Eilean Ban Lighthouse (also known as Kyleakin) is located on the island of the same name. It nestles below the Skye road bridge which links Skye with the mainland; indeed the bridge is partly constructed on Eilean Ban.
Engineer David Stevenson proposed the building of the lighthouse to mark the channel between the island (then known as Gillian Island) and the Isle of Skye. His plans were accepted by the Lighthouse Commissioners in 1853, and in 1855 the island was purchased by the Northern Lighthouse Board from Alex Matheson MP for 10 guineas.
Built by David and Thomas Stevenson, the 70ft tall lighthouse was completed in 1857, and first lit on 10th November of the same year. The light was originally fuelled by sperm whale oil, and the white beam was flanked by a red and green sector to indicate the safe channel.
Originally there were two lighthouse keepers resident with their families on the island, and a local occasional keeper was available in nearby Kyleakin in case of illness or holiday cover.
With the introduction of a paraffin vapour lamp in 1898, the manning of the light was reduced to just one keeper and his family. Prior to the building of the Skye Bridge, the lighthouse was serviced and refuelled by boat. Refuelling points were located on the north and south shores of the island as the greater depth of water allowed larger boats to berth.
In 1960 the light was changed to Acetylene gas, the station automated and the lighthouse was reclassified as a minor light.
The now redundant cottages were no longer needed by the Northern Lighthouse Board, and in 1963 were bought by Gavin Maxwell, naturalist, conservationist and author of “Ring of Bright Water”, although he did not live on Eilean Ban full time until January 1968, after fire destroyed his cottage at Sandaig.
He remained on the island until his death in September 1969. Prior to Maxwell buying the cottages, the living space was divided in two, but this was later removed, creating 40ft of space that became known as the Long Room, which is now a museum to Maxwell’s life.
After Maxwell’s death, the cottages changed hands, and owners included actor Michael Bryant, and Kwik-Fit entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer.
The lighthouse was discontinued in 1993 with the building of the Skye Bridge but remains a prominent daymark. The channel into Loch Alsh was marked by red and green port and starboard lateral buoys.
By 1996 the cottages had become derelict. The cottages were restored by the Eilean Ban Trust. And at Kyleakin the Bright Water Visitor Centre was established to provide education and information about the island’s cultural and natural history.
Tours of the lighthouse and cottages are possible by booking with the Bright Water Visitor Centre.