Holburn Head
Holborn Head lighthouse
photos: © Marinas.com

North Coast

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- Standard + Radar Beacon + AIS - Discontinued
East Coast North Coast Cape Wrath Duncansby Head Dunnet Head Holborn Head Pentland Skerries Strathy Point Swilkie Point
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Update: 27-03-2024

Compiled by:
@ Bob Schrage

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Cape Wrath
Duncansby Head
Dunnet Head
Holborn Head
Pentland Skerries
Strathy Point
Swilkie Point

Place of the lighthouse

Holborn Head is a headland at the north of the Highland aera of Scotland at the Atlantic coast of Caithness. The name Holborn appears Norse in origin. The first part of the name Holl, means a hill while the last part is probably from borg, the Hill fort. The lighthouse does not actually stand on Holborn Head itself, but is located about 1 km south of the said hill on Little Holborn Head, on the north side of Scrabster and west of Thurso Bay. It is easily seen from Thurso.

Building of the Lighthouse

Description of work Amount

Purchase land £    200
Dwelling houses(2x), including the tower -   1,250
Iron parapet, lantern and lighting apparatus -     820
Gardens, Fences and Water supply etc. -     352
Road including retaining walls -     550
Furnishing and advertising -     360

Sub Total£   3,532
Unforseen costs (10%) -     368

Total Costs£   3,900
Permission was granted from the Board of Trade in 1859 to build a lighthouse on Little Holborn Head, but it was until 1861 that building actually started. This delay was because the Board of Trade emphasis on economy. They thought the estimate costs far too high and opposed by letter of nearly everything. The drawings and specifications of the lantern and apparatus had to be forwarded to the Board for further examination, but finally permission was granted to proceed with the building. Details are given to the right:

This lighthouse was designed by the brothers David and Thomas Stevenson. The square tower for the lighthouse light is an integral part of the keeper's house, which is unusual, as most Scottish lighthouses are separate from the residential houses. In addition, the keeper's houses are built according to a "school house model".

Holborn Head
Detail of window
After entering the front door on the top floor, there is a vestibule with two entrances, one to the Lightkeepers House and the other to the Lighthouse Tower. There were two Lightkeepers houses in the building, each consisting of two floors. Separately from this, the Principal Keeper's house was later built. The tower becomes octagonal just below a circular walkway. The lantern is of the small triangular pane type, with a domed top surrounded by a parapet with a cast iron railing. The area is enclosed by a rough whitewashed rubble wall.

Mr Stewart from Peterhead was building contractor and Mr James Scott was appointed inspector. The tower was completed ahead of schedule. The Messrs Milne and Sons made changes to the lantern, who was originally the temporary fixed light at Whalsey. This had to be changed into a revolving apparat.

The light was first exhibited on Monday 1 September 1862 and the Notice to Mariners stated: "The light will be a dioptric holophotal flashing light. Showing a flash every 10 seconds, it will be seen as a white light towards the Pentland Firth and Thurso Bay and as a red light towards Scrabster Roadstead".

The lighthouse was electrified in 1976 and automated in 1988 after which the lighthouse was monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh and the presence of Lighthouse Keepers became redundant. The lighthouse at Holborn Head was closed permanently in August 2003 following alterations and improvements to the harbor facility near the lighthouse.

Additional information

A walk around the headland can be accessed through a gate next to the Principal Keeper's House. There are stiles and bridges, which allow access to the unfenced off promontory of Holborn Head itself. There are clear views over to Dunnet Head and to the Orkney Islands. Scrabster is also the port for the ferry service to Stromness in the Orkney Islands


Holborn Head Holborn Head

Holborn Head


Character: Discontinued (Fl WR 10s.)

Holborn Head lighthouse
(click to enlarge the map)
Engineers: David Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
: Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon: 58°36.868' N, 003°32.368' W

Established: September 1, 1862
Character: Was Flashing WR every 10 sec.
Range: Was 15 NM ~ 24 km
Elevation: 23 meters above sealevel
Tower: 17 meters
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

Automated: 1988
Last Keepers: T.P. Budge - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: Siren 1 blast every 20s.
: Discont. 14/08/1987

Status: Discontinued in 2003
Authority: Private accomodation
Remarks: Electrified in 1976
: Cat.B - LB14952 - 28/11/1984

Holborn Head lighthouse
Holburn Head lighthouse (discontinued)

Holborn Head lighthouse
Holburn Head in early times (c. 1890 - 1899)
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