Corran Lighthouse is located close to the Corran ferry at Loch Linnhe.
Stretching from Fort William to Inverness, the Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long. Twenty-two miles of which are man-made, and the rest are natural lochs. The Great Glen through which the canal runs almost directly from southwest to northeast has for centuries been the region’s natural line of communication, allowing mariners to avoid the long and often hazardous route around the northwest of Scotland and through the Pentland Firth. Started in 1803, plans were produced by Thomas Telford following survey work by James Watt some 30 years earlier.
By the time the canal was opened in 1822, it had taken 17 years and cost £840,000. However, instead of the 20ft depth in Telford’s plans, the canal when initially opened had only a maximum depth of 14ft, and it became increasingly too shallow for the large ships being built at the time. A second phase was undertaken between 1844 and 1847.
Loch Linnhe extends to just over 9 miles and is an average of 1¼ miles wide. It opens onto the Firth of Lorn at its southwestern end. Situated on the shores of Loch Linnhe, 7 miles south of Fort William, Corran Lighthouse was built by David and Thomas Stevenson in 1860. It was one of a chain marking the route to the Caledonian Canal. The lighthouse exhibited a fixed white and red light from a fourth-order optic at an elevation of 38ft, the white sector having a range of 10 miles. An azimuthal condensing lens was also in use, this consisted of a row of vertical prisms, enhancing the sector light.
The Corran Ferry crosses Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows. The route of this ferry lies on one of the ancient drove routes from the Highlands to central Scotland. The eastern slipway is known as Nether Lochaber. The western side of the crossing is guarded by the picturesque lighthouse standing on the shore with its cottages.
Following the road westwards from the lighthouse, a fifty-mile drive leads alongside the beautiful Loch Sunart and on to the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the most westerly point of mainland Britain. The road leads to the Point of Ardnamurchan with its lighthouse and visitor centre.
In 1898 the light was converted to the less labour-intensive light source of oil gas, and the lighthouse was reduced from two to one keeper and his family.
The lighthouse was automated in 1970, with further modernisation taking place in 2004, the coloured sectors being retained. The red sectors are to be avoided as these are close to the shore, whereas the green and white sectors are used to guide vessels up to Corran Point. The light has an isophase character which means the light is shown for a period equal to the length of the eclipse.
Part of the optic is now at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh.
In 2021 a new directional sector light was installed at the entrance to the Corran Narrows near Onich. Rubha Cuil-Cheanna is the newest of the Northern Lighthouse Board aids to navigation.