Place of the lighthouseArdnamurchan (Scottish Gaelic: Àird nam Murchan: headland of the great seas) is a 130 km2 peninsula in the area of Lochaber, Highland, Scotland, noted for being very unspoilt and undisturbed. Its remoteness is accentuated by the main access route for much of its length being a single track road. The most westerly point of British mainland is Corrachadh Mòr, a kilometre south of the lighthouse, and a few metres further west. Its southern coast runs alongside Loch Sunart and the Sound of Mull. The northern coast looks towards the Hebridean islands of Skye, Muck, Eigg and Rhum.
Building of the LighthouseThe site for the lighthouse was chosen in 1845. 20 acres of land was bought for the sum of £20.00. The land was owned by Mr Alexander Cameron who was also paid £58.00 for any inconvenience during building operations. It took three years (1846-1849) to complete building the lighthouse to a design by Alan Stevenson. The lighthouse, with its 35 meter tall tower, was built of pink Ross of the isle of Mull granite. It stands secure on the surrounding dark coloured gabbro volcanic rock (Granite from Ross of Mull was also used to build Skerryvore and Dubh Artach lighthouses).
It is the only lighthouse in the world designed in an “Egyptian“ style. The Egyptian influences can be seen in the entrance to the tower, the chimneys of the cottages of the keepers and the arches (corbel) at the top of the lighthouse tower beneath the balcony. This lighthouse plays a vital role in navigating through an area of many islands, strong tidal streams and poor weather conditions.
The contractor, responsible for the building work, was Robert Hume, a contractor from Gatehouse of Fleet. During the three years it took to complete the lighthouse, scurvy broke out among the workmen and a doctor had to be called in to treat them.The lighthouse, with an elevation of 55 meters above sea level has with 7 storeys. The pink tooled granite lighthouse, with a semi-circular single storey projection base to the west.
It has a solid but shallow entrance with simple sloping architraves and deep cavetto moulded cornice and shallow triangular block cornice with the date of erection.
The regular battered tower has slit windows on the west side on the first 6 storeys. The dome is provided with a walk and with cast-iron balustrade corbelled out on pointed-headed mock machicolations and triangular lattice glazing of the light.
The keepers' cottages were also built at the same time. The Cottages containing a barn and byre to each of two keepers. Entrances in bays 4 and 7, which together with bays 2 and 9 (each with single window) are slightly projecting. 12-pane sashes; eaves band, cavetto (=cable) cornices and stepped blocking courses to the projecting bays. Flat roofs with encircling blocking course; tall single and paired stacks with cavetto copes. The houses and the lighthouse are linked by a low coped granite wall enclosing a central court.
Like all lighthouses on the Northern Lighthouse board, this lighthouse is also equipped with a sundial. It is the usual painted fluted cast-iron sundial of standard design.
The current keepers' house and engine room contain 3 Kelvin engines, 3 Alley compressors, a Raston generator and an original prismatic lens.
The 3 Alley compressors were used to generate compressed air for the fog horn. The fog horn is placed on the roof of a small square concrete building. Its placed facing the sea, in front of the lighthouse. The fog horn is connected, via steel pipes, with compressed air vessels that are placed near the engine house.
There is no longer a working fog horn at Ardnamurchan. The area has been made into a viewing platform and offers wonderful panoramic views of the Inner Hebrides and is ideal for viewing passing whales and dolphins.
On the morning of 22 January 1852 there was severe storm and lightning struck the tower causing broken panes and plaster to come off the walls. Fifty feet of boundary wall was knocked down and 10 meters of the road was washed away by the heavy seas. The keeper's boat was broken up although they had secured it 5 meter above the last known high-water mark.
Prior to the automation of Ardnamurchan in 1988 a Principal Lightkeeper and two Assistants, with their families, lived at the lighthouse site. The families were almost self-sufficient and would have kept some cows and about a dozen sheep at the station. The lightkeepers were appointed at a yearly allowance of £18.00.
Light keeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence. At night each keeper was required to keep a watch in the lightroom to ensure that the light flashed correctly and to character. During daytime keepers were engaged in cleaning, if necessary painting and generally keeping the premises clean and tidy.
Operational statusThe oil light was first exhibited on the night of 5 October 1849. The original lens at Ardnamurchan was a Fresnel lens, so named after its French inventor, Augustin Fresnel. The lens was made from a series of perfectly polished crystal glass lenses set into a ronze structure. This lens has since been removed and is on display in the Visitor Centre. It was replaced with an array of sealed-beam electric lamps. The light was automated in 1988. When daylight falls or rises between set levels, a light sensor switches the light on and off. The status of the light and all its associated equipment is relayed back to the monitor centre of the NLB headquarters in Edinburgh. This happens by phone link, Radar signal and or satellite
The former keepers’ cottages and outbuildings be managed by the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust since 1996. They are now operated as a visitor centre with a museum called the 'Kingdom of Light' - Rioghachd na Sorcha. Exhibits detail the history and operations of the lighthouse, and includs access to the restored engine room and workshop with the original fog horn. It is also possible to visit the lighthouse itself (the light at the top of the tower). Other displays include the geology and natural history of the area, and local social history and culture, offering the chance to learn more about Scottish lighthouses and the flora and fauna of the Ardnamurchan peninsula.
The Northern Lighthouse Board have sold some redundant buildings within the lighthouse complex and is not responsible for the maintenance of these building.
Character: Fl(2) W 20s 55m 24M
(fl. 0.5s - ec. 2.0s)
|Engineer||: Alan Stevenson (1807-1865)|
|Lat, Lon||: 56°43.628' N, 06°13.552' W|
|Established||: 5 October 1849|
|Character||: Flashing(2) White every 20 secs.|
|Range||: 44.4 km / 24 nM|
|Elevation||: 55 meters above sea-level|
|Tower||: 35 meters, 152 steps to the top|
|Init. Costs||: £ ?.|
|Econ. Costs*||: £ ?.|
|*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com|
|Last Keepers||: ? - PLK|
|: ? - ALK|
|: ? - ALK|
|Fog horn||: Discontinued|
|AIS||: MMSI No 992351046|
|Authority||: Northern Lighthouse Board|
|Remarks||: Cat.A listed - LB521 - 20/07/1971|
|Ardnarmurchan Drone flight||- ScotHol|
|Ardnarmurchan Drone flight||- Kentphotopics|