The earliest mention of a lighthouse in Scotland is in 1635, when Charles I Granted a patent to James Maxwell of Innerwick and John Cunninghame of Barnes to erect a lighthouse on the Isle of May, at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, and collect, at the rate of 1½d. per ton for Scotch vessels and double that rate for foreigners, duties from shipping for its maintenance. This patent was ratified by the Scots Parliament in 1641. The method of lighting was by a coal fire. (In 1814 the Commissioners purchased the Isle of May with the lighthouse thereon and all interests in light dues for the sum of £60,000). The Board established a new lighthouse on the Isle of May in 1816, which was engineered by Robert Stevenson. It was automated in 1989 and it now remotely monitored by the Board's Headquarters in George Street, Edinburgh. It has a character of flashing (2) White every 15 seconds and a range of 22 miles.
The first Lighthouse established by the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses was Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh, the light from which was first exhibited on 1 December 1787, James Park, shipmaster, was appointed keeper of the light, at 1s. per night, with the benefit of some ground, on condition the he has another person with him every night, who he is to instruct in the manner of cleaning the lantern and cleaning and lighting the lamps.
Skerryvore Lighthouse which marks a very extensive and treacherous reef of rocks lying in the sea off the Hebrides some 10 or 11 miles south west of Tiree. It was built of granite quarried on the Island of Mull during the six years from 1838 to 1844, to the design of Alan Stevenson, Engineer and constitutes an outstanding example of lighthouse engineering. The beautiful symmetry of the outline of the tower, the proportions of which are a height of 156ft (48 metres) with diameter of 42ft at the base tapering to 16ft at the top, ranks it amongst the most graceful of all lighthouse towers; it is even asserted by some that it is the worlds most graceful lighthouse.
The Board's automation programme was completed on 31 March 1998. Fair Isle South Lighthouse in Shetland was Scotland's last manned lighthouse.
The Northern Lighthouse Board, together with Trinity House (England, Wales and the Channel Isles) and the Commissioners of Irish Lights (Eire and Northern Ireland) are the General Lighthouse Authorities for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Running costs are met from a "General Lighthouse Fund", financed by the collection of Light Dues paid by commercial ships calling at British and Irish ports, and by fishing vessels over 10 metres in length. The fund, although administered by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, is entirely self-financing, and receives no grant from the Exchequer. The powers and duties of the General Lighthouse Authorities are laid down in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1995.
The First Engineer to the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses was Thomas Smith, who was step-father of Robert Stevenson, was appointed Engineer on 22 January 1787. Prior to this appointment he had been a whiteironsmith and manufacturer of lamps in Edinburgh. He held this position until 1804, when he was succeeded by Robert Stevenson.
If you want to carry out research on the Northern Lighthouse Board or are trying to trace your family tree and think you have lighthouse connections, you will need to know how to access to the Boards Archival Records. The Northern Lighthouse Board's archive records are now on deposit at The National Archives of Scotland. They have a comprehensive website or you can contact them at HM General Register House, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY Tel: 0131 535 1314 Fax 0131 535 1360. You can also contact The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses at Fraserburgh who can assist you trace your "lighthouse relatives".
The Board is responsible for Scotland and the Isle of Man. This area covers half the waters and coastline of the United Kingdom, together with the majority of offshore manned oil installations. The area is subject to severe weather conditions for many months of the year. The approximate length of this coastline is 6,214 miles (10,000km) a land area of 30,405sq miles (77,700 sq km) and 790 islands. * Source Scottish Statistics
The Board is responsible for: -
For the delivery of stores and supplies, buoyworking and the statutory inspection of the navigation aids on oil rigs in the Scottish sector, the Northern Lighthouse Board has two ships. NLV PHAROS and NLV POLE STAR (1174 gross tons, commissioned 2000) based at Oban.
The Board have some lighthouses open to the public during the Summer Season. Visit our Open to Public section to find out more.
There are a number of former lighthouse properties offering holiday accommodation, details can be found on our Links page. It should be noted that the Northern Lighthouse Board have sold these properties and is not responsible for the maintenance or operation of them.
Our Motto translates from Latin to For the Safety of All.
The Northern Lighthouse Board offers a career in a variety of disciplines such as Engineering, Ships Personnel, Information Technology, Finance, Procurement and Human Resources. The Board offers a rewarding career which can take our employees to some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Scotland. Vacancies are advertised on this website in our Working For Us section
If you are looking for information not contained in our Publication Scheme you can make a request to: The Compliance Officer Northern Lighthouse Board 84 George Street Edinburgh EH2 3DA Email: FOIenquiries@nlb.org.ukFax: 0131 473 2436
NLB has a large property and estate portfolio within Scotland and the Isle of Man. If you wish to raise any matters or request information relating to our properties and estate please contact: Commercial AdministratorNorthern Lighthouse Board 84 George Street Edinburgh EH2 3DA Tel 0131 473 3100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a wealth of knowledge on this website but we do not have a Teachers Resources Pack, however The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses may be able to assist
To report any defects or damage to any of our aids to navigation please telephone our 24 hour freephone emergency number 08000 326655.
Free from UK landlines, some mobile providers may charge.