Pladda Lighthouse


Pladda Lighthouse is located on the island of Pladda, at the southeastern end of Arran.  The lighthouse was built in 1790 and guards the entrance to the Firth of Clyde and Kilbrannan Sound.  It is distinctive in its design, having a smaller tower below the main lighthouse.

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With the increase in trade around the Clyde estuary, more lighthouses were needed. Pladda Lighthouse became one of the first to be commissioned by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses. Designed by Thomas Smith, it joined the early lights of Mull of Kintyre, Cumbrae and Copeland Lighthouse in Northern Ireland.

The lighthouse was first lit on 1st October 1790. However, it was often shrouded in mist. In 1793, shortly after its construction, Thomas Smith set off on his third inspection voyage of lighthouses.  He visited Pladda and found it in good repair.  He reported that the shipmasters of Campbeltown wanted a further distinguishing light.

The smaller lighthouse was placed 20 feet below the main tower, and its lantern housed nine reflectors. The lower light also helped to distinguish it from other lights at Kintyre and Copeland in Northern Ireland.

Both towers displayed fixed lights initially.  The Low Light continued its service until 1901 when it was discontinued.  It still retains its square astragals in the lantern.

Smith also looked into building a harbour at Pladda. However, it was deemed to be too expensive, and supplies could be landed at Lamlash on Arran if the weather did not allow landing at Pladda. 

Five of the board’s early lights – Mull of Kintyre, Kinnaird Head, Eilean Glas, Pladda and Pentland Skerries were rebuilt between 1821 and 1830.  The Pladda Lights were rebuilt around 1827.

In 1870 trials were carried out using paraffin, and shortly afterwards in 1876, a fog signal was introduced.

Pladda Lighthouse

In 1901 a new hyper-radial optic was installed, and the character was changed from a fixed to group flashing light.  The hyper-radial optic was later removed, although its location now is unknown.

Reliefs of the lighthouse keepers were carried out by boat until 1972 when helicopters replaced these.

The families of the Pladda Lighthouse Keepers were housed at the shore station on the Main Road in Lamlash. 

The lighthouse was automated in 1990.

Further reading: Stargazing Memoires of a Young Lighthouse Keeper by Peter Hill.  Peter Hill was stationed at Pladda Lighthouse for a while.

Pladda LighthouseEstablished: 1790 Discontinued: Engineer: Thomas Smith Tower Height: 29 metres Light Character: Fl W (3) 30 s Range: 17 miles Fog Signal: Elevation: 40 metres Automated: 1990
Pladda Low LighthouseEstablished: 1790 Discontinued: Engineer: Thomas Smith Tower Height: 13 metres Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated: