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This building is in the Orkney Islands Council and the Stromness Parish. It is a category A building and was listed on 08/12/1971.

Group Items: N/A, Group Cat: N/A, Map Ref: HX 6219 2442.


D A Stevenson, completed 1893, lighted 1895. 5-stage on plinth, circular-plan lighthouse tower, with outsize lantern (see Notes). Painted brick. Stone flight to canted plinth with window to each flank; door at 1st stage; small-pane window to 2nd, 3rd and 4th stages; cantilevered walkway with cast-iron railings between 4th stage and lantern; evenly disposed portholes around tower below lantern; large, glazed lantern with domed roof and short weather vane.

INTERIOR: not seen, 1997.


Britain's most remote lighthouse, lying 40 miles west of Orkney and 37 miles NE of Cape Wrath. Its isolated position made it unsuitable for the accommodation of keepers' families; hence provision was made in Stromness (see separate list description). Designed and constructed by David Alan Stevenson, a member of Britain's foremost lighthouse engineering family, the Sule Skerry light answered a need for increased protection of the 'north-about' route around Britain, owing to additional congestion and resultant collisions in the English Channel. Although Sumburgh and North Ronaldsay were already lit, and the eastern side of Orkney being fairly well protected, the 160 miles of seaboard between the Pentland Firth and Muckle Flugga were dangerously unlit. Consequently, a series of important lights was built around the northern fringes of Britain - 2 on Fair Isle in 1892, Sule Skerry and Ratray Head in 1895 and the Flannan Islands in 1899. Sule Skerry island is fairly low lying, rising to 45 feet above high water, and is almost out of sight of land, the combination of these two factors necessitated the need for an extra-powerful light source on top of the 88 foot tower. To this end, lighting was delayed for a year after completion of the structure, while the Board of Trade and Trinity House argued with the Commissioners about the cost and character of the apparatus. As larger burners were used to increase the intensity of the light, they produced too much heat for the compact optical apparatus. As a result, the Stevensons increased the focal distance between the centre of the light source and the 'cage' of glass to 52 inches in what they called a 'hyper-radiant' apparatus. They also employed an arrangement of equi-angular prisms which caused less light loss and divergence than other types of lens. The lantern therefore required was larger than any previously designed for lighthouse service, being 16 feet in diameter instead of the normal 12. Stevenson's plans show how the lighthouse was divided internally; beneath the plinth was the water and provision store; the coal store was sited at the 1st stage, providing the all-important fuel to keep the lamps lit; a dry store was located above that, with the bedroom situated high, below the lamp room. With no accommodation structures outside the lighthouse, Stevenson provided a multi-bed chamber for the keepers within convenient reach of the lamp room. Plans show that three layers of paired bunks were stacked above two layers of paired drawers; a compact solution to manning a lighthouse with no accommodation block. Stevenson's plans also show the existence of fluted columns supporting H-girders in the lamp room. Now automated and unmanned.


Groome, ORDNANCE GAZETTEER OF SCOTLAND (1892) p 413; D B Hague, R Christie, LIGHTHOUSES, THEIR ARCHITECTURE, ARCHAEOLOGY AND HISTORY (1975) pp 157-159, 227; B Wilson, THE LIGHTHOUSES OF ORKNEY (1975) p8 (ill); R W Munro, SCOTTISH LIGHTHOUSES (1979) pp164-167; K Allardyce and E M Hood, AT SCOTLAND'S EDGE (1986) pp140-141; NMRS Plans and Drawings Collection, DC 9114-9134 (inclusive).

© Crown copyright, Historic Scotland. All rights reserved. Mapping information derived from Ordnance Survey digital mapping products under Licence No. 100017509 2012 . Data extracted from Scottish Ministers' Statutory List on . Listing applies equally to the whole building or structure at the address set out in bold at the top of the list entry. This includes both the exterior and the interior, whether or not they are mentioned in the 'Information Supplementary to the Statutory List'. Listed building consent is required for all internal and external works affecting the character of the building. The local planning authority is responsible for determining where listed building consent will be required and can also advise on issues of extent or "curtilage" of the listing, which may cover items remote from the main subject of the listing such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. or interior fixtures. All category C(S) listings were revised to category C on 3rd September 2012. This was a non-statutory change. All enquiries relating to proposed works to a listed building or its setting should be addressed to the local planning authority in the first instance. All other enquiries should be addressed to: Listing & Designed Landscapes Team, Historic Scotland, Room G.51, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, EDINBURGH, EH9 1SH. Tel: +44 (0)131 668 8701 / 8705. Fax: +44 (0)131 668 8765. e-mail: hs.listing@scotland.gsi.gov.uk. Web: http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/historicandlistedbuildings.

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Buildings are assigned to one of three categories according to their relative importance. All listed buildings receive equal legal protection, and protection applies equally to the interior and exterior of all listed buildings regardless of category.

ACategory A

Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (Approximately 8% of the total).

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