Hyskeir and Hyskeir Lighthouse
Situated 10 kilometres southwest of the island of Canna and 14 kilometres west of Rum, the low lying rocky islet of Hyskeir is the location for the Hyskeir lighthouse which marks the southern entrance to The Minch.
Its name - Òigh-sgeir in Gaelic – means the “maiden skerry”. The rocky islet and its even smaller neighbour, Garbh Sgeir – the cormorant's skerry – are composed of hexagonal basalt columns, and are said to be a continuation of that massive valley once filled by lava from Rum and which gave birth to the Sgurr of Eigg.
The Hyskeir Lighthouse was established in 1904 to light the southern end of the Minch and to warn shipping off Mills Rocks, Canna and Hyskeir itself. Both Canna and Hyskeir are low lying and, prior to the establishment of the light, were difficult to observe.
The lighthouse was designed by David and Charles Stevenson, and built in 1904 by Oban contractor Messrs D & J MacDougall at a cost of £15,134. The optics were supplied by Chance Brothers costing £821, the lanterns and parapet by Dove and Co., Edinburgh £1,275. The lighthouse is a white tower 39 metres high and features 155 steps to the top. Its light has a reach of 24 nautical miles and sends out 3 flashes every 30 seconds. Hyskeir (Oigh Sgier) Lighthouse is situated on rocks approximately 5 miles south west of Canna and 8 miles west of the island of Rhum. It was established in 1904 to light the southern end of the Minch and to warn shipping off Mills Rocks, Canna Island and the rock on which the lighthouse is built.
Both Hyskeir and Canna are low lying and, prior to the establishment of the light, difficult to observe.
D A Stevenson estimated the cost at £15,134 and the work was given to the Oban contractor Messrs D & J MacDougall. The optics were supplied by Chance Brothers costing £821, the lanterns and parapet by Dove and Co., Edinburgh £1,275.
The families of the Hyskeir Lightkeepers lived in Oban and the keepers were taken out from there by helicopter for their month of duty. The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland visited Hyskeir by helicopter in 1974.
Although the keepers were taken to and from the rock by helicopter, for their reliefs, heavy items such as oil and equipment have to be landed by the lighthouse vessel PHAROS. During the winter of 1980, bad weather had prevented the lighthouse vessel FINGAL from delivering ten barrels of oil on a number of occasions between September and January. When the supplies were finally landed, only 2 days' supply of oil had been left at the station.
The light was finally automated in March 1997 and Hysgeir is now unoccupied.
Used as summer grazing for the Canna sheep in the 19th and early 20th century, Hyskeir and its neighbour are now a real wildlife haven with nesting sites for Artic and Common Tern, Kittiwakes and Eider ducks and a large Seal colony.
Today Hyskeir has also been recognised as an important place in the life cycle of the elusive Basking Sharks, the world's second largest fish, as they congregate near the rock in large numbers during the summer months.
Gavin Maxwell who fished for basking sharks in the area in 1947, recorded a mass sighting of these slow-moving plankton feeders near Hyskeir. “It was a gigantic shoal ... at one moment we counted 54 dorsal fins in sight at the same time.”
A satellite tagging project started in 2012 will enable a closer study of Basking Shark movements and the data will inform proposals for establishing a Marine Protected Area that would include the Small Isles.
- Castle Island
We have very little historical information on the light. However it was originally designed and built by David A Stevenson in 1906 as a cast iron tower as first image attached (which was taken in 1985) with the gas being manufactured on site. At some stage it was converted to acetylene gas using the lens in the second attached picture.
In 1985 the cast iron tower was demolished and replaced with the GRP tower still using the gas system and lens. This just pre-dated Northern Lighthouse Board’s universal use of solar energy for this type of light. In 2002, the gas system and lens were removed. Solar panels charging batteries were installed to supply a standard electronic lantern, which used a 20W halogen lamp. The light is monitored using a UHF radio link to Ardnamurchan lighthouse, which connects to Edinburgh on the telephone system. An LED light has now been installed using half the power of the lantern with tungsten lamp.
The light has a character of flashing white every 6 seconds and a range of 8 nautical miles. The tower is 8 metres high and has an elevation of 24 metres above sea level
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is situated on the most westerly point of the British Mainland. The Ardnamurchan light is 36 metres tall (118 ft), built of pink granite by Alan Stevenson in 1849. Alan Stevenson, FRSE, MInstCE, was born in 1807 and was Engineer to the Board of Northern Lighthouses. Among his notable works is the Skerryvore Lighthouse. Stevenson died in 1865, in Portobello, Edinburgh.
A member of the famous Stevenson family of engineers, eldest son of Robert Stevenson, and brother of David and Thomas Stevenson, between 1843 and 1853 he built thirteen lighthouses in and around Scotland. The writer Robert Louis Stevenson was the son of Thomas and thus the nephew of Alan Stevenson.
It is the only lighthouse in the UK built in the Egyptian style. The light was automated in 1988 and is now operated remotely by the Northern Lighthouse Board from Edinburgh.
There have been many arguments about this name, two of the most likely are, Point of the sea-hounds or otters, (Airde meaning Point, Muirchu meaning sea-hound or otters) and the Point of the pirates or wreckers (where the "col" from Muirchol means wickedness).
The site for the lighthouse was chosen in 1845 and 20 acres of land was bought for the sum of £20.00. The land was owned by Mr Alexander Cameron who was also paid, rather grudgingly, £58.00 for any inconvenience during building operations.
The contractor responsible for the building work was a Mr Hume. 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 oil light was first exhibited on the night of 5 October 1849. Two lightkeepers were appointed at a yearly allowance of £18.00. They kept at the station two cows and about a dozen sheep.
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 40 feet of road was washed away by the heavy seas. The keepers boat was broken up although they had secured it 15 feet above the last known high water mark.
The lighthouse was automated in 1988 and is now remotely monitored from the Board’s headquarters in Edinburgh.
The former keepers' cottages and outbuildings are owned by the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust and 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, including access to the restored engine room and workshop with the original fog horn. Other displays include the geology and natural history of the area, and local social history and culture.
The last part of the computer game Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened takes place in this lighthouse
Year first lit 1849
Focal height 55m
Range 24 Miles
Coordinates 56.7271°N 6.2260°W
Charachteristic Flashing (2) White every 20 Secs
Thanks to a joint partnership between the Northern Lighthouse Board and the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust, you can now climb to the top of Ardnamurchan lighthouse between April and October.
Please note that the climb to the top of the tower is quite strenuous (152 steps and two ladders) and is only suitable for people who are physically fit. Children under 5 are not allowed to climb the tower. Owing to the nature of the building, there can unfortunately be no disabled access to the tower.
Charges for the tour, which includes entry to the Exhibition Centre, are as follows:
Adults: £5, Children under 16, senior citizens, concessions: £3. Family group (4 persons): £14
Tours of the tower start every half hour from 11 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. Please telephone to book in advance. On days when essential maintenance is being carried out, the tower will be closed to visitors.