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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Hoy High Lighthouse

You've seen many of my photos of Hoy High lighthouse over the years.  Some months ago a group of from the "Lighthouse Keepers Association" paid a visit and had got special permission from the Northern Lighthouse Board to go up the tower.  I managed to acquire some photos of the inside of the light to share with you.

There are about 157 steps UP the tower (well and down too). Imagine pre-electricity days when light-house keepers had to go up and down the stairs regularly at night to keep the oil lamp burning!  Now the lighthouses are un-manned and the accommodation houses at the base of them sold off. But the lights still keep shining through the night (and poor visibility conditions).

The lighthouse houses - all the lights in Scotland and their houses were designed by the Lighthouse Stevenson's and there are fascinating stories connected with their construction. Some on rocks barely big enough for a light! Robert Stevenson was a civil engineer and the designer (and yes he was related to Robert Louis Stevenson!).  The Graemsay post van is parked here as the post office is in a building in the lighthouse garden! Nice and handy.

In the control room of the tower - this pole is painted it's actually just a cement pillar!

And for all the brightness of the light - it's just these two tiny bulbs that keep it going!!

It's the refraction from the glass that makes the light so bright and "big".

Another view of the glass

The view through the window to the pier

And the lighthouse garden!

To the right of the light you can just make out the Hamnavoe ferry setting sail for Scrabster.

And apparently this doorway leads to the hollow chamber that runs from the floor to the top of the light.  All the cables run up and down here.

One of the windows at the top of the staircase

And the ID plaque outside

There used to be a helipad for the light to bring engineers over, there is also a vessel (Usually the Pole Star) that services the lights and buoys around the waterways.  Often workmen just come over on our regular Graemsay ferry.  The Pole Star was here a few weeks ago as part of the Battle of Jutland commemorations. HRH Princess Anne stayed on board as she is President of the Northern Lighthouse board.  She's been to Graemsay before in that capacity too!  But not this time.

And there's the ship and the light in the distance....

Currently there's a lot of work going on at Hoy High light to update all the electrics etc and so there is a temporary arrangement on the top of the tower to keep the light going.- you can just see two "gizmos" on the rain around the light.

As you can see, the back of the light is blocked out so it doesn't shine into our bedroom windows!  It's not a revolving light but a static light.  It's a "leading light" in conjunction with Hoy Low - the herring fleet in the late 19th century had to line the two lights up. If they got red they were off line, it had to be both white to give them safe passage through the narrow channel in the Sound into the harbour.


  1. Hi Sian
    Love the blog, it helps Cath and I feel close to Orkney even though we are back home now. We visited Graemsay 3 weeks ago, walking around the island clockwise and ending up with a picnic on the beach at Sandside Bay - beautiful and only 3 types of weather that day! Your description of island life is helping us to prepare for our move to Orkney in a few years time, all we need to do is decide which island and find the right property!
    Best wishes
    Stuart & Cath

    1. Let me know next time you are in Orkney and we can meet up! And if you need any pointers to info etc for your move just ask. There are lots of Orkney Facebook groups too so take a look at those - even if you don't want to join. I moved to Graemsay 16 years ago and the time has gone so fast I love it so much :-)

  2. I presumed that the lights would be revolving shows you what I know, an interesting post, I learnt a lot.

    1. It was the first question I asked when I saw how close I was to the lighthouse. 2nd question was : is there a fog horn (there wasn't!).

  3. You live in such a beautiful and interesting place. Thanks for sharing.

    1. It is a magical place to live :-) And thanks for taking time to comment!

  4. We have lots of lighthouses here in Nova Scotia. Upon visiting one I noticed a sign forbidding smoking in the lighthouse because the floors were saturated with oil over the years and one dropped match ... well you know.

    This post was very informative. I love how you have stone walls around your gardens.

    I really do think I should have been born on your little island.

    1. I love the style of your Nova Scotia lighthouses! Shame we can't transport you over for a visit :-)

  5. Hi Stuart & Cath, I don't mean to pull you away from Sian - I love her posts as well but I also write a blog from North Ronaldsay, the furthest northern island in Orkney, if you're interested in following that.
    I'm thrilled to learn that you're thinking of moving to Orkney! The way of life up here really makes you appreciate the little things.

    1. Sarah do you have a link for your blog? I'll put it on my blog roll! Love North Ron though not been up there for years, but neighbour was born and bred there so still hear some news from there.