Discover/explore the lighthouses of South West Scotland, which incorporates the Firth or Lorn, Islay and Jura, Argyll and Bute, Arran, Ayrshire, Firth of Clyde and Dumfries and Galloway.
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.
The Slate Islands are a group of islands which include Easdale, Seil, and Luing. They became known as the islands that roofed the world. Seil is accessed from the mainland by the Clachan Bridge, also known as the Bridge over the Atlantic, where the Firth of Lorn meets the Atlantic. The national stone-skimming championships take place each year at Easdale.
From Oban, the island of Luing (pronounced “Ling”) is accessible via the Cuan ferry. Luing is the largest of the Slate Islands, and from Cullipool Fladda Lighthouse is visible on its tiny slate island. The Atlantic Islands Centre in Cullipool has the former optic from Fladda Lighthouse. In addition, there is an interesting exhibition of Fladda Lighthouse and former lighthouse keepers.
Dubh Artach Lighthouse is around 15 miles southwest of the island of Erraid, off Mull; its name means Black Rock. The isolated lighthouse marks the treacherous Torran Rocks in the Firth of Lorn.
The island of Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides and the fifth-largest Scottish island. Known as the Whisky Isle, it is probably most famous for the number of whisky distilleries on the island. Rhinns of Islay Lighthouse overlooks the village of Portnahaven on the tiny island of Orsay, separated by a tidal race.
Further along the coast, near Port Charlotte, stands Loch Indaal Lighthouse, built in 1869. A short walk away is the village of Port Charlotte which houses the Museum of Islay Life.
Bowmore is the capital of Islay, and Port Ellen is the second largest town on the island, providing the main port. The square tower of Carraig Fhada Lighthouse stands guard to the western approach as ferries arrive on the island. The lighthouse was built as a monument to the wife of Walter Frederick Campbell, who founded the town.
On the eastern side of the coast, the short lighthouse of McArthur’s Head Lighthouse is perched on a cliff and is almost inaccessible other than by boat. The former cottages have since been demolished.
At the top of the sound stands the 100 feet tall lighthouse of Ruvaal, which was built to warn of the Neva Rocks west of the lighthouse.
Across the sound from Islay is the smaller island of Jura, with the mountainous Paps of Jura visible in the middle of the island. A ferry crosses the racing waters at Port Askaig. Skervuile Lighthouse guards the eastern side of Jura, beyond Craighouse, its former remote shore station just visible in Lowlandmans Bay.
At the northern end of Jura is the Corryvreckan Gulf, between the island and Scarba. At high water, huge whirlpools form from the undercurrents created by underwater stacks on the seabed.
Across the Sound of Jura, Crinan Lighthouse guards the entrance to the nine-mile-long Crinan Canal. The canal was built to connect with Ardrishaig and the Sound of Jura. It formed a shortcut for vessels travelling between the Inner Hebrides and the Clyde, avoiding the Kintyre Peninsula. There are some lovely walks along the canal, interspersed with the lock gates.
At the southern end of the Kintyre Peninsula, Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse perches high above the cliffs on the southwestern tip. There is a steep, winding road down to the lighthouse, which is over 300 feet above high water.
Off the end of Southend, on the southern tip of the peninsula, stands Sanda Lighthouse on the island of Sanda. This marks a turning point for vessels heading to and from the Clyde. The unusual lighthouse is perched on top of a rock, reached by two sets of external staircases.
Campbeltown was once an important whaling and coal trading town, but this has since diminished. Fishing is also in decline but is now a good base for sailing vessels. At the mouth of Campbeltown Loch, Davaar Island is accessible by the Dhorlin at low water, making it possible to walk across to the island. Davaar Lighthouse is located on the northern tip of the island and looks across the sound to the Island of Arran.
The Island of Arran is the largest in the Firth of Forth. Located off the west coast of Scotland, the Kintyre Peninsula shelters the island.
Arran is accessible during the summer from the Kintyre Peninsula via the Claonaig to Lochranza ferry.
The mainland connects to the island via the Brodick – Ardrossan Ferry.
At the southeastern end of Arran, the tiny island of Pladda lies offshore, guarding the Firth of Clyde and Kilbrannan Sound. Pladda Lighthouse is visible on the low-lying island, with its distinctive second tower at its base. Ailsa Craig, also known as Paddy’s Milestone, is visible on the horizon.
Since 1990 the island has been occupied by the Centre of World Peace and Health, and it is possible to visit for the day or a longer retreat. The Low Lighthouse is used as a long-term spiritual retreat. There is a beautiful walk around the island.
Toward Point Lighthouse is located near Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula and was built for the Clyde Lighthouses Trust.
Guarding the entrance to the Firth of Clyde, Little Cumbrae Island has had three lighthouses, the first built in 1757. The current Little Cumbrae Lighthouse was established in 1997, and the island is accessible by boat from nearby Largs.
Across the shore near Gourock is the distinctive Cloch Point Lighthouse, visible from the Dunoon to Gourock ferry. It is also easily visible from the main road.
Further up the River Clyde are two cast-iron lighthouses at Port Glasgow. Both are marked with a black and white chequered design marking a sharp bend in the Upper Clyde leading to Glasgow.
Just offshore from the golfing town of Troon stands Lady Isle in the Firth of Clyde. Lady Isle Lighthouse is visible from Troon Harbour and is a distinctive lighthouse with an external spiral staircase and vertical red stripe.
The harbour town of Ayr was once the primary port for western Scotland, divided by the River Ayr, which flows into the Firth of Clyde. There are four lighthouses in Ayr; two at the end of the north and south breakwaters and two range lights in the dock area.
Just along the coast is the distinctive Culzean Castle, now owned by the National Trust. A few miles further south is the golfing resort of Turnberry. Turnberry Lighthouse is located close to the ninth hole of the Turnberry Golf Course. The lighthouse is now owned by the golf complex, offering a luxury suite – much grander than the former keepers would have enjoyed!
There are magnificent views from here to Ailsa Craig, also known as Paddy’s Milestone. The island granite was quarried for the use of curling stones. Ailsa Craig Lighthouse is located on the southwestern corner of the island, and the two former fog turrets are still in situ, now silent. The magnificent former optic from the lighthouse is now on display at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh.
Loch Ryan is a natural sheltered harbour on the eastern side of the Rhinns of Galloway. Cairnryan Lighthouse stands guard at the northern end of Cairnryan along the eastern shores of the Loch. The ferries from Stranraer pass Corsewall Lighthouse, on the northwestern tip of the peninsula. Corsewall Lighthouse stands guard, offering hotel accommodation and a restaurant offering delicious meals. Well worth a visit for a meal even if you don’t stay there!
About halfway down the Rhinns of Galloway, Killantringan Lighthouse is located at Black Head. Now decommissioned, the lighthouse can be viewed from a great walk along the Southern Upland Way, starting in Portpatrick.
The pretty harbour town of Portpatrick was once the main mail route to Donaghadee in Ireland. Later the main route transferred to Stranraer. The now-decommissioned Portpatrick Lighthouse stands alongside the Lighthouse Pottery.
Heading south towards the Mull of Galloway, Port Logan is worth a visit, famous for its botanical gardens. A stone lighthouse stands at the end of the pier. Port Logan was the setting for the TV series Two Thousand Acres of Sky, filmed between 2001 and 2003, starring Michelle Collins and Paul Kaye.
Mull of Galloway Lighthouse is located at the southern end of the Rhinns of Galloway on the most southerly point of Scotland. From here are views across to Cumbria, Isle of Man and Ireland. There is a great visitor centre, and the Gallie Craig Coffee Shop is well worth a visit after your tour.
Along the southern coast of Galloway, Wigtown is Scotland’s Book town and worth a quick stop. The Isle of Whithorn Tower is a prominent landmark at the end of the headland. The area featured in some scenes of the cult film The Wicker Man. There is a memorial stone dedicated to the crew of the Solway Harvester, which was lost off the Isle of Man. Nearby, St Ninian’s Chapel, a 13th-century chapel, was a pilgrim stop-off point. The Southern Upland Way passes St Ninian’s Cave.
Guarding the entrance to Kirkcudbright Bay, Little Ross Lighthouse stands on Little Ross Island. It is perhaps most well known for being the site of the murder of a lighthouse keeper by his colleague. The former optic is now on display at the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright, which is worth a visit.
Bringing to an end our tour of south west Scotland lighthouses, standing on the rocky shoreline of the Solway Firth is Southerness Lighthouse. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Scotland, built in 1748.
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