Community purchase of lighthouse complex nears completion

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse occupies the most westerly point on the UK mainland.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse occupies the most westerly point on the UK mainland.

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The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust – a registered charity and community company limited by guarantee – has leased and operated the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse complex for more than 20 years.

Now, with support from the Scottish Land Fund, part of the National Lottery’s Community Fund) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Trust will formally assume ownership of the complex from Highland Council in February.

The lighthouse tower, designed by Alan Stevenson and completed in 1849, remains the property of the Northern Lighthouse Board. However, the wider infrastructure of the site will be managed by the Trust on behalf of Ardnamurchan’s community.

Ritchie Dinnes, chairman of Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust, commented: ‘The board is delighted to have secured the future of this iconic site for the community. It intends to build on this by seeking further funding to convert the principal’s building into the visitor centre, upgrade the keepers’ cottages and improve visitor facilities at the site.’

The Trust is presently undertaking emergency infrastructure repairs with further support from the Scottish Land Fund. In preparation for the 2020 visitor season, an upgrade of the site’s popular café is scheduled. This will improve access for guests with restricted mobility, make better use of the available space and allow the provision of hot snacks for the first time, in addition to beverages, filled rolls and baked goods.

A project manager has been appointed to deliver the Trust’s long-term plan to protect and enhance the site.

Stephanie Cope.

Stephanie Cope, who took up the post earlier this month, said: ‘I’m proud to be part of this exciting new chapter for Ardnamurchan Lighthouse. This magnificent A-listed heritage asset is held in deep affection by the local community.

‘This iconic landmark commands a spectacular position, with so much to offer in terms of engineering, maritime heritage, archaeology and natural history.

‘Your first encounter with Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is unforgettable. The Trust wants the site’s amenities to augment the experience of visiting – sensitively, and in a way that doesn’t detract from the wildness of this place. I look forward to helping the Trust achieve that goal.’

Following emergency repairs and the ‘meanwhile’ improvement of the existing café, the Trust’s plans for the site include the reconfiguration and extension of the principal keepers’ building.

This utilitarian 1955 structure is not one of the original A-listed assets. Its renovation will improve access for guests with restricted mobility; allow for fresh, innovative interpretation; create space for group sessions, events and exhibitions; and include a glass-fronted dining area, with unparalleled views across the Hebridean seascape.

The original lighthouse lens – kindly loaned to the Trust by the Northern Lighthouse Board – will sit prominently in this repurposed space. The lens is a fine example of the beauty that suffused Stevenson’s cutting-edge design work, and a central part of the site’s narrative.

Beyond this refurbishment, the Trust looks forward to collaborating with heritage partners, interest groups and the local community to restore and utilise other areas of the complex.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is a key attraction on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula: sensitively improving the site’s offer, and increasing opportunities for residents to use and enjoy it, will build capacity and create opportunities in this remote rural area.