Rua Reidh Lighthouse stands close to the entrance to Loch Ewe in Wester Ross, at one of the most dramatic and remote locations on the north-west coast of Scotland, with breath-taking views across the Minch to the Isle of Skye, the Shiant Isles and the Outer Hebrides.
Its name is an anglicisation of “Rubha Rèidh”, literally meaning a flat headland.
A lighthouse on Rubh’Re Point was first proposed by a lighthouse engineer David Stevenson in 1853, and its building was started by his son, David Alan Stevenson, who built 26 lighthouses in and around Scotland, in 1908, with the light first lit on 15 January 1912.
The light came from a paraffin lamp, subsequently converted to electricity. The original Fresnel lens is now in the nearby Gairloch Heritage Museum.
The fog siren gave 4 blasts every 90 seconds, but it was discontinued in 1980 as well as all the fog sirens in Scotland.
The siren’s tower and engine room were partially demolished, and all that is left is the first floor of the siren’s tower and the front facade of the engine room.
To the north, a quay and ramp provided access from the sea at high tide, and this was the only access for supplies until the road from Gairloch was built in 1962, and can be seen still today.
Paraffin was pumped from the quay and other goods were transported on a small trolley on rails.
The original light was manned by three lighthouse keepers, with a block of three apartments for the Principal Keeper, his two assistants, and their families, to live on site adjacent to the lighthouse tower.
A lighthouse keeper’s life was hard.
Taking four hour shifts, the keepers constantly tended the light throughout the night.
The clockwork mechanism had to be wound by hand, keepers had to regularly ascend and descend the 87 steps in the tower, and the lonely watch on hard winter nights had to be carried out regardless of the bitter weather from the Atlantic.
But also for the keepers’ families was arduous too, as all supplies had to be brought in by boat, landing at a tiny jetty only accessible at high tide in calm seas, or else by a long overland journey on foot or by pony. With no inside bathrooms or electricity, the keepers’ wives had a tough time, keeping the house warm with coal fires and cooking on paraffin stoves. Children had to pull their weight at home as well as walking to school in Melvaig, a daily round trip of 8 miles, about 13 km.
But there were something amazing too, including the rugged beauty of this stunning stretch of coastline, quiet, butbalso birds and sea life. On endless sunny summer days, and dark starry winter nights lit up only by the Aurora Borealis, the keepers and their families must have thought they were really in paradise.
Since automation of the light in 1986, the adjacent accommodation, no longer required for keepers, was sold into private ownership and since 2004 the lighthouse has been protected as a listed building.
Several of the outbuildings have since been in use as an amazing Bed and breakfast and self-catering tourist accommodation.
The sea around the point contains basking sharks and Atlantic seals, as well as fulmars, European shags and kittiwakes that nest on the steep cliffs.
Images from web – Google Research (except the last one with watermark)