Lighthouses of Scotland: Western Isles

This page covers lighthouses of the Western Isles of Scotland, often called the Outer Hebrides. The islands extend in a chain from north northeast to south southwest, separated from the Highlands mainland by a sound called the Minch, from the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides by a strait called the Little Minch, and from the southern Inner Hebrides by a bay called the Sea of the Hebrides. The largest islands are Lewis and Harris (actually a single island), North Uist, and South Uist. Administratively, the islands form a council area called Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. The population is about 26,000.

The lighthouses of the Inner Hebrides appear on the Highlands and Argyll and Bute pages.

The islands are accessible by air or by Caledonian MacBrayne ferries from various locations in western Scotland. The four light stations reasonably accessible without a boat are all on or close to the Isle of Lewis, which is accessible by ferry from Ullapool in the northern Highlands or from Uig on the Isle of Skye.

The Northern Lighthouse Board manages all the lighthouses of the Western Isles except for the harbor lights of Stornoway, the largest town of the islands. Scottish Gaelic is commonly spoken in the islands. The Scottish Gaelic phrase for a lighthouse is taigh solais; eilean is an island, sgeir is a skerry or rock, and rubha or àird is a cape or promontory. Na h-Eileanan Siar is the Gaelic name for the Western Isles.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from Volume A of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA numbers are from Publication 114.

General Sources
Northern Lighthouse Board - Lighthouse Library
The Board's web site includes information and photos for many of the lighthouses.
Michael's Comprehensive List of Scottish Lights
Data and photos posted by Michael Spencer.
Online List of Lights - Scotland
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas.
Lighthouses in Scotland, United Kingdom
Aerial photos posted by Marinas.com.
Lighthouse Beacons from Scotland
Photos and very brief accounts posted by Sharma Krauskopf for her e-journal Scottish Radiance.
Petra's Scotland Pages - Lighthouse List
Photos posted by a German visitor.
Lighthouses in the Outer Hebrides
Photos available from Wikimedia.
Britische Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard images posted by Klaus Huelse.
The Stevensons
The history of Scotland's remarkable family of lighthouse engineers, posted by David Taylor.

Butt of Lewis Light
Butt of Lewis Light, Port of Ness, June 2009
Wikimedia Creative Commons photo by Zenit


Arnish Point Light, Stornoway, June 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Jim Brodie

Rona and Sula Sgeir Lighthouses
Rona (Toa Rona, Rònaigh, North Rona)
1984. Active; focal plane 114 m (374 ft); three white flashes, separated by 3.1 s, every 20 s. 13 m (42 ft) lantern atop a square equipment building, painted white. Two other small buildings are nearby. Charles Tait has a good photo and a second photo, Roddy MacDonald has a very distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Rona is an uninhabited island roughly 70 km (45 mi) north northeast of the Butt of Lewis; it is often called North Rona to distinguish it from another Rona (which also has a lighthouse) in the Inner Hebrides (see the Highlands page). Located atop a hill at the northeastern end of the island. Accessible only by helicopter or by boat in difficult seas (boats can be chartered from Lewis). Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. Site manager: Rona and Sula Sgeir National Nature Reserve. ARLHS SCO-153; Admiralty A3869; NGA 3574.
Sula Sgeir
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 74 m (243 ft); white flash every 15 s. 5 m (17 ft) square 1-story metal structure, painted white. John MacFarlane has a photo, a 2007 photo and a distant view of the island are available, and Google has a satellite view. Sula Sgeir is a small, rocky island about 70 km north of the Butt of Lewis and 20 km (12.5 mi) west southwest of Rona. The island is known for its seabird breeding colonies, especially the gannets (sula) for which it is named. Located atop a steep bluff at the southwestern end of the island. Accessible only by boat in difficult seas (boats can be chartered from Lewis). Site and tower closed. Site manager: Rona and Sula Sgeir National Nature Reserve. ARLHS SCO-230; Admiralty A3870; NGA 3572.

Lewis (Leòdhas) Lighthouses
Note: Lewis and Harris are regions of a single island, Lewis being the larger and northern section. More than half the population of the Western Isles lives in Lewis.
[Aird Laimishader (Loch Carloway) (2?)]
Date unknown (station established 1892). Active; focal plane 63 m (207 ft); white flash every 6 s. 5 m (17 ft) square skeletal tower, the upper portion enclosed with white panels. Spencer has a page with several photos, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a headland on the north side of the entrance to Loch Carloway, on the west coast of Lewis. Site status unknown. ARLHS SCO-040; Admiralty A4032; NGA 3916.
* Butt Of Lewis (Rubha Robhanais)
1862 (David and Thomas Stevenson). Active; focal plane 52 m (170 ft); white flash every 5 s. 37 m (120 ft) brick tower with lantern and gallery. The lighthouse is unpainted red brick (unusual for Scotland) with buff trim; the lantern is painted black. 2-story keeper's house and other light station buildings. The tower also carries antennas for the Differential Global Positioning Service (DGPS). A photo appears above, Trabas has a closeup by Ian Wright, David Purchase has a 2010 photo, Wikimedia has many photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. This was one of the last Scottish lighthouses to be automated, in 1998. The 150th anniversary of the light was celebrated on 15 October 2012. Located at the northernmost tip of the island, about 5 km (3 mi) northwest of Port Ness; this is reputed to be the windiest place in the United Kingdom. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-027; Admiralty A3968; NGA 3820.
* Tiumpan Head (Rubha Tiompan)
1900 (David A. and Charles Stevenson). Active; focal plane 55 m (180 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 21 m (69 ft) masonry tower with lantern and gallery attached to 1- and 2-story keeper's houses. Lighthouse painted white with buff trim; lantern painted black. The keeper's houses are now occupied by a kennel and cattery. Dick Davies's photo appears at right, Gordon Wilson has a good photo, Wikimedia has several photos, Trabas has Kees Aalbersberg's view from the sea, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the Eye Peninsula about 14 km (9 mi) northeast of Stornoway. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. Site manager: Tiumpan Head Kennels & Cattery. ARLHS SCO-242; Admiralty A3972; NGA 3824.
* Arnish Point
1853 (Alan Stevenson). Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); flash every 10 s, white or red depending on direction. 14 m (46 ft) cylindrical masonry tower, painted white; lantern painted black. 1-story keeper's house. Jim Brodie's photo is at the top of this page, Trabas has an excellent closeup by Ian Wright, Phil Smith has a closeup, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a headland on the west side of the entrance to Stornoway Harbour, about 5 km (3 mi) south of town. The area is accessible by road; a short walk may be needed to reach the lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-010; Admiralty A3976; NGA 3828.
[Milaid Point (Gob na Milaid) (2)]
Date unknown (station established 1912). Active; focal plane 17 m (56 ft); white flash every 15 s. 7 m (24 ft) square skeletal tower, the upper portion enclosed with white panels. John Maclennan has a closeup photo, and Google has a fuzzy satellite view. Located on a headland on the east coast of Lewis, about 6 km (3.5 mi) east of Leumrabhagh. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-136; Admiralty A3984; NGA 3860.
Tiumpan Head
Tiumpan Head Light, Aird, August 2004
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Dick Davies
Rubh Uisenis
1885 (station established 1857). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 5 s. 7 m (23 ft) round cylindrical tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. John Maclennan has a 1990 photo, and Google has a satellite view. The light guides ships through the strait between the Shiant Islands and the southeastern coast of the Isle of Lewis. According to Spencer, this is "perhaps the most remote of land-based lighthouses in Britain." Located on a headland about 15 km (9 mi) northeast of Scalpay. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-192; Admiralty A3986; NGA 3864.

Harris (Hearadh) and Scalpay (Sgalpaigh) Lighthouses
* Eilean Glas (2)
1824 (Robert Stevenson). Station established 1789. Active; focal plane 43 m (141 ft); three white flashes, separated by 2 s, every 20 s. 30 m (98 ft) masonry tower with lantern and gallery attached to a 1-story keeper's house. The 2nd order Fresnel lens (1907) is on display as the Science Museum in South Kensington, London. Lighthouse painted with horizontal red and white bands; lantern painted black. This is Scotland's fourth oldest light station and the oldest on the west coast. Simon Stewart's photo is at right, Trabas has an excellent closeup photo, Charles Tait also has photos, Marinas.com has aerial photos, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and Google has a satellite view. The light station was sold in 1984 to Brenda and Robert Ford-Sagers. In 1996, Ms. Ford-Sagers created a trust called Friends of Eilean Glas and sold the lighthouse to the trust for £50,000. Unfortunately the trust was not properly set up, leading to a lengthy court case concerning the status of the property. In 2006, however, an appeals court reversed lower court rulings and confirmed the trust's ownership. A postcard view of the original lighthouse and an account of its history are available. Located on a small island (accessible at low tide) at the eastern end of Scalpay, a island in the mouth of East Loch Tarbert. Accessible by a hike of about 3 km (2 mi) roundtrip from the end of the road southeast of Scalpay village. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-069; Admiralty A3990; NGA 3868.
Sgeir Ghlas
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 9 m (29 ft); white, red, or green light depending on direction, 2 s on, 2 s off. 5.5 m (18 ft) cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. Trabas has a photo by Ian Wright, Richard Webb has a 2009 photo, Spencer has a good photo, Colin Kinnear also has a photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located on a small island in East Loch Tarbert about 5 km (3 mi) southeast of Tarbert. Accessible only by boat; good views from ferries between Tarbert and Uig on the Isle of Skye. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-207; Admiralty A3993; NGA 3876.
Eilean Glas Light
Eilean Glas Light, Scalpay, June 2005
Geograph Creative Commons photo by Simon Stewart
* Leverburgh (Laimhrig Mhor, Hebrides Beacon)
Date unknown. Inactive. 9 m (30 ft) octagonal concrete tower with lantern, painted white. Spencer has a page with excellent photos, Ian Wright has a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. Information is needed on the history of this lighthouse, which was replaced by a mast light on the ferry pier. The tower continues in use as the rear beacon of a day range. Located on the west side of the harbor entrance in Leverburgh, on Harris Sound at the southern end of the Isle of Harris. Site open, tower closed. Owner/site manager: unknown. ARLHS SCO-346; ex-Admiralty A3994.5.

Flannan Isles (Na h-Eileanan Flannach) Lighthouse
Flannan Islands (Eilean Mor)
1899 (D. Alan Stevenson). Active; focal plane 101 m (330 ft); two white flashes, separated by 5.5 s, every 30 s. 23 m (75 ft) masonry tower with lantern and gallery attached to a 1-story keeper's house. Clamshell Fresnel lens. Lighthouse painted white with buff trim; lantern painted black. Peter Standing's photo is at right, Charles Tait has excellent photos, a 1993 photo is available, Huelse has a historic postcard view, and the shadow of the tower is seen in a Google satellite view. This light station was the scene of a mysterious disaster in December 1900, when all three keepers disappeared; the 1980 opera The Lighthouse, by Peter Maxwell Davies, is based on this incident. Lighthouse Digest has a July 2005 article on the disappearance. The Flannan Isles are a group of small uninhabited islands in the Atlantic about 35 km (22 mi) west of the Isle of Lewis; the Gaelic name means "the Seven Hunters." Located atop the largest of the islands. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-084; Admiralty A4028; NGA 3912.
Flannan Islands Light
Flannan Islands Light, July 2008
Geograph Creative Commons photo by Peter Standing

North Uist Lighthouses
Note: The islands of North Uist and South Uist are joined by causeways. The islands are thinly populated, having a total population of about 3000.
Haskeir
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 44 m (144 ft); white flash every 20 s. 9 m (30 ft) round cylindrical white fiberglass tower with lantern and gallery. A 2010 photo and a closeup are available, George Brown has a 2005 view, and Bing has a satellite view. Located on a rocky islet about 13 km (8 mi) west of the northwestern point of North Uist. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-324; Admiralty A4020.3; NGA 3954.
Shillay (Siolaigh, Monach Isles)
1864 (David and Thomas Stevenson). Reactivated (inactive 1942-2008); focal plane 47 m (154 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 41 m (133 ft) unpainted brick tower with lantern and gallery attached to 2-story keeper's house. The Fresnel lens was removed in 1997 and is on display at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh. The original clockwork mechanism was removed in 2008 and will be displayed with the lens after it is restored. Charles Tait has several photos of the light station, Bob Jones has a distant photo, Trabas has Kees Aalbersberg's view from the sea, and Bing has a satellite view. There was no light on the island from 1942 until 1997, when an active light was established on a 5.5 m (18 ft) skeletal tower on the southeast coast of the island about 250 m (800 ft) from the historic station. However, in July 2008 NLB announced that to increase the range of the light it was being moved back into the historic lighthouse. The lighthouse was reactivated on 25 July 2008. The Monach Isles (Eilean Heisgeir) are small islands, unhabited since 1942, about 11 km (7 mi) southwest of the western point of North Uist. Located on Shillay (Siolaigh), a small island at the western end of the group. Accessible only by boat. Site and tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-137; Admiralty A4020.5; NGA 3955.

South Uist Lighthouse
Ushenish
1857 (David and Thomas Stevenson). Active; focal plane 54 m (176 ft); flash every 20 s, white or red depending on direction. 12 m (39 ft) cylindrical masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Tower painted white, watch room buff, lantern black. 1-story keeper's houses and other buildings enclosed by a stone wall. A photo is at right, Charles Tait has a photo showing the isolated situation of this station, Neil King has an aerial photo, Trabas has Kees Aalbersberg's distant view from the sea, and Google has a satellite view of the station. Located on the easternmost point of South Uist, about 7 km (4.5 mi) southeast of Loch Sgioport. Accessible only by boat; an unpaved road leads to the light station from a sheltered landing point. Site and tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-249; Admiralty A4004; NGA 3900.

Barra Lighthouse
Barra Head (Berneray)
1833 (Robert Stevenson). Active; focal plane 208 m (683 ft); white flash every 15 s. 18 m (60 ft) masonry tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 1-story keeper's house. Lighthouse painted white, lantern black. This historic lighthouse marks the entrance from the Atlantic to the Sea of the Hebrides. Charles Tait has excellent photos, an account of a recent visit is available, and Google has a satellite view. The light station is located atop spectacular vertical cliffs on the narrow western spine of Berneray, southernmost of the Western Isles. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board. ARLHS SCO-016; Admiralty A4020; NGA 3952.
Ushenish Light
Ushenish Light, South Uist, February 2008
Flickr photo copyright billynxn; used by permission

Information available on lost lighthouses:

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Notable faux lighthouses:

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Adjoining pages: East: Highlands | South: Argyll and Bute

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Posted October 2004. Checked and revised August 26, 2013. Lighthouses: 15. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.