Ardnamurchan lighthouse

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Update: 28-03-2024

Compiled by:
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Place of the lighthouse

The Ardnamurchan lighthouse (Scottish Gaelic: Àird nam Murchan: headland of the great seas) is located on the west coast of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The Ardnamurchan peninsula is part of the district of Lochaber, Highland, Scotland and noted for being very unspoilt. This 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 Lighthouse

The 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 UK built 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.

Egyptian Style
Egyptian style
Egyptian Style
Original floor plan of the Ardnamurchan lighthouse
The lighthouse, with an elevation of 55 meters above sea level has 7 storeys. The pink tooled granite lighthouse has a semi-circular single storey base projection to the west.

The tower has a solid but shallow entrance with a simple upright tapered door frame, ending in a deep cable molded finish, underneath a triangular block cornice with the date of erection.

The tower has slit windows on the west side on the first 6 storeys. The dome is provided with a walk and with a cast-iron balustrade corbelled and a triangular lattice glazing the light.

Tower entrance

At the same time, the Keepers houses were also built. The houses with a barn and stable for each of the two keepers (see also the floor plan at the left). The construction of the houses is built in the same Egyptian style as the lighthouse itself. The entrances to the houses have the same facades as the lighthouse. A solid but shallow entrance with a simple upright tapered door frame, ending in a deep cable molding finish but now with a square cornice. (See also the first photo). Surrounding the double house and the lighthouse is a low granite wall that encloses the central courtyard.

A building with a large engine room was added to the south of the lighthouse. The engine room was equipped with 3 Kelvin engines (electricity), 3 Alley air compressors and a Raston generator. This extension is clearly visible on the aerial photo.

Standard Sundail of the NLB

Like all lighthouses of the Northern Lighthouse Board, this lighthouse is also equipped with a sundial. It is the usual painted fluted cast-iron sundial of standard design.

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon)

The 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 round structure. This lens has since been removed and is on display in the Visitor Centre of the lighthouse.

It was replaced with an array of sealed-beam electric lamps on a gearless pedestal. The light was automated in 1988, with a fixed beehive lens and clockwork powered cylinder with slots to give flashing character. 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. A part-time light keeper is employed by the Northern Lighthouse Board, which is based in Ardnamurchan and looks also after the Rubha nan Gall and Corran Point lighthouses. With the introduction of LED lighting, less maintenance is required. At Ardnamurchan, the power is only 48 watts, although this was increased to 72 watts in 2019.


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. It is 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 room.

There is no longer a working fog horn at Ardnamurchan. It is discontinued on 02 July 2005. The area around the foghorn 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.

Painting at the stairbase

On the morning of 22 January 1852 there was a severe storm and lightning struck into the tower causing broken panes and plaster to come off the walls. Fifteen meter of boundary wall was knocked down and 10 meters of the road was washed away by the heavy seas. The keeper's boat was smashed, although they had secured it 5 meters above the 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 status

The Northern Lighthouse Board have sold some redundant buildings within the lighthouse complex and is not responsible for the maintenance of these building.

The former keepers’ cottages and outbuildings are 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 includes 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.



Character: Fl(2) W 20s 55m 18M
(fl.0.5s - ec.2.0s, fl.0.5s. - 17s)

Ardnamurchan lighthouse
Lightcharacter of Ardnamurchan (click to enlarge)
Engineer: Alan Stevenson (1807-1865)

Lat, Lon: 56°43.625' N, 006°13.558' W

Established: October 5, 1849
Character: Flashing(2) White every 20 secs.
Range: 18 NM ~ 33 km
Elevation: 55 meters above sea-level
Tower: 35 meters, 152 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ 13.738 0s. 10d
Econ. Costs*: £ 49,100,000.
*) According to:

Automated: 1988
Last Keepers: PLK - J.S. Hardie
: ALK - S.P. Wilson
: ALK - I. Ramon
Fog horn: Emitter(Siren), 2 blasts every 20 sec.
: Discontinued 02-06-2005
AIS: MMSI No 992351046

Status: Operationel
Authority: Northern Lighthouse Board
Remarks: Cat.A listed - LB521 - 20/07/1971

Drone flight

Drone flight

Ardnamurchan lighthouse

Ardnamurchan lighthouse

Ardnamurchan lighthouse

Ardnarmurchan Drone flight- ScotHol
Ardnarmurchan Lighthouse Trust