Cantick Head Lighthouse

Cantick Head Lighthouse marks the southern entrance on the southeast coast of the island of Hoy.

Cantick Head Lighthouse

The Pentland Firth separates the islands of Orkney from the northeastern tip of Scotland. This dangerous stretch of coastline has some of the most treacherous eddies and currents anywhere in Britain.

One of the world’s finest natural harbours can be found at Scapa Flow, which is almost encircled by the islands. It was a vital anchorage during both World Wars. In 1914 Scapa Flow became the base for the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet, and it is where the German Fleet was interned in 1919.

The Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses approached Trinity House and the Board of Trade in February 1854. They received approval almost immediately for their proposals to build a lighthouse at Cantick Head. However, lengthy correspondence ensued, delaying its construction until February 1856.

Cantick Head Lighthouse was first exhibited on the night of 15th July 1858. Both the lighthouse and keepers’ cottages were designed and engineered by David and Thomas Stevenson.

Lighthouse on Hoy
Photo: Cantick Head Lighthouse

The foghorn, which sounded every 30 seconds, was established in October 1913 and discontinued in 1987.

Lightning occasionally struck the tower, and the brasswork in the lantern room turned black on several occasions. It took some work to clean it all again and restore it to its former brilliance.

The two single-storey cottages were originally the Assistant Keepers’ quarters. The back-to-back houses have a double apex roof. Both have been renovated, keeping the traditional design of the buildings, with Victorian-sized rooms.

Cantick Head
Photo: Roy Thompson

The former Principal Keeper’s cottage is just across the courtyard. Another smaller dwelling adjoining the PK’s cottage was used by visiting engineers and trainee keepers.

The light was automated in 1991.

The nearest village to the lighthouse is Longhope, three miles away. There is a general store, post office, church and pub (there is only one shop and three pubs on the island). Longhope is also the nearest passenger ferry terminal. The nearest car ferry operates from Lyness, six miles away.

Established: 1858
Tower Height: 22 metres
Light Character: Fl W 20 s
Light Range: 13 miles
Elevation: 35 metres
Automated: 1991