Sule Skerry Lighthouse is located on a remote island 35 miles north of mainland Scotland and 40 miles west of mainland Orkney. It was the UK’s most remote manned lighthouse.
Vessels crossing through the Pentland Firth pass the island of Sule Skerry. The island is 45 feet above sea level and almost out of sight from any land. Sule Stack is about four miles away and is 140 feet high.
Construction on the lighthouse began in 1892. Work could only be carried out during the summer months due to the harsh conditions, so it took until 1894 before the lighthouse was completed. Sule Skerry Lighthouse was designed by David A and Charles Stevenson and stands in the middle of the island on the highest point.
The lantern housed had a huge hyper-radial optic. A fourth-order optic later replaced it. The hyper-radial lens is now in storage at the Granton storage facility in Edinburgh.
It is reported that pigeon post was trialled as a communication method to the lighthouse. Perhaps unsurprisingly this was unsuccessful!
In 1929 the first two permanent radio beacons were established at Kinnaird Head and Sule Skerry. These beacons transmitted bearings continuously in poor visibility. In fair weather, the transmissions were made at half-hour intervals. This signal assisted vessels in obtaining direction bearings for navigation.
In February 1942 an enemy plane dropped three bombs on the island, landing close to the lighthouse. Fortunately, none of the keepers were injured and only minimal damage was sustained. A floating mine exploded when it drifted ashore on 18th November 1944.
The Northern Lighthouse Board tender Pole Star carried out monthly reliefs for the lighthouse keepers. Reliefs were often delayed due to bad weather, but from 1973 helicopter reliefs were introduced.
The families of the keepers lived at a shore station in Stromness until automation took place in December 1982.
A remote buoy sends weather data to the Met Office Marine Automatic Weather Station (MAWS).
Sule Skerry is home to puffins, gannets and storm petrels, and is a Special Protection Area.
There are some great photos of the lighthouse and details of a visit on the UK Lighthouse Tour website.