SCOTLAND’S ROCK LIGHTHOUSES
a type of building that is not introspective, but outward-looking.
It deserves to thrive, he says, and on the boat 11 miles out to sea we think of the special prayer Robert Stevenson commissioned during the building of the Bell Rock. He petitioned God to “prosper, we beseech thee, the work in which we are engaged. May it remain long after our eyes have ceased to behold it.”
Between 1698 and 1904, 27 rock lighthouses were built to mark the most dangerous hazards to shipping in the seas around Britain and Ireland and, of these, 20 survive today and 18 still show their lights. The Bell Rock, first lit in 1811, is the oldest working building to remain standing upon its reef. The other three in Scotland are:
Built 12 miles off Tiree, Skerryvore, left, it has been called the most beautiful lighthouse in the world. Two hundred years ago, before it was built, the rocks wrecked many ships every year and there was money to be made from collecting the wreckage that was regularly swept up on the beaches of Tiree. Work began in April 1841and was completed in July 1842. Some called it the noblest of all the lights. It was automated in 1994.
Sitting on the Torren reef 18 miles west of Colonsay, Dhu Artach lighthouse was designed by Thomas Stevenson, the father of Robert Louis Stevenson, who used the reef as the place where David Balfour and Alan Breck are shipwrecked in Kidnapped. Work began in April 1867 and it was lit in 1872.
Designed by David and Thomas Stevenson to protect shipping on the Firth of Forth, Oxcars, above right, was originally lit by an oil burner and attended by keepers. It became the first of the Scottish lighthouses to be automated when it was converted to gas in 1894.