Historic Environment Scotland to review Scotland’s historic lighthouses

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) has announced it will undertake a review of listed and unlisted lighthouses owned by the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB).


As part of the year-long project, in partnership with NLB, HES will update existing listed building records for lighthouses and explore unlisted lighthouses to determine if they meet the criteria to become listed. Research will be undertaken using information and photographs from NLB's collection held in the National Record of the Historic Environment. The project will be a major project throughout Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020.


The Oban lighthouse was built in 1892 by David Stevenson, the cousin of famous author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Buildings listed as having 'special architectural or historic interest' form part of the nation’s rich heritage and help to tell the story of Scotland's past. Listing celebrates these buildings and ensures their special interest is considered in the planning process.


HES, Scotland's lead public body for the historic environment, is responsible for listing buildings, while NLB is responsible for the provision of Marine Aids to Navigation in the waters surrounding Scotland and the Isle of Man, and currently operates and maintains over 200 lighthouses.


Philip Robertson, Deputy Head of Designations at HES, said:


There are around 150 listed lighthouses throughout the country, and they are not only wonderful landmarks but also a testament to Scotland’s exceptional engineering achievements.

"There are a range of lighthouses which have never been assessed for listing, including some dating from the 1970s and 1980s, so we’re really excited to look at these structures for the first time and explore their potential.


"By reviewing and updating the records of these fascinating buildings, we will be able to offer more information about what makes them special to help their future care and maintenance."


Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse on Mull was designed by Thomas and David Stevenson.

Mike Bullock, Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board, said: "We place a great deal of importance on the preservation and sharing of our remarkable history and we are delighted to be working on this project with HES during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. Many of our lighthouses are now over 200 years old but they continue to serve the same purpose as when they were built – to guide all mariners safely through Scottish and Isle of Man waters.


"It will be enormously helpful to determine the appropriate listed status for our lights built in the 1970s and 1980s. Architecturally, they might be very different structures to the Stevenson lighthouses but they are very much a part of our lighthouse heritage."


Since the building of Scotland’s first lighthouse in the 17th century, lighthouses have played a crucial role in ensuring safe passage for ships. One of the most famous is the Bell Rock Lighthouse which was built in 1808-11 by Robert Stevenson (Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather) and its construction was an epic feat. It is listed at category A.


View the NLB collection in the HES archives here

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