Ushenish lighthouse
photo: © Ian Cowe

Outer Hebrides

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Lighthouse shield

Place of the lighthouse

Remotely located on the isolated east coast of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides Scotland. The Ushenish Lighthouse lies 6.5 kilometer southeast of the village of Lochskipport. This island lighthouse stands on the western side of the Sea of the Hebrides and has a very isolated location on the east coast of South Uist.

Building of the Lighthouse

The design of the lighthouse was created by brothers David Lillie and Thomas Stevenson designers employed by the NLB. A. MacDonald was the contractor and R. Wright was the supervisor of the work. All building materials had to be brought in by sea

The design is a low round brick tower of only 12 meters high with lantern and gallery. The tower didn't need to be higher either, as the location of the lighthouse, on a high cliff, already had sufficient height for a good range of light.

In addition to the construction of the lighthouse, homes were also built for the family of the lighthouse keepers. And of course also the buildings for maintenance and storage. The whole of the lighthouse complex is enclosed by a masonry wall.

The lighthouse is only accessible by boat; a dirt road leads from a sheltered dock to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is also accessible on foot through the isolated valleys east of Beinn Mhor, Corodale and Hecla. These now empty glens are scattered with souterrains, abandoned dwellings and shieling huts. Buildings and a helipad have benn constructed to the W of the lighthouse itself.

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon)

The light was first lit on November 10, 1857. The lighthouse's character was white light with a range of 19 Nautical miles. Thomas Stevenson incorporated a Holotphotal reflector as an improvement to the dioptric system. The light is shown between 193 and 18 degrees to the east.

The lighthouse was equipped with Dalen lens - Acetylene lighting. In 1885 the light was changed from a fixed light to one flash light every 20 seconds with a range of 19 Nautical miles. The gas-powered Dalen light was monitored from the Neist Point lighthouse on the Isle of Skye.

The installation was controlled after automation in 1970 from the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters in Edinburgh. and was one of the first large automatic lighthouses.

Since 1998, the necessary electricity has been generated with solar panels. This electricity is stored in batteries (see picture in right column). Tests have also been carried out with wind turbines for generating electricity.

The current optic system was installed circa 2000 and is a fourth order lens on a gearless pedestal that rotates at 1.5rpm. The light source is a 35 watt etched metal halide lamp mounted in a three position lampchanger.

In the past, a red sector was also shown to the south of the lighthouse. However, this red light has been extinguished since July 30, 2014. The first photograph below shows the optic setup with the old red sector (now removed)

Red sector in the lantern room (before 2014)
3 lamps Lampchanger
Current 4th Order Fresnel lens

Additional information

The keepers and their families must have had a lonely existence with no road or track linking them to the rest of South Uist. In an effort to improve conditions for the keepers’ families, they transferred to the Pulpit Rock shore station at Oban in 1952. The lighthouse was then reclassified as a rock station. The stay there till 1975 intil the lighthouse was automated.

In 1955 a keeper was dismissed from Ushenish Lighthouse when the Northern Lighthouse Board discovered that he had been imprisoned for burglary in Oban.

After automation of the Ushenish lighthouse in 1970, the former lightkeepers' cottages have been demolished in 1975. The foundations of these buildings are still visible.

Pulpit Rock shore station in Oban
Aerial image of Ushenish lighthouse
Lighthouse seen from the seeside
Stair to the lighthouse
Former Store/Warehouse (outside)
Former Store/Warehouse (intern)



Character: Fl W 20s 54m 19M
(fl. 0.4s - ec. 19.6s)

Ushenish lighthouse
Lightcharater of Ushenish Lighthouse (click to enlarge)
Engineer: David Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
: Thomas Stevenson (1818-1867)

Lat, Lon: 57°17.900' N, 007°11.588' W

Established: November 19, 1857
Character: Flashing White every 20 secs.
Range: 19 NM ~ 35.2 km
Elevation: 54 meters above sea level
Tower: 12 meters
Init. Costs: £ 8,809 4s. 3d.
Econ. Costs*: £ 27,240,000.00 (2021)
*) According to:

Automated: 1970
Last Keepers: ? - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: ?

Status: Operational
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: ....

Ushenish lighthouse
Ushenish Lighthouse

Ushenish lighthouse
Ushenish Lighthouse

Thomas Gillespie
Dalen Acetylene lamp with the
Lightkeeper of Ushenish - Thomas Gillespie

Ushenish lighthouse
Solar array and redundant wind generator platform

Ushenish lighthouse
Redundant wind generator platform

Ushenish lighthouse
Battery storage of Ushenish Lighthouse

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