Rua Reidh Lighthouse is situated on the northwest promontory of Wester Ross. It is close to the entrance to Loch Ewe, a deep natural harbour.
Rua Reidh has various spellings, including Rhubh’ Re and Rubha Reidh, meaning “Smooth Point”. It was previously an area for crofting, although this is now in decline.
The peninsula leading out from Gairloch ends in the headland of Rubha Reidh. From here are fine views across the Minch to the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye.
The coast of Wester Ross is on the same latitude as Siberia and Hudson Bay. Despite this, the North Atlantic Drift softens the blast of the prevailing winds. Sub-tropical plants and exotic trees flourish along the coast due to the mild climate.
During the Second World War this was an important mustering area for wartime convoys.
A lighthouse was first proposed at Rua Reidh in 1853 by David Stevenson. The application was, however, refused by the Board of Trade due to the cost. In August 1906 David A Stevenson recommended a major, fully manned light on a prominent headland of Ross-shire. Once again the Northern Lighthouse Board applied to Trinity House, who again refused it because of the cost.
Eventually, following lengthy discussions between the two organisations, permission was granted. In May 1908, permission was granted to erect a light and fog signal. Ironically, the total cost estimated was almost three times as much as the original estimate.
Work eventually commenced in 1910, the work being overseen by David A Stevenson. The light at Rua Reidh Lighthouse was first exhibited in January 1912. A paraffin vapour burner and displayed six white flashes every 30 seconds. It now has a character of 4 white flashes every 15 seconds. The huge optic, one of the largest produced, was rotated around the light source by a clockwork mechanism.
The foghorn was operated by compressed air, provided by large diesel engines which powered the compressors. A clockwork mechanism controlled a valve, producing blasts of 4 every 90 seconds. The fog signal could be heard up to 10 miles away. It was installed in 1912 and withdrawn from use in September 1980.
In 1944 the vessel William H Welch missed its entrance to Loch Ewe going ashore at Black Bay. Two of the keepers helped to rescue the crew. They had to walk across a dangerous snow-covered peat bog to reach the stricken vessel. However, of the 74 aboard, only 15 survived.
The original optical apparatus, fog horn and clockwork coder can be found in the Gairloch Heritage Museum 12 miles away. Some of the lighthouse’s archive material is also at the museum. The optic and lighting apparatus was removed in 1985 before its automation.
The surrounding area of Rua Reidh hosts various sea and wildlife from golden eagles to seals, dolphins, otters and whales. The local area is also strewn with archaeological remains, including Bronze and Iron Age hut circles to mesolithic caves.
The lighthouses cottages have had several owners. In 1990 the buildings were converted into a hostel and outdoor activity centre. The lighthouse changed hands in February 2013 and again in 2018.
The lights of Stoer Head and Tiumpan Head on the Isle of Harris are visible from the lighthouse.
Outside, The Hide has a huge picture window that overlooks the sea for watching birds and wildlife.
The lighthouse is accessed by a 3-mile long single track road. This is only accessible to those staying at the lighthouse.