Covesea Skerry
Covesea Skerry lighthouse
photos: © Ian Cowe

East Coast

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Update: 23-03-2024

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Barns Ness
Bass Rock
Bell Rock
Buchan Ness
Buddon Ness
Clyth Ness
Covesea Skerry
Elie Ness
Fife Ness
Girdle Ness
Isle of May
Kinnaird Head
Noss Head
Scurdie Ness
St Abbs Head
Tarbat Ness
Tod Head

Place of the lighthouse

Iron tower - Hilliman skerry
The Covesea- and Halliman Skerries forms a group of small islands and rocks that lie off the Moray coast, 5 kilometers west of Lossiemouth and 1.5 kilometer east of Covesea. It is said that a holy man, St Gerardine, who lived on the coast of Moray in the 8th century, warned vessels of danger, by swinging a lantern on the shore, to guided them to safety past of the Covesea- and Halliman Skerries. (Halliman Skerries still retain in their name a reference to the holy hermit.)

Following a storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826 when 16 vessels sunk, applications made for lighthouses at Tarbat Ness, on the opposite coast, and at Covesea Skerries. The Commissioners of Northern Light Houses (the precursor of the NLB) and Trinity House found that a lighthouse at Covesea was unnecessary but this was against public opinion.

After many letters and petitions from local people, a suitable site was chosen and the building of a lighthouse on the Craighead and a beacon on the Halliman Skerries were approved. The 13 meters tall grid iron tower, which can still be seen on the Skerries today, was erected in 1845.

The Lighthouse

The Covesea Skerries lighthouse, is one of nearly 200 lighthouses that are located all around Scotland’s wild coastline and is built on top of a small headland on the south coast of the Moray Firth at Covesea, near Lossiemouth, Morayshire. The lighthouse was designed by Alan Stevenson member of the famous 'Stevensons' family. It was built by James Smith, a contractor in Inverness.

Egyptian entrance of the tower

Alan Stevenson, the architect of the lighthouse, had a facination with Egypt and instilled Egyptian themes in many of his lighthouses. Here at Covesea he added numerous pieces of Egyptian detail in his architecture and along with lighthouse of Ardnamurchan on the West Coast has the best examples of his handwork. Egyptian influences can be seen in the entrance to the tower, the chimneys of the cottages and the arches at the top of the lighthouse tower beneath the balcony.

The original 1845 Fresnel lens was built in the Parisian workshop of Francois Soleil. The light was rotated by a clockwork mechanism with gradually descending weights, providing the energy. The lighthouse keeper must winched these weights up every day and the lighthouse still has the hollow central void which held these weights.

The warning system (lamp)

The lighthouse stands 36 meters high and its light had a range of 24 Nautical Miles ~ 44 kilometers, flashing red and white every 20 seconds. The lighthouse complex included the two keepers cottages along with workshops and offices on the ground floor.

Description Tall circular 7-storey lighthouse/tower with semi-circular, single storey range clasping base. White painted tooled ashlar, polished ashlar dressings, some contrasting painted. Centre entrance in S face; pedimented doorpiece with pulvinated stringcourse and inscription. Further entrances in S facing end gables of single storey range. Singel narrow window in each storey of N face (sea facing); flared corbelled upper stage with cast-iron balustrade and galzed light. KEEPERS' COTTAGES: pair single storey, Egyptian style cottages; 10-bay (2 mirrored 5 bays) frontage with alternating advanced and recessed bays. Tooled ashlar, polished ashlar dressings, all white painted. Entrance or window in advanced bays, each with heavy concave cornice; 4-pane glazing to sash windows; flat roofs with batteries of 2 or 4 square stacks with flared copes. Cottages and lighthouse linked by low coped wall enclosing central court. STEADING: presumably 1844. Long single storey, 2 facing 6-bay range; tooled rubble, tooled ashlar dressings. Off-centre segmental-headed cart bay (now masked by double leaf plank doors); 6 dooways and mural vents; 2 ridge stacks; piended slate roofs. Statement of Special Interest Inscription over main lighthouse entrance reads 'In salutem omnium Northern Lights. Alan Stevenson, LLB, Engineer, James Smith, Contractor, William Middlemiss, Superintendent. MDLCC XL1V'. The lighthouse now with automated light, the original light in Lossiemouth Fisheries Museum. The Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was completed in 1846 and was completed at a cost of £ 11,514. High walls were built around the lighthouse complex as shelter but these caused 'strong whirlwinds' in the courtyard. This interfered with lightkeepers lookout so the walls were lowered in 1907

Covesea Skerry lighthouse
Floorplan of the Light- and Keepers houses

A Principal Lightkeeper, an Assistant and their families lived at Covesea Skerries until the light became automated in 1984. Lightkeeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence. One task overruled everything: the light must burning 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 and that was extremely demanding.

Covesea Skerry lighthouse
Sundail of Covesea Skerry

On daytime, and the relentless demands of ‘lightkeeping’ continued as reflectors were polished, oil was replenished and windows cleaned in preparation for the next evening. This work had to be undertaken in partial darkness. If light from the sun hits the lens, the intense heat could damage the burner and possibly going to fire.

The original lens from Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was made from a series of perfectly polished crystal glass lenses set into a brass structure. Called a Fresnel Lens, after its French creator, these intricate constructions were flat on one side and ridged at the other, like the rings of a tree. Each ring is slightly thinner than the next and focuses the light toward the centre, creating a narrow beam of light. This lens is now in the Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum; it is so large that it can be seen on both, the lower and upper floor.

The light was monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board's offices in Edinburgh. The light was visited on a regular basis by a local person to carry out basic maintenance and cleaning. Once a year the 'Northern Lighthouse Board' technicians would visit the light to carry an yearly inspection.

The light was finally extinguished in 2012 following 166 years of loyal service. the light is replaced by a "North Cardinal" navigational lit buoy fitted with X Band Radar Beacon on the north eastern extremity of the Halliman Skerries on 21 February 2012.

The lighthouse is a Category A Listed Building, deemed to be 'of national importance'. It is now owned by Covesea Lighthouse Community Company who are preserves this iconic building as a heritage and education centre for all.

Following the discontinuation of the light in 2012, the Board no longer had required the ground at Covesea and plans were put in place to sell the Category A Listed property. In July 2012 the Northern Lighthouse Board received notification from The Scottish Government that the Covesea Lighthouse Community Company Limited had registered an interest in the Covesea Skerries property. The Covesea Lighthouse Community Company was formed by the local business association in Lossiemouth to develop the lighthouse site for tourism.

The Covesea Lighthouse Community Company managed to secure a major grant from the Scottish Land Fund and on 4 April 2013 the Northern Lighthouse Board sold the entire lighthouse complex at Covesea Skerries to the community. The plan is now to develop the iconic landmark as a major tourism hub to promote local heritage, the area's unique wildlife and environment and its links to the nearby airbase at RAF Lossiemouth.

Numerous applications were made for lights to be established at Covesea Skerries and Tarbat Ness following the loss of 16 vessels during a storm in the Moray Firth in November 1826. Initially, a light was established at Tarbat Ness in preference to Covesea. However, demand for a light at Covesea Skerries remained. Trinity House recommended a lighthouse on Craighead with a beacon on Halliman’s Scars, which the Commissioners agreed to. A cast-iron beacon was established in 1844, and in 1846 Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was established. Covesea Skerries Beach In the cliffs below the lighthouse are a couple of caves, and in the 1920s and 30s, these were home to a father and his daughter, who were well known locally, called Joyful and Teeny. In 1984 the lighthouse was automated. Prior to automation, a bank of sealed beam units that revolved on a pedestal replaced the revolving glass optic. The former optic, along with a few other artefacts, is now on display in the Lossiemouth Fisheries and Community Museum. Lighthouse lantern Following a major review of navigation aids by the General Lighthouse Authorities of the UK and Ireland, it was decided that Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was no longer required but that Halliman Skerries should be marked instead. The Halliman Skerries beacon can be seen from the top of Covesea Skerries Lighthouse. The cage is thought to be a refuge for shipwrecked sailors. Following further consultation, a North Cardinal buoy was established on the northeast tip of the Skerries on 21st February 2012, and Covesea Skerries Lighthouse was discontinued on 2nd March 2012. Halliman Skerries Halliman Skerries Beacon and refuge In July 2012, the Covesea Lighthouse Community Lighthouse Company indicated their interest to take over the property. Following a grant from the Scottish Land Fund, they purchased the lighthouse and associated buildings from the NLB on 4th April 2013. In June 2015 Covesea Lighthouse Community Company received a grant from the Ministry of Defence Community Covenant Fund. This allowed the Charity to reunite all the land previously owned by the Northern Lighthouse Board and to begin construction of the Covesea Lighthouse Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Heritage Centre. The Centre opened in 2018 Covesea Skerries Lighthouse Established: 1846 Height of tower: 36 metres Elevation of light: 49 metres Automated: 1984 Discontinued: 2012

Covesea Skerry


Character: (discont., Fl(4) W/R 20s.)

Covesea Skerry map
(click to enlarge the map)

Engineer: Alan Stevenson (1807-1865)

Lat, Lon: 57°43.449' N, 003°20.312' W

Established: 1846
Character: was Flashing(4) White/Red every 20 s.
Range: White: 24 NM ~ 44.4 km
: Red: 20 NM ~ 37 km
Elevation: 49 meters above sealevel
Tower: 36 meters
Init. Costs: £ 11,514, 16s.
Econ. Costs*: £ 45,580,000 (2022)
*) According to:

Automated: 1984
Last Keepers: W.S. Smith - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: ...

Status: Discontinued March 2, 2012
Authority: Covesea Lighthouse Community
Remarks: Cat.A listed - LB37605 - 26/01/1971

Covesea Skerry lighthouse
Lighthouse with beach around 1930's

Covesea Skerry lighthouse
Lighthouse with Sundail in the front

Covesea Keepers houses
Keepers houses

Covesea Skerry Beacon
Iron tower on the Hilliman skerry

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