After travelling along the long narrow twisting road to Ardnamurchan Point, in the Highlands of Scotland, May 2017, we were suddenly at the gates of this imposing lighthouse. Well not really gates now, but the posts remain, and it was quite interesting watching quite a large motorhome squeeze past them, thinking to myself….please do not get stuck, its the only way out. This is quite a tower and we climbed up to the top……still quite amazed that I did that, but it is a Stevenson Lighthouse, so it had to be done. The building on the left of the tower, has been made into a lovely cafe and gift shop, so after the long trip, you can at least get a drink and a bite to eat, if needed…..we did and the coffee was excellent….but back to the lighthouse……
The Lighthouse is still operated and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board and it one of over 200 located around Scotland’s wild coastline and The Isle of Man. In joint partnership with the Board and the Lighthouse Trust you can now climb to the top of the tower, for a small fee….worth every penny, just wish there were more than you could climb.
Standing 36 metres high and 55 metres above sea level the lighthouse was built by Alan Stevenson in 1848. This is the most westerly point on the Scottish mainland, so the light plays a vital role in the safe keeping of sea vessels.
The site for the lighthouse was chosen in 1845 and 20 acres of land was purchased for the sum of £20.00. It took three years to complete the building, which was built of Ross of Mull granite. It stands secure on the surrounding dark coloured gabbro (meaning smooth) volcanic rock. Egyptian influences can be seen in the entrance to the tower, the chimneys of the cottages and the top of the lighthouse tower beneath the balcony.
On our visit, we met some four legged friends, the lighthouse dogs, a pair of very friendly collie dogs, in fact one was so friendly, that she would try to bite the tyres of any cars that were leaving ……lucky for us, she was worn out from the heat to stop us.
We stopped to look at the exhibition, before we started our mammoth climb and had a good look at the lens which had been removed when the tower became automated in 1988. Prior to this there would have been a Principal Lighthouse Keeper and two assistants, with their families living at the lighthouse. The families were almost self sufficient and would have kept cows and sheep at the station.
The original lens was a Fresnel lens, so named after its French inventor, Augustin Fresnel. The lens was made from a series of perfectly polished crystal glass lenses set in a bronze structure.
On entering the tower the first thing you see, is the lovely sign dated 1786 and then the stairs, which were a bit boring, so husband modelled for me.
On and on we went, stopping and starting, then finally we made it to the top. We did’nt get to see outside at this point, you are shown where the lighthouse keepers went about their duties and then an interesting talk on the history of the lighthouse.
Of course this is not the original workings. I think the guide said they were from the automation, but soon these will be replaced, but hopefully they will find a place in the exhibition. After the talk it was time to crawl out on to the balcony and I do mean crawl through a very low door opening, but even for someone who has a fear of heights, it was worth it. I’m must admit I only did half way round the balcony, but I am proud that I did that, the guide said it had taken him quite a few hours before he could make himself go through the door, let alone walk around the balcony, so yes, very pleased with myself.
And then the views.
Back inside the light to have a look at the modern day lens, an array of sealed beam electric lamps which look like car headlights to me, but soon they will be updated and then there are hopes of putting the original lens back, hopefully. There are some nice brass lion heads and I did a b & w version of the glass, as I liked the reflections, but it was time to leave and make the trek back down the stairs, as it was the turn of someone else to see these wonderful views.
We had learned a lot about Lightkeeping, it was a remote, lonely and hard existence. At night each keeper was required to keep watch in the lightroom (the room where we had listen to the talk) to ensure that the light flashed correctly. During the daytime the keepers were kept engaged in cleaning, painting if necessary and generally keeping the premises clean and tidy.
We were now going to make our way to Sanna Beach as suggested by the guide, who is a bit biased as he lives there….but he was right, more to follow.