Scottish Lighthouses: the most spectacular lights on the Scottish coast

8th June 2023

Scotland is a country with a long and rich maritime history, and its coastline is dotted with lighthouses that have guided mariners safely to shore for centuries. From the towering towers of the Outer Hebrides to the quaint cottages of the Firth of Forth, there are lighthouses to suit all tastes and interests.

Some of the most spectacular lighthouses in Scotland include:

  • Ailsa Craig Lighthouse: This iconic lighthouse sits atop the Ailsa Craig, a volcanic rock island in the Firth of Clyde. The lighthouse was built in 1886 and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Scotland.
  • Butt of Lewis Lighthouse: This remote lighthouse is located on the northern tip of the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The lighthouse was built in 1862 by David Stevenson, son of lighthouse engineer Robert Stevenson, whose birthday we celebrate today, and is one of the most isolated lighthouses in Scotland.
  • Kinnaird Head Lighthouse: This lighthouse is located on the northern tip of the Moray Firth and is one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland. The lighthouse was built in 1690 and is a designated Category A listed building.
  • Sumburgh Head Lighthouse: This lighthouse is located on the southern tip of the Shetland Islands and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Shetlands. Construction of the lighthouse began in 1819 and it was completed in 1821.

History of Scottish Lighthouses

The history of Scottish lighthouses dates back to the 14th century, when the first lighthouse was built on the island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth. This lighthouse was built by King Robert the Bruce to help guide ships safely through the treacherous waters of the firth.

In the centuries that followed, many more lighthouses were built along the Scottish coast. These lighthouses were built by a variety of different organizations, including the Northern Lighthouse Board, the Trinity House of Leith, and the Commissioners of Northern Lights.

The Northern Lighthouse Board is the oldest and largest lighthouse authority in the world. It was founded in 1786 and is responsible for the maintenance of over 200 lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The Trinity House of Leith is a charitable organization that was founded in 1606. It is responsible for the maintenance of over 20 lighthouses in Scotland and the North Sea.

The Commissioners of Northern Lights is a government agency that was founded in 1836. It is responsible for the maintenance of over 100 lighthouses in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Role of Lighthouses in Scottish History

Lighthouses have played an important role in Scottish history. They have helped to guide mariners safely to shore for centuries, and they have also played a role in the development of Scottish trade and commerce.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, lighthouses were essential for the growth of the Scottish fishing industry. Lighthouses helped to guide fishermen safely to their fishing grounds, and they also helped to protect them from the dangers of the sea.

Lighthouses also played an important role in the development of Scottish tourism. In the 19th century, many tourists began to visit Scotland to see its stunning scenery and its historic monuments. Lighthouses were often included on these tourist itineraries, and they helped to promote Scotland as a tourist destination.

The Future of Scottish Lighthouses

Today, lighthouses are still an important part of Scottish maritime safety. However, the way that lighthouses are operated has changed in recent years. In the past, lighthouses were manned by lighthouse keepers, who have often put their lives at risk to keep mariners safe. A crew was washed away by a storm at Flannan Isles lighthouse in 1900, and in one famous case, a lighthouse keeper was found dead at Little Ross in 1960. However, today, most lighthouses are automated. This means that they are operated by computer systems, and they do not require a human presence.

The automation of lighthouses has had a number of benefits. It has made lighthouses more efficient and cost-effective to operate. It has also made lighthouses safer, as there is no longer a need for lighthouse keepers to live and work in isolated and dangerous locations.

The future of Scottish lighthouses is bright. They will continue to play an important role in maritime safety, and they will also continue to be a popular tourist attraction.


FREE Scotland history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Scotland's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want.