Little Cumbrae Lighthouse

Little Cumbrae
Photo: John Best

There have been three lighthouses on Little Cumbrae Island, the first lighthouse was built here in 1757. Little Cumbrae Island lies just to the south of Great Cumbrae, both of which lie a few miles off the town of Largs.

Little Cumbrae is a rocky island, unlike Great Cumbrae which is more green and fertile.

On the eastern coast of Little Cumbrae lie smaller islands of Castle Isle, Broad Islands and Trail Isle.

The main settlement on the island now is Little Cumbrae House on the eastern side, which faces the mainland.

There are a number of caves on the island, and a submarine passage was said to run from Monks’ Cave (now known as Kings Cave) to the Isle of Bute at Kingarth.

The first lighthouse at Little Cumbrae was built in 1757 on the top of Lighthouse Hill.  It was designed by James Ewing.  

Old tower
First Cumbrae Lighthouse
Photo © James T M Towill (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The circular stone tower housed a coal fire at its top, and the remains of this first tower are still evident.

In 1793 the second lighthouse was built, designed by Thomas Smith on behalf of the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses, and was one of the first to be built by the Northern Lighthouse Board.  This tower is located on the western side of the island and had a foghorn, slipway, jetty and boathouse. 

In 1792 the Cumbrae Lighthouse Trust renewed their interest in Smith’s proposals for a reflector light with 36 reflectors.  He suggested building lower lights on either side of the island but these plans were shelved.

The two lighthouses had their own Lighthouse Trust which since 1757 had maintained a coal-fired beacon.  However, sailors complained that the light was frequently obscured. 

Little Cumbrae
Photo: John Best

The lighthouse originally used oil lamps, which were replaced with Argand oil lamps in 1826.

In 1865 the foghorn was installed.  The tower was restored in 1956, and solar power was installed in 1974.

The lighthouse was automated in 1977. It was decommissioned in 1997, and a light on a tower close to the former generator house is now in operation.

Little Cumbrae
The current Little Cumbrae Lighthouse
Photo: John Best

In 2003 Little Cumbrae Island went into private ownership with plans for a nature reserve.  It was sold again in 2009 and a yoga and meditation centre was opened here.

The light is operated by Clyde Port Authority.

Boat trips can operate from nearby Largs to Cumbrae island.

Photo: John Best
Little Cumbrae Old LighthouseEstablished: 1757 Discontinued: 1793 Engineer: James Ewing Tower Height: Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Little Cumbrae LighthouseEstablished: 1793 Discontinued: 1997 Engineer: Thomas Smith and Robert Stevenson Tower Height: Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated:
Little Cumbrae Lighthouse (Current)Established: 1997 Discontinued: Engineer: Tower Height: 11 metres Light Character: Fl W 6 s Range: 5 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 6 metres Automated: