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Flannan Isles, Eilean Mor, Lighthouse

Lighthouse (19th Century), Tramway(S) (19th Century)

Site Name Flannan Isles, Eilean Mor, Lighthouse

Classification Lighthouse (19th Century), Tramway(S) (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Flannan Lighthouse

Canmore ID 171215

Site Number NA74NW 6

NGR NA 72667 46884

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Uig
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Recording Your Heritage Online

FLANNAN ISLES (off Lewis) also known as THE SEVEN HUNTERS Named after the 7th century Irish saint, this group of sea-pounded crags was regarded as a refuge of great sanctity, as well as being a rich source of seabirds for Lewismen, who also pastured their sheep here.

EILEAN MOR, the main isle, comprises 39 acres and has no sheltered landing place. David A Stevenson's Lighthouse, 1896-9 (automated 1971) towers atop 300 ft cliffs. It is a place haunted by the unsolved mystery of the three lighthouse keepers, who disappeared in December 1900. An uneaten meal lay on the table, a chair had been overturned, and two sets of oilskins were missing, but all three men had vanished and no trace of them has ever been found. Below the lighthouse, Teampall Beannachadh (blessing house) - the Chapel of St. Flannan - is a drystone-walled structure with a roughly remade vaulted slab roof, a door in its west end. On Maol nam Both, a headland beyond a now fragmentary retaining wall, the Clan Macphail bothies are said to be the remains of two monks' cells, part of a small early Celtic monastic settlement, although for centuries they have been used as shelters by fowlers

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2008. Published by the Rutland Press

Archaeology Notes

NA74NW 6.00 72667 46884

NA74NW 6.01 72658 46880 Keeper's House

For associated shore station and keepers' houses at Breasclete, Lewis (NB 21427 35326), see NB23NW 80.

Name: Flannan Isles (1895-9)

Location: N58 17 W7 35 Atlantic, 18 miles W of Lewis

Designed: D A Stevenson

Built: George Lawson

Light first exhibited: 7 December 1899

Description: Circular stone tower, painted white

Height of light above MHW: 331ft (101m)

Height of tower: 75ft (23m)

Light source and characteristics: W Gp Fl (2) ev 30 secs. Acetylene: 100,000 cp: 20nm nominal range

Fog warning apparatus: None

Manning: unwatched (automatic since 28 September 1971), monitored from Northern Lighthouse Board HQ, Edinburgh through Butt of Lewis lighthouse (NB56NW 8).

Site of Flannan Isles mystery (1900)

C Nicholson 1995.

This island lighthouse is situated 21 miles W of the Isle of Lewis, among the Atlantic Outliers (also known as the Seven Hunters or Seven Haly Isles. This lighthouse is one of the four in Scottish waters over 10 miles from land, the others being Sule Skerry (HX62SW 1), Dubh Artach (NM10SW 1) and Bell Rock (NO72NE 1).

It is situated on the summit of Eilean Mor, the largest island of the group, and comprises a tower 23m with a keepers' house (NA74NW 6.01) on the inland side. Access was formerly gained from landing-places on both the E and W sides of the islands, each of these having a lengthy flight of rock-cut steps up the high cliffs, and a small tramway. Boat landing at these locations was always difficult.

The lighthouse was built by DA Stevenson in 1895-9, being first lit on 7 December 1899. It was converted to automatic working on 28 September 1971, a Dalen gas light being fitted. A helicopter landing pad was built adjacent to the lighthouse at about this date.

The lighthouse is best known for the disappearance of three keepers (presumably through a heavy wave) in 1900, an incident which has been the subject of artistic representation, most recently in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' chamber opera The Lighthouse. Otherwise, the lighthouse is noteworthy for the successive installation of an experimental wireless telegraph link (in 1907) and a radio telephone (by 1925).

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 23 June 2008.

R W Munro 1979; [Admiralty] 1980; K Allardyce and E M Hood 1986; S Krauskopf 2001.


Construction (1899)

Light established in 1899.

R W Munro 1979


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