Durness Beach

Lighthouses on the North Coast of Scotland

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Durness - North Coast
Flag of Scotland
© Compiled by:
Bob Schrage
page updated: 24-02-2021
Cape Wrath
Duncansby Head
Dunnet Head
Holborn Head
Pentland Skerries
Strathy Point
Swilkie Point (Stroma)

Place of the lighthouse

Duncansby Head (Scottish Gaelic: Ceann Dhunngain or Dùn Gasbaith) is the most north-easterly part of the Scottish mainland, including even the famous John o' Groats, Caithness, Highland. The headland juts into the North Sea, with the Pentland Firth to its north and west and the Moray Firth to its south. Duncansby Head is the northernmost point of the mainland of the United Kingdom and overlooks the Pentland Skerries. This point is just a little further on raod from Land's End (Cornwall) than the usually named John o 'Groats (about 3 km).

The tidal streams flowing through the Pentland Firth earned the title of hell's mouth in the days of sail, and it is still a place where unwary vessels can become the plaything of the sea. As the waters of the wide Atlantic flow into the North sea and ebb in the opposite direction, they set in motion a welter of eddies, races and overfalls, and in the neighbourhood of the Pentland Skerries they run at a speed of ten knots.

So dramatic are the effects that each of these tide races has been given a name - the Swilkie, the Bore of Huna, the wells of Tuftalie, the Duncansby Bore, and the Merry Men of May. Because of the danger for ships in this area you can see six operating lighthouses from the Duncansby Head car park.

Building of the Lighthouse

Duncansby Head Lighthouse was built in 1924 by David Alan Stevenson. The traditional round tower has been abandoned and (curved walls require interior fittings made to match) even the concrete lantern tower is square.

Fog horn
Fog Horn of Duncansby Head (no longer present)

In 1968 a high-power Radar Beacon (RACON) was installed. It has now been replaced by a low-power self-operating type, which can be particularly useful as a warning where the coastline is not conspicuous on a radar display.

The lighthouse was automated in 1997. Soon after, an inspection of the keeper's houses showed water damage and asbestos on the premises so the houses were demolished but the tower remained and the light stayed in use. Older photos of the lighthouse show the buildings that were demolished (second photo at the right hand). The Light is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.

In 1914 during the first World War a temporary fog signal was provided at Duncansby Head close to John O'Groats to be replaced by a permanent fog signal after the war. During the second World War, and on the eve of the invasion of Norway, Duncansby Head Lighthouse was machine-gunned by a German bomber, but fortunately no one was injured and no damage caused.

Additional information

Duncansby Stacks
Duncansby Stacks
From the lighthouse is a footpath of about 6.5 kilometres to the Hill of Crogodale. This footpath runs directly along the coast to the south past the Stacks of Duncansby, prominent sea stacks just off the coast.

Duncasby Whisky
Whisky and Lighthouse
The town of Wick is located in the south of Duncansby Head. In Wick there is a distillery called Old Pulteney. In recent years they have released a number of whisky's with a reference to the various lighthouses in the area. Besides a whisky that refer to Dancansby Head, there are also whisky's that refer to the lighthouses Noss Head, Dunnet Head and Pentland Skerries.


Character: Fl W 12s 67m 22M
(fl. 0.3s - ec. 11.7s)

Engineer: David Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)

Lat, Lon: 58°38.641' N, 03°01.521' W

Established: 1924
Character: Flashing White every 12 sec.
Range: 40.7 km / 22 nM
Elevation: 67 meters above sea-level
Tower: 7 meters
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

Automated: 1997
Last Keepers: ? - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: Yes (no longer present)

Status: Operationel
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Candle power 596.000
: Not LB listed

Duncasby Head lighthouse
Duncasby Head lighthouse
Penland Skerries lighthouse
Duncasby Head lighthouse

Dancansby Head Drone flight- Toor Boy