The coastguard was originally formed as the Preventative Waterguard in 1809. Their original purpose was to prevent and combat smuggling, but in 1822 they were re-named the Coastguard. Since then, the Coastguard expanded to take on search-and-rescue and other missions. The first Watch House was on the right near the top of Kerr Street Brae and its use appears to have been shared with the Customs and Excise Officers – the “Revenue Men” feared by smugglers. It is now a private house. Number 130 Main Street is the site of the first purpose-built Coastguard Station but is now a private dwelling. It was built in 1896 and replaced the Watch House which had been there since the early nineteenth century. The small terrace called the Coastguard Cottages would have been used to house staff and their families. It is believed that the station may originally have had a platform for launching signal rockets.
For most of the 20th Century the Coastguard had a two-storey look-out post on Ramore Head from which they could scan the sea with telescopes or binoculars. They also acted as a weather recording station passing their information to the Meteorological Office. The Lower Main Street site and the lookout closed during the 1970s/1980s and the Coastguard Station and houses moved to a newly constructed site overlooking Lansdowne car park and the sea. The houses are now privately owned and the Coastguard Station is a café. H.M. Coastguard is now the Maritime & Coastguard Agency with wide ranging responsibilities for marine and coastal matters.