Noup Head Lighthouse sits on the north-west headland of Westray, in the Orkney Islands.
Standing 24 metres high but 79 metres above sea level, Noup Head lighthouse was designed and built by David A Stevenson in 1898. Very little is known of its history but Noup Head was the first Scottish lighthouse to have a lens carried on a mercury float, a system introduced in France. The name Noup is derived from “gnupr”, meaning headland locality.
A Principal Lightkeeper and an Assistant, with their families, lived at Noup Head until the light was automated in 1964. Lightkeeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence. At night each keeper was required to keep a watch in the lightroom to ensure that the light flashed correctly to character; during daytime keepers were engaged in cleaning, painting and generally keeping the premises tidy. Following automation the former keepers’ cottages were demolished.
The lens at Noup Head is a Fresnel lens with a new lamp system, so called after its French inventor, Augustin Fresnel.
The light is automatically operated. When daylight falls and rises between set levels a light sensor switches the light on and off. The light is monitored 24 hours a day from a remote centre and maintained once a year when the Northern Lighthouse Board technicians visit the light.