Noup Head Lighthouse

Noup Head

Noup Head Lighthouse is located on the northwest of the island of Westray in Orkney.  The name Noup is derived from gnupr, which means craggy headland.  It is perched 80 metres above sea level on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic.

The lighthouse, designed by David A Stevenson, was built in 1898 and was the first lighthouse to have a lens apparatus floating on a mercury bath.

Noup Head
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Noup Head Lighthouse was occupied by two keepers and their families and would have been self-sufficient due to its remoteness.  The lighthouse was automated in 1964, and following automation, the cottages were demolished. The lighthouse was modernised and converted to wind and solar power in 2000.

On the western coast, a number of caves are dotted below the cliffs.  One of the most notorious, Gentleman’s Cave, is located below the cliffs on the southern side of Noup Head. A number of local lairds who supported the Jacobite cause are said to have hidden here over the winter following the defeat at Culloden in 1746.

Westray is home to many seabirds, including kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and puffins, as well as gannets.

Noup Head
Photo: Patrick Tubby

A rough track leads to the lighthouse, but a coastal walk is also available, which should be taken with care. Close to the lighthouse are stones from the former lighthouse keepers’ cottages which were demolished following automation.

The island of Westray can be accessed by boat from Kirkwall and neighbouring islands and also by air from Kirkwall, Stronsay and Papa Westray.

Established: 1898
Engineer: David A and Charles Stevenson
Tower Height: 24 metres
Light Character: Fl W 30 s
Light Range: 20 miles
Elevation: 79 metres
Automated: 1964