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Light's of the West Coast of Scotland

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For the Safety of All
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© Composted by:
Bob Schrage
updated: 25-10-2018

Stoer Head



Lighthouse plaque

Place of the lighthouse

Stoer Head (In Scottish Gaelic: Rubha Stòr) is a point of land north of Lochinver in Sutherland, NW Scotland. The peninsula is about 6 km long and 3 km wide, and has a number of scattered small settlements including Culkein, Balchladich and Achnacarnin. The lighthouse is at the end of a 5 km long single-track road which branches off the B869 Lochinver to Unapool road. Further North up the coast is the Old Man of Stoer and the Point of Stoer, which can easily be reached from the lighthouse on foot. The Minch, which separates the Western Isles from the mainland, has a reputation for being one of the most formidable stretches of water anywhere in the world in bad weather, and over the centuries this area became the graveyard of many vessels.

Tower of the Stoer Head Lighthouse

Features of the Lighthouse and its Location

The Stoer Head Lighthouse was built by David Lillie and Thomas Stevenson, members of the Stevenson dynasty who as successive generations of chief engineers of the Northern Lighthouse Board were responsible for building most of Scotland's lighthouses. They had prepared a list of 45 possible sites thought to be desirable to complete a system of lighthouses around the coast of Scotland. The Stoer Head lighthouse was included in this list.

Very little has been written about the history of Stoer Head Lighthouse. Only from 1853 that regular data about wrecks were kept, figures between 1859-66 showed that there is an average of 24 vessels a year were stranded on sandbanks and rocks around the Stoer peninsula. Not until 1870 they started building the lighthouse on the headland of the Point of Stoer. The Stoer Head Lighthouse stands on a rocky promontory surrounded on two sides by cliffs on the westernmost point of the Stoer Peninsula.

The lighthouse itself is just 14 metres tall and as a result is surprisingly dumpy in appearance, projecting not far above the adjoining buildings. Its location means that the light however is 54 metres above sea level. The short circular masonry tower is linked at 2 levels with keepers' dwellings. The tower is white-painted with a gold painted corbelled wall head with cast-iron balustrade and service room below the lantern. The lantern is domed with lattice glass and painted black.

The house, with a flat roof, has two self-contained flats in it for the lighthouse keepers and their families and was constructed at the same time with the lighthouse. The buildings are enclosed by a whitewashed boundary wall. The gate has three piers, all squared pillars with pyramid shaped caps with 1 wide and 1 narrow gate. A principal lightkeeper and an assistant and their families lived at Stoer Head until the light became automated in 1978. The families necessarily had to be self-sufficient, and nearby you can still see the remains of stables and a pig shed, all intended to help support the keepers and their families.

The Lightkeepers’ children were educated at Stoer Public School, however there were no senior schools in the county of Sutherland so the children had to continue their education away from the lighthouse at boarding school. Light keeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence. One task overruled everything: the light must burn at maximum intensity throughout the hours of darkness. During long winter nights, the need to constantly check everything and trim the lamp wicks every four hours was extremely demanding.

Stoer Bothy Lighthouse mural

Sea transport in the 1870s being the only feasible option for this remote site, the stone and other materials for the lighthouse were landed on a jetty built for the purpose about a 1,5 km to the south east of the lighthouse. Supplies for the lighthouse were similarly transported until roads became passable in the 20th century. The jetty is now in disrepair.

Close to the jetty is the Stoer Lighthouse Stores bothy, a basic shelter, which was used by the men building the lighthouse. In the bothy there is a mural depicting the east side of the Stoer lighthouse. The mural probably dates from the 1800s. The neighbouring bothy is known as the Salmon Bothy and was used to store salmon.

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon)

The lighthouse was long time oil-fuelled, but was later converted to electrical operation. The lighting is now provided by an array of sealed beam electric lamps, operated by a sensor to automatically turn them on and off at specified light levels. It was automated in 1978 and since then has been run from the headquarters of the Northern Lighthouse Board, Edinburgh.

Upkeep is carried out by a local who visits on a regular basis to carry out basic maintenance and cleaning. Once a year the Northern Lighthouse Board Technicians visit the light to carry out maintenance.

The Northern Lighthouse Board have sold some redundant buildings within the lighthouse complex and are not responsible for the maintenance of these building.

Additional information

There is a walk way to Old man of Stoer. There is beautiful scenery on a lovely walk from Stoer Head lighthouse around the coastline to the "Old Man of Stoer" and beyond. The Old Man of Stoer is a 60 metres tall sandstone pillar, north of Stoer Head Lighthouse. There are lots of birds to see and at the sea, you can see wildlife, such as Dolphins or Porpoise. Care should be taken when walking around the vicinity of the light.
Old man of Stoer

A3882

Character: Fl W 15s 59m 18M
(fl. 0.4s - ec. 14.6s)

EngineerDavid Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon58°14.409' N, 05°24.165' W

Established1870
Automated1978
Character Flashing White every 15 secs.
Range33.3 km / 18 nM
Tower14 meters
Elevation59 meters above sea-level
Fog hornYes

StatusOperationel
AuthorityNorthern Lighthouse Board
RemarksCat.B - nr: 1833 - 20/12/1979

Stoer Head lighthouse
Stoer Head lighthouse
Stoer Head map
Stoer Head map

References:

Stoer Head Lighthouse drone- Above Imagery