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Berneray, Barra Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse (19th Century)

Site Name Berneray, Barra Head Lighthouse

Classification Lighthouse (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Sgeir Leahd; Skate Point

Canmore ID 21382

Site Number NL58SW 7

NGR NL 54898 80253

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Western Isles
  • Parish Barra
  • Former Region Western Isles Islands Area
  • Former District Western Isles
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

The final stepping stone in the Hebridean archipelago, with 190m high cliffs and sprayswept Barra Head at its southernmost point. Round the principal settlement area on the island's north-east coast, and on the south side of its central ridge, archaeological evidence points to sites of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Norse vintage. No trace survives of a chapel, but an early medieval cross-marked slab lies in the burial ground just south of Maclean's Point. Berneray's population reached 28 in 1851; the last native islanders left in 1910.

A half mile haul up Mullach a' Lusgan, and the Lighhouse keepers' graveyard lies near the cliff top, ringed by a massive wall. Barra Head Lighthouse, Robert Stevenson, 1830-33 , built by James Smith of Inverness Virtually identical to that at Hynish on Tiree, the granite lighthouse breasts the promontory of Sron an Duin, raising its light 580 ft above the Atlantic surge. Across the cobbled courtyard (which in severe gales can be almost impossible to cross, and into which fish are sometimes blown) stands the low, flat-roofed terrace of keepers' cottages. Graded in status, they might be in Edinburgh's New Town, such is the quality of their joinery: a curved door, fluted architraves, cornices, shutters and fielded panelling. Lighthouse automated in 1980.

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

Archaeology Notes

NL58SW 7.00 54898 80253

Barra Head Lighthouse [NAT]

OS 1:10,000, 1989.

For building at NL5655 8036, see also NL58SE 44.

BY18: Lit 1833, engineer Robert Stevenson, became automated 1980.

R W Munro 1979; K Allardyce and E M Hood 1986; NMRS MS/595/7.

Name: Barra Head (1830-3)

Location: N56 47 W7 39 Atlantic, W end of Berneray

Designed and built: Robert Stevenson

Light first exhibited: 15 October 1833

Description: circular stone tower, painted white

Height of light above MHW: 682ft (208m)

Height of tower: 59ft (18m)

Light source and characteristics: W Fl (1) ev 15 secs. Electricity: 162,000 cp: 21nm nominal range

Fog warning apparatus: None

Manning: unwatched (automatic since 23 October 1980)

The highest elevation of any British lighthouse. Electric light replaced the acetylene burner in September 1993

C Nicholson 1995.

This stone-built island lighthouse was constructed in 1833, Robert Stevenson being the engineer and James Smith (Inverness) the contractor. It was automated in 1980. When constructed, this was both the highest (683ft asl) and the most fog-bound of all the Northern Lighthouse Board lights. Hot water pipes were installed to heat the lantern in winter.

The lighthouse-keepers' houses (NL58SW 7.01) are adjacent, and the associated shore facilities were at Oban (Pulpit Hill).

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 26 August 2008.

R W Munro 1979; K Allardyce and E M Hood 1986; K Allardyce 1998; S Krauskopf 2001.

Architecture Notes


Scottish Records Office

The Commissioners announce their intention to build 3 new lighthouses, Dunnet Head, Barra Head and S. side of Lismore. Letter from C. Cunninghame says the commissioners have resolved to delay decision on Chickenhead


1829 GD46/17/77


Construction (1833)

Light established in 1833.

K Allardyce 1998

Modification (23 October 1980)

Automated in 1980.

K Allardyce 1998

Aerial Photography (3 July 2003)


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