Stromness Shore Station

Stromness Shore Station
Former Sule Skerry Shore Station
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The Stromness Shore Station on Ness Road formerly housed the four families and keepers of Sule Skerry Lighthouse. Sule Skerry is one of the most remote lighthouses in the UK, making accommodation for families unsuitable.  The shore station dwelling was built at the same time as the lighthouse in 1892 and continued to be used by the Sule Skerry families until automation in 1982. The large house with a double apex roof is almost identical to other shore station dwellings built at around the same time (Breasclete on Lewis, for Flannan Isle; Glenmore House, Oban, for Hyskeir; Port St Mary, Isle of Man, for Chicken Rock).  An entrance porch leads into the property, divided into four flats – two on each floor.

The distinctive two-storey building, set on generous grounds, was built in 1892 and is now a Category C listed building. The style is typical of NLB buildings, with buff-coloured quoins or masonry blocks at the corners. The main entrance porch has an NLB montage still visible.

Shore Station Porch
Photo: Patrick Tubby

A pathway just beyond the Ness Road cottages leads up to Guardhouse Park, where you can get a good view of the rear elevation of the shore station.

Shore station from Seaward
Sule Skerry Shore Station viewed from seaward
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Heading northwards, the road leads to Back Road. Three further blocks of cottages can be found here, seemingly built amongst other local authority dwellings in the 1950s.  These are less distinctive, but the external staircases to the first-floor flats give them away as NLB shore stations of that time – and as if to confirm their original use, the blocks are named Stroma, Copinsay and Pentland Skerries.  Again, each block is divided into four flats, and the design is almost identical to many other lighthouse dwellings across Scotland, from Shetland to Campbeltown and Portree to Edinburgh.

Shore Stations Stromness
The three shore stations for Stroma, Copinsay and Pentland Skerries

Stroma

The Stroma cottages were occupied by the families of Stroma Lighthouse from 1961 until its automation in 1996. The lighthouse, on a large island in the Pentland Firth, was established in 1896 and was a family station until 1961. This dwelling was originally used by the families of Auskerry Lighthouse during the Second World War until it was automated in 1961.

Stroma Shore Station
Stroma Shore Station

Copinsay

Built in 1915 in response to increased naval activity during the First World War, Copinsay Lighthouse was a family station until the 1950s. After this, the families were transferred to the Stromness shore station, which was occupied until 1991, when the lighthouse was automated.

Pentland Skerries

Pentland Skerries Lighthouse was established in 1794 and was a family station from that time until the 1950s. The families then moved to Stromness from the 1950s until 1994, when the lighthouse was automated.

Pentland Skerries Shore Station
Pentland Skerries Shore Station

The Fair Isle North and South Lighthouses were family stations between 1892 and 1978. They became rock-relieving in 1978 when the families were moved to the Stromness shore station. The Fair Isle North families occupied the shore station between 1978 and 1981. From 1991, the Fair Isle South families also occupied the buildings at Stromness. The dwellings were sold off by the Northern Lighthouse Board in the 1990s, but it is great that each block still retains its lighthouse name.

Stromness Lighthouse Depot

Along the road is the former Northern Lighthouse Board depot on Alfred Street. The depot, built in 1893, had a pier and storage sheds. It closed in 2004, and work now takes place out of the Oban depot. The NLB tender Pole Star was based at the Stromness depot until it closed.

Stromness Depot

The lighthouse depot, located at The Haven, was previously the premises for the Orkney Hudson’s Bay Company agents. The Northern Lighthouse Board purchased the site in 1937.

The Haven Blue Plaque

Orkney Islands Council bought the Pole Star Pier and associated buildings from the NLB in 2003.

The nearby Stromness Museum, with its extensive collection of lighthouse artefacts and archives, is also worth a visit.