Ve Skerries Lighthouse

Ve Skerries Lighthouse
Photo: John Best

Ve Skerries Lighthouse marks the western coast of Shetland.  It was the last significant rock station built by the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Located around three miles northwest of Papa Stoer is a low-lying cluster of tiny islands called the Ve Skerries.  The Skerries comprise North Skerry, Ormal, The Clubb, Reaverack and Helligoblo.  Ve Skerries Lighthouse is located on the western side of Ormal.  The currents here are unpredictable, and the skerries are low-lying.  In calm weather, they are fine but in stormy weather pose a real threat to shipping.  Many ships have been lost from striking the low-lying rocks.

A lighthouse was first considered as far back as 1863, but the extreme location and weather prevented attempts.  As a result, a lighted buoy was placed off the Ve Skerries.

From 1915 a temporary light around 9 miles northeast was shown at Esha Ness from a cast iron tower to warn of Ve Skerries.  Esha Ness Lighthouse was built in 1929. 

Ve Skerries
Photo: John Best

Despite the new lighthouse at Esha Ness, the Ben Doran, an Aberdeen steam trawler, was wrecked on Ve Skerries in March 1930 with the loss of all crew.  A memorial to the crew is in Sandness churchyard.

Following the disaster, in June 1932, a gas-powered buoy with wave operated whistle was positioned off the northern end of the reef.

With the increase in shipping for the Sullom Voe oil terminal, a lighthouse was deemed necessary.

Another Aberdeen trawler, the Elinor Viking, was lost on 9th December 1977.  The vessel was wrecked on the eastern side of Reaverack and prompted the need for a lighthouse.

R J MacKay designed Ve Skerries Lighthouse which first came into operation on 27th September 1979.  It was designed as an automatic minor light. 

Ve Skerries Lighthouse
Photo: John Best

Construction took only four months, with the use of helicopters.  The materials and equipment were flown from the site at Esha Ness, around 9 miles away.

The lighthouse design used pre-cast and reinforced concrete and a post-tensioned system.  18 steel bars positioned in two rings are anchored 3 to 5 metres into the rock.

The lighthouse was nominated to become a Category B listed building in 2020. 

Established: 1979
Tower Height: 16 metres
Light Character: Fl (2) W 20s
Light Range: 11 miles
Elevation: 17 metres