Barra Head

Barra Head Lighthouse is situated on the West Side of the island of Berneray at the top edge of a very steep cliff. The lighthouse was established in 1833 and engineered by Robert Stevenson.


The tower is only 58 feet tall, but the light is situated at 693 feet above sea level and has a range of 18 nautical miles. The landing is approximately 1.25 miles from the station and in later years the Lightkeepers were the only inhabitants of the Island. Located nearby is a small walled cemetery which holds the graves of a visiting inspector and several keepers’ children.

1829: After an Inspection Voyage to the West Coast, the Engineer Robert Stevenson recommended to the Board that a Lighthouse be erected on Barra Head. The Commissioners approved the recommendation and preliminary reports were prepared in 1830. Barra Head was the chosen site as it is roughly equidistant from the lighthouses at Eilean Glas and Rinns of Islay, and stands at the southern entrance to the Minch. It was thought that an additional light in this area would be of great assistance to the coastal shipping off Argyll, and to international vessels approaching the West Coast of Scotland.

1833: The oil-fuelled light was first exhibited on the night of the 15th of October.

1906: The light was converted to be powered by incandescent gas.

1936: A wireless beacon was established.

1942: On the 21st of February, a Blenheim bomber crashed on the island, killing all three crew members. Their remains were discovered on the cliff face several years later and both the aircraft and crew were identified.

1980: On the 23rd of October, the last of the lightkeepers were withdrawn and Barra Head became fully automated. With the exception of the main optic, the equipment is now powered using batteries which are automatically recharged by a diesel alternator twice a week. The diesel alternator is automatically controlled by a quartz clock system.

Present: The main optic is now an acetylene operated Dalen revolving pedestal manufactured by AGA. The Fresnel lens equipment rotates at 1 revolution every 30 seconds. It has a mantle exchanger (gas) and it incorporates duplicate gas pressure operated devices. The equipment is automatically started and shut down by a sun-valve. During daylight hours, the system is designed to drive the Fresnel lens round at a very slow speed to prevent the mantles from deteriorating in strong sunlight conditions. There are 4 mantles in the exchanger systems and, together with many parameters of the equipment, are monitored by Hyskier Lighthouse.



Year Established



Robert Stevenson


Latitude   56°47.131'N
Longitude 007°39.215'W


Flashing White every 15 seconds


208 metres


18 nautical miles


White stone tower 18 metres high

Public Access


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