Tarbat Ness lighthouse, 4.5 km north-east of Portmahomack, began operating on 26 January 1830. It was built following the loss of sixteen vessels in a great storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826.
Tarbat Ness lighthouse was engineered by Robert Stevenson and James Smith of Inverness was charged with its construction. The keeper's cottages adjoining the lighthouse were also designed by Stevenson. The lighthouse, with its two distinctive red bands that identify it to ships at sea, was automated in 1985. The original lens and mechanism are now on show at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Robert Stevenson was the first of the Stevenson engineers. He first worked for the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1794 and by 1808 had been appointed Sole Engineer, a position he held until 1842. He engineered 15 major lighthouses for the Board, including the infamous Bell Rock lighthouse.
According to local tradition, the site of the lighthouse was once a Roman fort and later used for witches' covens. Tarbat Ness is also a place of special interest for the observation of migratory birds.