Scotland is a nature’s treasure trove with hidden gems in its fold. One of those Scottish hidden gems is lighthouses. Lighthouses have always been an integral part of Scotland.

Not just they attract people for their architectural beauty but also for their function of guiding and intimidating ships. Above all, it’s the surreal wild location that makes these lighthouses a must-visit.

Believe it or not, there are plenty of options when it comes to the best lighthouses to visit in Scotland. Therefore, in this blog, we’ll walk you through a list of must-visit lighthouses that has to be on your Scotland bucket list.

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The Best Lighthouses to Visit in Scotland
The Best Lighthouses to Visit in Scotland

The Best Lighthouses to Visit in Scotland

Table of Contents

An Insight Into the History of Lighthouses in Scotland

A visit to these lighthouses can take you through the pages of Scottish history. The country’s culture has always included Caledonian maritime tradition. From the era of Vikings to medieval Norway to the time of the shipbuilding industry, seafaring has never become a thing of the past in Scotland.

You would be amazed to know that in the 19th century, a total of 63 lighthouses were built in Scotland. And almost all of them involve the craftsmanship of Alan, Robert, and David Stevenson.

Consequently, the Stevenson family became the synonym for lighthouses in Scotland. It was Thomas Smith who made lighthouses a part of Scottish culture. He was a native engineer and also the Chief Engineer of Northern Lighthouse Trust back in 1786.

Today, the majority of these lighthouses across Scotland are automated or entirely deactivated. However, they still play a crucial part in Scotland’s tourism and serve as perfect examples of the continual testament of time. With that being said, let’s reveal our list of the 10 best Scotland lighthouses.

Rua Reidh Lighthouse, Wester Ross

Located on the northwest promontory of Wester Ross, Rua Reidh Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque spots to visit in Scotland. The lighthouse beautifully stands at the Low Ewe’s entrance – one of the most stunning stretches of Scotland’s northwest coast.

The coast offers scenic beauty, which is dotted with sub-tropical plants and exotic trees. Talking about the lighthouse, there is an interesting anecdote associated with it. In 1853, the idea to build Rua Reidh Lighthouse was first proposed by David Stevenson. However, it got rejected due to the cost reason by the Board of Trade.

Later, in 1906, the application was again filed by David A Stevenson, but that also got rejected owing to the fund reason. Finally, permission was granted in 1908 to build a light and fog signal.

The lighthouse offers spectacular views across the Minch to Skye, Outer Hebrides, and Shiants. Besides, the keepers’ quarters have also been converted to a small, cozy guesthouse that includes a self-catering apartment and B&B rooms.

In the region, you can also enjoy an amazing hike along the rugged clifftops and can for dolphin, porpoise, whale, and sea otter spotting.

Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh

Believe us, Kinnaird Head is a special lighthouse that you cannot afford to miss out on your trip to Scotland. Wondering why? Well, it is the 16th-century castle where a lighthouse was built in 1787 without making any changes to its original structure. It forms part of the first lighthouse ever constructed on the mainland.

Today, it serves as a museum – the Museum of Scottish Lighthouse. Located in Fraserburgh, this is an exciting museum to learn about Scotland’s lighthouses. It mainly has two different elements.

The first one is its design that appeals to the eyes of by-passers. The building of the museum was built in the 1990s. However, the best part of the museum is its galleries that walk you through the rich history and story of Scottish lighthouses.

Apart from the exhibits, the museum also uses sound recordings and controlled dynamic lighting effects to talk about the history of lighthouses in Scotland. Along with that, you can enjoy the magnificent ocean views from this tourist site. The Museum of Scottish Lighthouse also features a store that sells a variety of stuff, including books on Scottish lighthouses.

Barns Ness Lighthouse, Dunbar

An intriguing lighthouse that dates back to the 19th century, Barns Ness Lighthouse is often known as a survivor. Wondering about the reason behind it? Well, the lighthouse stood through the test of some difficult times. During WWII, the lighthouse was machine-gunned, and despite that, it did not suffer any damage.

Not just this, there is another story associated with this fascinating lighthouse. It says that the lighthouse had keepers until 1966. Also, when it got electrified, it became semi-automatic and hence, included an emergency battery and a generator.

Modern tourists can wander or take a stroll around the grassland, beaches, and sand dunes surrounding this lighthouse. Along with that, you can also capture the stunning surrounding and view and click some amazing pictures.

Strathy Point Lighthouse, Sutherland

Strathy Point is a unique lighthouse as compared to others on this list. This one of the best NC500 lighthouses is beautifully located on the tip of the peninsula. Between Cape Wrath and Joan O’Groats. The lighthouse was built in 1958 and was the last of the traditional “manned” lighthouse constructed in Scotland. Not just this, it was also the first lighthouse in Scotland to be built as an all-electric station.

This is a two-storey lighthouse exposed to the weather. You would be amazed to know that two units of the lighthouse have been converted for residential or vacationing purposes. These units can be used for short and long-term stays. So, if you are looking for a lighthouse where you can also book a stay, you have the option now.

In case you don’t know, Strathy Point is one of the fully functional lighthouses that warn passing ships of any danger ahead on the coast of Scotland. For a fact, the lighthouse was made fully automated back in 1997. However, it doesn’t include full-time keepers or workers on-site.

Furthermore, the coastal walk by Strathy Point Lighthouse is another key activity you can enjoy at this tourist site.

Strathy Point

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Bell Rock Lighthouse, Angus Coast

The oldest existing rock lighthouse in the British Isles is Bell Rock Lighthouse. The lighthouse is still active and is also amongst the oldest of its kind in the world. Located off the coast on Bell Rock, the lighthouse is comfortably standing on a partially submerged treacherous reef in the North Sea, some 12 miles from Arbroath.

Bell Rock Lighthouse was built by Robert Stevenson in 1813 using a revolutionary method. Such is the magnificence of this architectural beauty that it’s not been replaced in more than 200 years.

Talking about its design, well, it is closely based on Smeaton’s Tower (Eddystone Lighthouse). Today, the Bell Rock Lighthouse includes a Signal Tower Museum, which is a visitor centre talking about the history of this lighthouse.

The Mull of Galloway Lighthouse, Dumfries and Galloway

Know as the most Southerly lighthouse, the Mull of Galloway comes with arguably the best views in South West Scotland. The lighthouse is beautifully located on the edge of a 260 ft. cliff at the Southerly Point of Scotland.

There are 115 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse. From the top, you get an opportunity to see Cumbria, Scotland, the Isle of Man, and Ireland. Besides, the lighthouse also includes a former Engine Room which is now converted into an exhibition. The artifacts, lights, and lenses on display give you an insight into the history of the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse and talk about how it used to be operated before electricity and automation.

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye

Neist Point is a surreal tourist attraction in Scotland. Located on the westernmost tip of the Isle of Skye, it is a rocky headland that serves as a picturesque spot overlooking the majestic sight of the North Atlantic Ocean.

This is also the spot where Scotland’s most striking lighthouse is located. Yes, we are talking about the Neist Point Lighthouse. Commissioned in 1901, the lighthouse was built by David Alan Stevenson. He was part of a family of civil engineers who built a majority of lighthouses in Scotland.

Neist Point Lighthouse is a white tower that comfortably stands at a height of 19 meters and is located on the top of 43-metres high cliff, which is constantly whipped by the gushing ocean waves. The scenery from the lighthouse site is highly compelling and also includes numerous species of seabirds. The lighthouse is engirdled by low outbuildings that are located within a parameter wall.

Apart from that, Neist Point is one of the most favourite spots to visit not just to adore the picturesque surrounding but also for spotting basking sharks, whales, porpoises, and dolphins.

Such is the magnificence of this renowned tourist site that it has even attracted the eyes of many filmmakers. Some parts of the very famous film 47 Ronnin were filmed here. Besides, Breaking the Waves is another film in which some scenes were shot here.

Neist Point Lighthouse Isle of Skye

North Ronaldsay Lighthouse, Orkney

In the northeastern part of Orkney, there is the beautiful island of Ronaldsay. The island is home to one of the most stunning Scottish lighthouses – North Ronaldsay Lighthouse. For a fact, it was the third lighthouse that was built by commissioners.

The history of this fascinating lighthouse dates back to the 18th century. An interesting fact associated with this lighthouse says that it once had the most advanced lighting system, which was the catadioptric or reflecting system. It featured multiple lamps burning oil that included copper reflectors. These reflectors used to get cleaned with a soft linen rag and finely powdered milk until they were absolutely bright.

North Ronaldsay Lighthouse boasts a beautiful red brick tower that has stood the thicks and thins of time and weather. There is also a Lighthouse Visitor Centre within the vicinity. The visitor center includes two keepers’ cottages along with a wool mill. The mill is operational and processes the local fleeces into yarn and felt.

After the lighthouse tour, you can also choose to go for the Wool Mill tour. The products of the wool mill can be bought from the gift shop at the visitor centre. Along with that, there are also many other interesting things to do on North Ronaldsay island, bird watching being one of them.

North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower, North Queensferry Town

North Queensferry Harbour Lighthouse holds an interesting act as one of the must-visit Scottish lighthouses. It is the world’s smallest working light tower located in the North Queensferry part of Scotland.

The light tower was built in the year 1817 by Robert Stevenson. However, it was later restored and reopened on the North Queensferry pier. There are 24 steps that take you up to the lamp. Here you can learn about how the light keeper used to keep the lamp burning and the signal system worked.

You can be a part of the beautiful tradition of this light tower by lighting the lamp and in return, receive a certificate of competence as the honorary keeper of the light tower.

North Queensferry is one of the best-kept secrets of Scotland, and from here, you can explore the whole of North Queensferry peninsula, which is a treat in itself. The peninsula is known for its stunning beauty and exotic wildlife as well as the Fife Coastal path and the Carlingnose Reserve.

The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse, Outer Hebrides

One of the beautifully located lighthouses in Scotland is Butt of Lewis. It is located on the most northerly tip of Lewis island. Not just this, this lighthouse also has featured in the Guinness Book of Records for being the windiest part of the UK.

It was built between 1859 and 1862 by David and Thomas Stevenson. However, in 1971, the lighthouse got automated. With a height of 37 metres, the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse is constructed of red bricks which makes it different from other lighthouses as most of them are painted white.

The striking location of this lighthouse makes it a must-visit. Today, it serves as a tourist site and a prominent place for capturing seabirds and the wild stretches of coastline around it. Port Stoth is another key site located nearby the region. The sandy beach there is one such place that is also explored by tourists who visit the lighthouse.

Before You Leave for Scotland

Before you set off on your way to Edinburgh, there are a number of things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. These include what to pack, where to stay and what is the best insurance for your trip to Scotland. All of this is discussed in detail below.

When is the Best Time to Travel Scotland?

It is no secret that Scotland is a wet and cold country, it is the reason the countryside is so beautifully green. There is, however, a certain time of the year when the weather in Scotland is more likely to be dry and warm. As the winter fades away from the highlands and the Spring warmth comes through, Scotland is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in the world.

If you were to choose a time of the year to visit Scotland, we would highly suggest April to June. These months tend to be the driest of the year, with summer rains coming through later into July and August. It is also early enough in April that the flying “Midges” (biting insects like nothing you have ever experienced) have not woken up yet to cause misery and doom.

What to Pack for Your Trip to Scotland

When it comes to packing for a trip to Scotland there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your 10 day Scotland road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket.

As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.

Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C

Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C

Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C

Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C

As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around the highlands of Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

What is the Best Travel Insurance for Scotland

I know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.

To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.

Get a quote for your travel insurance right here and get covered!

This is the sand that lie hidden from the main road along the north of Scotland, known as Coldbackie Beach.

So there you have it, a guide to the best lighthouses in Scotland. If you are visiting this incredible country and have any other questions on what to expect, leave us a comment down below. We love to chat about this stuff! If you have already been, let us know how it was! 

Also, remember to share this guide with your friends and family that you are going to share this amazing experience with. Sharing is caring and we want to ensure that everyone is fully prepared to maximise their experience in Scotland.

If you are planning a Scotland trip soon then check out our other Scotland content right here. Come and find us on social media to see where we are currently exploring. Tag us in your photos from your stay and we will share them with the rest of our community of explorers and backpackers.

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The Best Lighthouses to Visit in Scotland
The Best Lighthouses to Visit in Scotland

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