Eilean Glas

Eilean Glas Lighthouse was first established in 1789 by Thomas Smith and is located on the east coast of the island of Scalpay, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It was one of the first four lighthouses to be built in Scotland and takes its name from Glas Island, Scalpay. The tower is painted with two broad red bands to distinguish it as a day mark.


1787: The original Northern Lighthouse Trustees approached Captain Alexander McLeod of Harris, the owner of Scalpay, to request that a beacon be erected on the island. McLeod enlisted the local Tacksman, a Mr Campbell, to provide the necessary building materials and source local workmen, and later recommended him as a supervisor for the construction.

The Trustees indicated that they did not require Campbell as a supervisor and made arrangements for their own Edinburgh-based masons to erect the Lighthouse tower. However, as the masons were occupied with the construction of Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse during this time, McLeod chose to begin construction independently. In the summer of 1787, Campbell and his workmen laid the foundations and raised the Tower Wall to a height of seven feet.

1788: On his preliminary inspection visit, the Trustees’ engineer, Thomas Smith, found that McLeod’s men had built the tower four feet greater in circumference than was shown on the plans. However, to save time and expense, he authorised the masons to proceed according to this larger scale.

The masons were George Shiells, who received 4/2d, and John William Purdie, who received 3/- per working day. They arrived at Scalpay in the summer of 1788, and the tower was completed in October of that year. The work on the interior of the building was entrusted to Archie McVicar, a joiner from North Uist.

1789: In April of this year, a vessel from Wick named the “Kelly and Nelly” was chartered to convey to Smith and his workmen to North Ronaldsay to fit the lighting equipment. Alexander Reid, a sailor from Fraserburgh who had been chosen as the first keeper at Scalpay, was collected, along with his family, on the same journey. The lantern and lighting equipment were finally installed in the summer and the light on Scalpay was first exhibited on 10 October 1789.

1823: Alexander Reid was pensioned off with an annuity of forty guineas. At this time, he was reported to be “weatherbeaten and stiff by long exposure on the Point of Glas”.

1824: The present tower was erected under the supervision of Robert Stevenson, who was sole engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board at the time. The lightroom was raised to 25 feet above ground level, bringing its elevation to 73 feet above sea level.

1852: The light was changed to operate using a revolving system lens.

1907: The fog signal was installed, with a character of a single 7 second blast every 1½ minutes. During this time, the light was also changed to exhibit a flashing character.

1978: The light was converted to automatic operation at a cost of £83,565.

1987: The fog signal was discontinued.

2019: In December of 2019, the lighthouse underwent major refurbishment and upgrade works. The sealed beam lamp array, which had been mounted on a gearless pedestal, was replaced with an LED optic, and the adjoining building, which houses the control room and bothy, was redecorated. The Lighthouse is now fitted with an Electric Dynamic Logic Alarm, which automatically telephones NLB headquarters to report faults in the event of failure. The old lens and machine are currently held by the Royal Scottish Museum.


Year Established



Thomas Smith


Latitude   57°51.413'N
Longitude 006°38.515'W


Group flashing (3) every 20 seconds


43 metres


18 nautical miles


White tower 30 metres high with red bands

Public Access


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