Duncansby Head

Duncansby Head Lighthouse is situated in Caithness, Highland, in north-eastern Scotland. It is the most northeasterly part of the British mainland.


The tidal streams flowing through the Pentland Firth earned it the title ‘Hell’s Mouth’ in the days of sail and it’s still a place where unwary ships can become play things of the sea. As the waters of the wide Atlantic flow into the North sea and ebb in the opposite direction, they set in motion a welter of eddies, races and overfalls, and in the neighbourhood of the Pentland Skerries they run at a speed of ten knots. So dramatic are the effects that each of these tide races has been given a name – the Swilkie, the Bore of Huna, the wells of Tuftalie, the Duncansby Bore, and the Merry Men of May.

In 1914, during the first World War, a temporary fog signal was set up at Duncansby Head close to John O’Groats. This was replaced by a permanent fog signal after the war.

During the second World War, and on the eve of the invasion of Norway, Duncansby Head Lighthouse was machine-gunned by a German bomber. Fortunately, no one was injured and no damage caused.

In 1968 a high power racon (radar beacon) was installed. It has now been replaced by a low-power self operating type, which can be particularly useful as a warning where the coastline is not conspicuous on a radar display.

Duncansby Head was automated in 1997.


Year Established



David A Stevenson


Latitude   58°38.646'N
Longitude 003°01.526'W


Flashing White every 12 Seconds


67 metres


21 nautical miles


Square concrete tower with balcony. Tower 11 metres high.

Public Access


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