North Rona Lighthouse is situated on a remote island that lies 71 kilometres (44 mi) north east of Butt of Lewis and 16 km (10 miles) east of Sula Sgeir. More isolated than St Kilda, it is the remotest island in the British Isles to have ever been permanently inhabited.
Rona is often referred to as North Rona in order to distinguish it from South Rona, which lies north of Raasay, off Skye. Rona is said to have been the residence of Saint Ronan in the eighth century. The island continued to be inhabited for many hundreds of years. However the entire population died in 1680 after rats reached the island, and a ship raided their food stocks. It was resettled, but again depopulated by around 1695 in some sort of boating tragedy, after which it remained home to a shepherd and family until 1844 when it was deserted.
Sir James Matheson, who bought Lewis in 1844, once offered the island to the Government for use as a penal settlement. The offer was refused. The island still boasts the Celtic ruins of St Ronan’s Chapel. It is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage, and managed as a nature reserve, for its important grey seal and seabird colonies.