Esha Ness Lighthouse

Esha Ness Lighthouse

Esha Ness Lighthouse was built to warn vessels of the Ve Skerries rocks.

A temporary light on the Eshaness peninsula was erected in 1915, powerful enough to warn of the Ve Skerries reef eight and a half miles offshore. The beacon, an iron tower, contained a lantern, machinery and an acetylene-generating plant and was constructed in about two months. The building materials reached the remote location by pony and cart once they arrived on Shetland. The temporary light was removed after World War One.

Esha Ness
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The current 37ft high square white lighthouse was built in 1929 by David A and Charles Stevenson. It was the last manned lighthouse designed for the Northern Lighthouse Board by the Stevenson family of engineers. The Stevenson family had built over one hundred lighthouses in Scotland in the preceding 150 years.

At Stenness, a stone cross erected in 1927 by the Northern Lighthouse Board marks where they landed supplies for the lighthouse. Stenness is the site of a former fishing station sheltered by Stenness Isle.

Located on top of a 200 feet high cliff, Esha Ness Lighthouse, like its predecessor, was built to guide ships away from the Ve Skerries. However, soon after it was established, the Aberdeen trawler Ben Doran was wrecked, and all hands were lost.

Photo: Patrick Tubby

With the increase in oil-tanker traffic bound to and from the developing Sullom Voe oil terminal, a lighthouse was built on the Ve Skerries in 1979. Eshaness was used as the construction site for the new Ve Skerries lighthouse.

Alterations were made to the lighthouse in 1974 when it was automated. The most challenging part was cutting a new entrance door to the tower, which is made of reinforced concrete. Steel chains were embedded into the concrete, and it took almost four weeks to cut the door. The light’s intensity was increased to 46,500 candlepower giving a nominal range of 25 miles.

View from the headland
Photo: Patrick Tubby

After automation, the dwelling was sold to a private owner, and it was sold on two further occasions before being bought by writer Sharma Krauskopf in 1999. The house was completely renovated to match the original lighthouse keepers’ accommodation, and the cottage looks much like it would have done when built in 1929, except for the kitchen, with all its modern appliances.

In early 2005 the Shetland Amenity Trust purchased the property from Ms Krauskopf. Following their purchase, they carried out extensive maintenance on the cottages.

lighthouse at night

Eshaness is located on the Northmavine peninsula, which has the narrow isthmus of Mavis Grind at the entrance. At its narrowest point, it is 108ft wide. 

Close to Eshaness are the offshore stacks of The Drongs, and the Doorhole, a natural arch. On the headland, a loch leads to the Holes of Scraada, a collapsed sea cave, which reaches underground to the sea and forms a blow hole when the tide is in. It was the inspiration for a setting in one of the “Shetland” books by Ann Cleeves.

Established: 1929
Engineer: David A and Charles Stevenson
Tower Height: 12 metres
Light Character: Fl W 12 s
Light Range: 25 miles
Elevation: 61 metres
Automated: 1974