. We had so much food on there that we just decided to release them all. In future though if we run out of food that will be the option.”

Despite being over 200 years old, Mr Addison revealed that, like most lighthouses operated and maintained by the NLB, the interior is "fairly modern".

The Herald: The kitchen inside Bell Rock LighthouseThe kitchen inside Bell Rock Lighthouse (Image: Northern Lighthouse Board)

He added: “Construction started on Bell Rock in 1807 so it’s really old, although the way Bell Rock looks on the inside now you would think it was only built in the last 50 years or so. It is nuts to think it was built that long ago. 

“One thing we always do whenever we get a new start is we always go up onto the balcony and do a little test to see if they have a fear of heights. One thing that has always been said is, ‘This balcony has been here for 200 years, it’s not going to fall off, it’s been here for this long’. But one of the anxieties I like to inspire in the new workers is to say, ‘Well it has got to go at some point’. 

“It’s still fine out there at Bell Rock. It’s looks grand. ‘Pillars’ are good and that’s probably one of the nicest pillars we have. But the ground-based stations and the lighthouses with big accommodation blocks where you have room to run around are the nice ones as you can stretch your legs. But in terms of what you’ve got Bell Rock is actually really nice.”