Tiumpan Head
Tiumpan Head lighthouse
photo: © Ian Cowe

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Update: 30-03-2024

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Tiumpan Head

Place of the lighthouse

Lighthouse shield
Tiumpan Head, pronounced "Chumpin", was the last major lighthouse to be erected on the Isle of Lewis by the Northern Lighthouse Board. A causeway from Stornoway connects Lewis to the Eye Peninsula and at the tip of the peninsula is Tiumpan Head lighthouse.

The Gaelic name is Rudha Tiompan. This could be from Tom, a rounded knoll, a simple knoll is called Tiompan. A Tiompan is a one-sided hill, which may explain the name. But there are a very few Gaelic place names in Lewis, it is most likely a Norse name, probably from Sjon, "sight", which could also be a scouting position where the beacon fires were lit.

Building of the Lighthouse

Several applications had been made for a lighthouse at Portvoller, the site of the current lighthouse. However, these ware refused by the Board of Trade. It was not until 1879 that the application was finally approved.

The lighthouse (28 meter high) and buildings were designed by David and Charles Stevenson and built by John Aitken, at an estimated cost of £9000. William Frew was appointed as inspector of the works. Chance Brothers made the optics and Dove and Co. the revolving machine. The light was first exhibited on 1 December 1900.

Lighthouse and attendant buildings, inscription panel "1900 erected by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses/D A Stevenson Engineer". All whitewashed, contrasting painted detail. Lighthouse is a moderately tall, battered circular tower, door at foot with inscription on block pediment over; above, 2 tiered galleries, the upper encircling domed and diamond-paned lantern of standard design, flat-roofed low range adjoins at north.

To west, a long and low rectangular-plan flat-roofed block, south-facing, elevation divided in to two centre-doored ranges, sash windows with 4-pane glazing, end and centre stacks. A second block of similar scale set cross-wways and placed further to west may not be original, 8 bays x 3, sash windows mostly, with 12-pane glazing pattern; simplified roof detailing, roofscape with two sets paired stacks (presumably over internal cross-walls), 3 ventilators close to south end. Perimeter wall and square gatepiers at south.

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn)

Former Lighthouse Fresnel Lens
The lamp was operated from the mains electricity and was a 250 watt mercury vapour type. In case of emergency, such as power cuts, which occur frequently during the winter, there was a 'scheme R' battery operated light, and in the event of prolonged power failures the paraffin vapour lamp equipment was retained in readiness. The apparatus for driving the lens was a hand wound, weight operated, clock work machine which had to be wound up every 35 minutes.

During automation in 1985, the original Fresnel lens was replaced with a bank of sealed beam units. Lighthouse engineers Eddy Dishon (left) and Lindsay Wilson are pictured with one of the massive Victorian lenses from the Tiumpan Head Lighthouse which was being modernised. The old lens is donated to Museum nan Eilean Lews Catle,Stornoway.

The fog signal was operated by compressed air supplied from a compressor, driven by a Kelvin Diesel engine. There were three Kelvin engines and compressors, and when the fog signal was in operation, two of them were in service to maintain the required air pressure with one standby, in rotation. In 1984, the fog signal was discontinued and the fog horn building was demolished.

Operational status

Six lightkeepers were attached to the station, three lightkeepers and their families at the station, with a local assistant and two occasional lightkeepers coming in from Portnaguran village nearby. The lighthouse was automated in 1985 and is monitored from the NLB Headquaters in Edinburgh.

The former keepers' accommodation was no longer needed and is now home to kennels and a cattery. It should be noted that at some sites 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

YouTube video shows the royal visit to Tiumpan Head Lighthouse in 1956
The lighthouse was visited by Her Majesty the Queen in 1956. Accompanied by Prince Charles and Princess Anne, it was the 7-year-old Prince who sounded the first blast on a new fog siren.

Interestingly, this is said to be the first lighthouse The Princess Royal visited at the age of 5. This is perhaps where her fascination with lighthouses began. Princess Anne is Master of Trinity House and Patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board and Happisburgh Lighthouse in Norfolk. This YouTube video briefly shows the royal visit to Tiumpan Head Lighthouse.

Tiumpan Head


Character: Fl(2) W 15s 55m 18M
(fl. 0.4s - ec. 1.5s, fl. 0.4s - ec.12.7s)

Tiumpan Head lighthouse
Lightcharacter Tiumpan Head (click to enlarge)
Engineer: David Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)
: Charles Stevenson (1855-1950)

Lat, Lon: 58°15.656' N, 006°08.335' W

Established: December 1, 1900
Character: Flashing(2) White every 15 secs.
Range: 18 NM ~ 33.3 km
Elevation: 55 meters above sealevel
Tower: 21 meters, 69 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ 9,000
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

Automated: 1985
Last Keepers: R. Duthie - PLK
: R. Wilson - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: Siren, 3 blasts every 90 sec.
: Discontinued 1984

Status: Operational
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Cat.C listed - LB19209 - 25/03/1971

Drone flight of Tiumpan Head

Tiumpan Head lighthouse
Tiumpan Head lighthouse

Tiumpan Head lighthouse
Tiumpan Head in early times

Tiumpan Head lighthouse
Tiumpan Head lighthouse

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