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Lighthouses of North West Scotland

Discover and explore the lighthouses of  North West Scotland, the North West Highland region, Isle of Skye, Small Isles, Oban and Firth of Lorn.


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Please note that some of these lighthouses offer holiday accommodation or may be privately owned.  Please take care not to trespass or drive on private property.

Lighthouses of North West Scotland

Highland

Scotland’s most northerly mainland has a spectacular coastline. With views across to Orkney along the northern coastline, there are rugged cliffs, caves and miles of deserted sandy beaches. The Highland region covers a vast area of North East and North West Scotland, and the lighthouses are in some impressive locations.

Strathy Point headland juts out from the northern coastline.  Caves around the headland have been carved by the sea, and Strathy Bay is to the east. Strathy Point Lighthouse was built in 1958, the last of the traditional lighthouses to be built by the Northern Lighthouse Board.  It was automated in 1997 and decommissioned in 2012.  The cottages were sold to individual private buyers, and some are now available to rent.

Strathy Point
Strathy Point

From Strathy Point, there are views across towards Dunnet Head, Cape Wrath and Orkney.

Beyond Torrisdale and Skerray, the road diverts from the coastline towards Tongue, set back from the shore.  A causeway road crosses the beautiful Kyle of Tongue, offering breathtaking panoramic views.

Passing the edge of Loch Hope, the next major inlet is Loch Eriboll, which is around 10 miles long. It is one of the deepest lochs on the western coast, sheltered by steep hills. During the Second World War, North Atlantic convoys assembled here nicknamed it “Loch Orrible”.   German U-boats surrendered to the British Navy here.   It is actually a pretty place, so its name is a little unfounded in my opinion! 

Along the shores are the Ard Neakie Lime Kilns and Loch Eriboll Lighthouse. Below the lighthouse is the white scar of calcium carbide, the product of acetylene production used for lighting.  It was built in 1937 and engineered by David A Stevenson.

Heading west is Durness, which stands on grassy limestone bluffs. Nearby is the famous Smoo Cave, 200ft long and 110 feet wide.  Allt Smoo, a burn, flows 80 feet down into an open vertical shaft into a second chamber with a pool.  A third chamber extends to a further 120 feet.  Experienced potholers can only reach the latter two.

Smoo Cave
Smoo Cave

To the west of Durness, a small ferry crosses the Kyle of Durness, leading to the most northwesterly point of mainland Britain.  A minibus takes you to Cape Wrath along an 11-mile road.  The route takes about an hour, passing over MOD firing ranges and narrow bridges.  It is advisable to book in advance and check that firing is not taking place. 

Cape Wrath is the turning point for vessels, and here the headland rises to 360 feet.  The Black Cliff rises 850 feet from the sea on the southeastern side.  Cape Wrath Lighthouse was built in 1828 and designed by Robert Stevenson. Due to its remoteness, it became the first shore-based lighthouse to have helicopter reliefs in 1977. The long journey is worthwhile, and you will find the Ozone Cafe, one of the UK’s remotest cafes here, and also a small bothy.

Cape Wrath Lighthouse
Cape Wrath Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Further south, the coastline is rugged, with many lochs and inlets. South of the Kylescu Ferry are the Eas a Chual Aluinn waterfalls, the highest in Britain, with a drop of around 650 feet.  They can be reached via a challenging three-mile walk from Ullapool or via a boat trip.

The next major promontory from Kylescu is Stoer Head.  Stoer is a beautiful headland with beaches and wildlife. It is a popular area for walkers, and there is a parking area close to the lighthouse, looking out over the Minch towards Lewis.  Stoer Head Lighthouse was built in 1870 and automated in 1978, and it is possible to stay there.  A few miles north of the lighthouse is the Old Man of Stoer, a spectacular sea stack reached via a clifftop walk.

Stoer Head Lighthouse
Stoer Head Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

If you get the chance, call in at Lochinver, a pretty fishing village with a lifeboat and an amazing pie shop! En route will also see the impressive mountain of Suilven in Assynt.

The fishing town of Ullapool has the longest sea loch in the northwest highlands.   The town is sheltered along the side of Loch Broom, and ferries cross to Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides.

Rounding Loch Ewe, the romantically-named Isle of Ewe stands in the centre.  During the Second World War, North Atlantic convoys assembled here.  An anti-submarine boom stretched across the entrance to the loch.  There is still a Royal Navy presence here at Mellon Charles on the eastern side of the loch.

Rua Reidh
Rua Reidh Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

From Gairloch, the road extends through Melvaig and onto a private road to  Rua Reidh Lighthouse.  The lighthouse is on the northwestern tip of Wester Ross and was built in 1853 by David Stevenson.  It is possible to stay at the cottages here.  Gairloch Heritage Centre is well worth a visit.  The visitor centre houses the former Rua Reidh Lighthouse optic and foghorn apparatus. 

Further south, The Ardnamurchan peninsula is the most westerly point in mainland Britain.  It juts out around 23 miles further into the Atlantic than Land’s End. Ardnamurchan Lighthouse stands at the end of the peninsula, looking out to the Outer Hebrides on a clear day.  Built in 1849 and automated in 1988, there is a lighthouse visitor centre and cafe. 

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse 
North West Scotland
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

Isle of Skye

The pretty town of Kyle of Lochalsh connects Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye via the Skye Bridge. Eilean Ban Lighthouse cottages were once owned by conservationist and author Gavin Maxwell, and you can stay in his cottage. 

Eilean Ban Lighthouse
Eilean Ban Lighthouse

Eilean Ban Lighthouse was built to mark the channel between the island and the Isle of Skye, and two keepers lived on the island in the keepers’ cottages.  With the building of the Skye Bridge in 1993, it was discontinued.  The Eilean Ban Trust now owns the cottages, and tours are available to the island.

The island of Raasay runs parallel with the eastern shores of Skye. Former Lighthouse Keeper Calum MacLeod spent nearly 15 years building a two-mile-long road by hand.  It was named Calum’s Road, and his venture is recorded in the excellent book Calum’s Road.

At the northern end of Raasay is the Island of Rona.  Rona Lighthouse is located at the northern end, close to a military installation. It is also referred to as South Rona Lighthouse to avoid confusion with North Rona Lighthouse north of the Outer Hebrides.

South Rona Lighthouse
South Rona Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The former shore station for the Rona Lighthouse Keepers families is located in Portree. The cottages were built in the 1950s and occupied by the families until automation took place in 1975.  Between 1975 and 1990, the families of Neist Point Lighthouse lived in the cottages.

Along a narrow promontory, Neist Point Lighthouse stands on Skye’s westernmost shores. The lighthouse is located at the edge of impressive cliffs overlooking the Little Minch.  Neist Point is accessible via a three-quarter mile walk along the promontory.  It is quite steep in places and passes dramatic towering cliffs.

Neist Point
Neist Point Lighthouse

Along the shores of the Sleat peninsula is the island of Isle Ornsay.  Walking out to the island at low water with care is possible. On the southeastern shore of Ornsay is the islet of Eilean Sionnach, where Isle Ornsay Lighthouse stands. The cottages nearby are available to stay in, and there is some spectacular scenery across the Sound of Sleat.  Like those at Eilean Ban, these cottages were also owned for a while by Gavin Maxwell.

Isle Ornsay
Isle Ornsay Lighthouse

Heading down the coast of the Isle of Sleat on the mainland are Glenelg and Sandaig.  In the summer, the Glenelg ferry crosses the narrows here to Kylerhea in Skye. The former Sandaig Lighthouse was moved to the ferry terminal when replaced by the current Sandaig Lighthouse.  The operational lighthouse is on Eilean Mor, the largest of the group of Sandaig Islands.  It was from Sandaig that Gavin Maxwell wrote Ring of Bright Water.  Tragically, his cottage burned down, and one of his beloved otters was killed.

Small Isles

The Small Isles are an archipelago of islands south of Skye, Ardnamurchan and Mull.  There are four main islands; Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna.  Canna has a minor lighthouse located on its southern side. 

To the southwest of Canna is the tiny island of Hyskeir. Hyskeir Lighthouse is known for its three-hole golf course, built by the lighthouse keepers.

Hyskeir
Hyskeir Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Loch Linnhe and Firth of Lorn

Heading inland from Ardnamurchan, Corran Point is at the end of Loch Linnhe at the Corran Narrows.  From here, the Caledonian Canal reaches Fort William to Inverness.  Close to the Corran Ferry is Corran Lighthouse, built in 1860, and a new sector light was built nearby in 2021 at Rubha Cuil-Cheanna.

Corran Lighthouse
Corran Lighthouse

Guarding the entrance to Loch Linnhe in the Firth of Lorn is  Lismore Lighthouse.  It is visible from passing ferries from Oban to Mull and the other islands. Lismore Lighthouse stands on the small island of Eilean Musdile, separated from the larger island of Lismore by a small channel.  The light assists navigation into Loch Linnhe and the Caledonian Canal.

Beyond Lismore, in the busy Firth of Lorn, is the lighthouse of Lady’s Rock, named after the wife of one of the Lords of Duart.  She was stranded on the rock for wrongdoing and was rescued by a fisherman. 

Black’s Tower, on the eastern coast of Mull, has a light and is sometimes called Duart Point Lighthouse.

Lismore Lighthouse
Lismore Lighthouse

Loch Linnhe opens to the Firth of Lorn at its southwestern end.  Just off Port Appin is the little island of Sgeir Bhuidhe, with its modern white lighthouse.  This tower replaced a previous lighthouse, the lantern of which now forms a mini museum in Port Appin. There was much controversy when the Northern Lighthouse Board announced its replacement with a modern fibreglass structure.  The locals objected to this. It was painted pink with yellow spots overnight by protestors and became known as the Mr Blobby Lighthouse.  The NLB hastily arranged to have it repainted!

Oban

The busy town of Oban is bustling with ferries, fishing boats and yachts. The granite folly of McCaig’s Tower overlooks the harbour dominating the town’s skyline. 

Dunollie Lighthouse, Oban
Dunollie Lighthouse

To the north of the town, at the end of the Corran Esplanade near Dunollie Castle, is Dunollie Lighthouse.  It marks the entrance to Oban Bay and the Sound of Kerrera.   The island of Kerrera opposite shelters the harbour.

At the southern end of Oban Harbour is the Northern Lighthouse Board depot. The depot serves the western lighthouses and is the base for lighthouse vessels NLV Pharos and NLV Pole Star.

Pharos at Oban Depot
NLB Depot at Oban
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The former lighthouse shore station at Pulpit Rock is a little further up the hill from the depot.  This row of houses and another one nearby served a number of lighthouse families.  These included Skerryvore, Dubh Artach, Hyskeir and Lismore Lighthouses.

On the northern shores of the Isle of Mull is the pretty town of Tobermory, its harbour lined with colourful painted houses.  Just beyond is Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse and its row of cottages, which you can stay in.  The lighthouse is accessible by foot, and it is a lovely walk through the woods to get to the lighthouse.

Rubha nan Gall
Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Close to the southwestern tip of Mull is a tiny island connected to the mainland at low water. Robert Louis Stevenson visited the island of Erraid during the construction of Dubh Artach Lighthouse. A row of stone cottages was the shore station for the keepers of Dubh Artach Lighthouse and later for the Skerryvore Lighthouse families.  An observation tower was built on the hill at Cnoc Mor. This tower was used to check that Dubh Artach and Skerryvore Lighthouses were OK, and signals could be sent if there were any problems.

Coll and Tiree

The islands of Coll and Tiree lie to the west of Mull.  The ferry from Oban arrives in Gott Bay, and the Scarinish minor light is close by.

Hynish Signal Tower
Hynish Signal Tower

At the southern end of the island is Hynish. At Hynish, a signal tower and a row of lighthouse cottages were built for the keepers and families of Skerryvore Lighthouse.  The signal tower was used to signal to the lighthouse keepers to ensure that all was in order.  Tiree was also the base for building Skerryvore Lighthouse, and a quay was built here.  The families later moved to Erraid with the Dubh Artach families and then later to Oban.

In 1982 the Hebridean Trust took over the buildings at Hynish and run an excellent museum.

Skerryvore Lighthouse
Skerryvore Lighthouse
Patrick Tubby

Skerryvore Lighthouse is located on a rocky reef around 11 miles south of Tiree and was built in 1844. Robert Louis Stevenson once described it as the “noblest of all extant deep-sea lights”, and it certainly is an impressive sight close-up.


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