Skerryvore Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland, at 156 feet high. The imposing tower stands on a jagged reef about 11 miles southwest of Tiree, lying between the Hebrides and northern coast of Ireland.
The name Skerryvore comes from the Gaelic sgeir (rock) and mhor (big). Robert Louis Stevenson described the lighthouse as “the noblest of all extant deep-sea lights”.
A large number of wrecks made the need for a lighthouse here quite urgent. The island of Tiree was chosen as a base for the construction of Skerryvore Lighthouse.
On Tiree, the Hynish work yard became the shore station for the keepers and their families for Skerryvore Lighthouse.
Between 1836 and 1837, quarries were opened, and a pier was constructed at Hynish. Alan Stevenson was appointed Clerk of Works for the Commissioners of Northern Lights. A wooden barrack was built for the workmen on the reef. A steam tender was also built to tow the stone lighters between the work yard and the rock.
The men had only 165 hours of work on the reef in the first season, but the sixty-foot barrack was constructed before it ended. However, by November, it had been washed away, and work had to start over again the following season.
Whilst work was carried out on the reef, at Hynish, each stone was carefully cut and fitted in its place course by course. Each course was placed on a platform in the work yard before being shipped to the rock.
In April 1840, the third season began with over 60 masons now employed at Hynish. Over 20,000 cubic feet of granite was dressed and prepared between April and October. At the main quarry at Loch Loich on Mull, over 2,500 blocks were cut. Sometimes as many as 95 blocks a day would be carved at Hynish, and as many as 80 craftsmen worked through the winter.
On 26th September 1843, the lighting apparatus was installed. On 23rd November, the lamp was pointed towards the lookout tower at Hynish and lit for an experimental two hours. Skerryvore was first officially lit on 1st February 1844.
Built of granite from Mull, a signal tower at Hynish in Tiree served to communicate with Skerryvore Lighthouse. In 1892 the tower was discontinued. Additional cottages were built at Erraid. The Skerryvore families then moved to Erraid to join the Dubh Artach families.
On 16th March 1954, the local people of Tiree raised the alarm as they noticed that the Skerryvore Lighthouse was in flames. The keepers had escaped the burning tower and had spent the night huddled on the rock, to be rescued the following morning.
Temporary lights were established due to the extensive damage caused to the lighthouse. It was to be 1959 before the lighthouse was fully back in service.
Skerryvore Lighthouse was automated in 1994.