Ardnamurchan Lighthouse transfer a beacon for the future

The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse

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Ardnamurchan Lighthouse soars 115 feet into the air at the most westerly point on the British mainland, a towering beacon to the brilliance of the famous Stevenson engineering dynasty.

And the latest chapter in its long history sees ownership of the lighthouse complex transferred from Highland Council to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust.

This community asset transfer was made possible by grant aid from the Scottish Land Fund and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The site and associated buildings will be owned and managed by the trust on behalf of Ardnamurchan’s residents. The lighthouse tower, which is still operational, remains the property of the Northern Lighthouse Board.

Councillor Allan Henderson, Caol and Mallaig, chairman of the council’s communities and place committee, said the local authority was delighted to complete the transfer of the ownership of the land and buildings surrounding the lighthouse to the local trust that has run it for many years.

‘The council is sure that the trust and the local community will make full use of the asset to protect its future and develop the range of facilities and services they provide on the site. We wish them success in their future ventures,’ added Councillor Henderson.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse has a long and distinguished history of safeguarding mariners off Scotland’s wild west coast. Completed in 1849, the soaring white granite tower was erected by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson.

The enduring elegance of Stevenson’s design is framed by unrivalled panoramic views across the Small Isles and Inner Hebrides.

The lighthouse complex has changed hands several times since its completion, but its journey into community ownership started in 1996.

Following a lengthy campaign led by Ardnamurchan residents, then councillor Dr Michael Foxley persuaded the council to purchase the site from entrepreneur Peter de Savary.

Under private ownership, the complex had not been fully accessible to the public. Fighting tirelessly to reopen its gates, the Lighthouse Group highlighted the site’s significance to Scotland’s cultural and maritime heritage; coupled with its value as a place for people to connect with coastal environments.

As the process of transforming the existing buildings into a visitor attraction progressed, the dedicated community volunteers blossomed into a fully constituted social enterprise – the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust.

For more than 20 years, the trust operated the lighthouse complex in collaboration with the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The belief that this landmark is the jewel in Ardnamurchan’s crown, and a place that should be accessible for all to enjoy, remains the ethos behind the trust’s work.

However, securing the substantial investment necessary to protect and enhance the Grade A heritage assets was challenging for a tenant organisation.

In 2019, the trust was awarded £224,900 from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the lighthouse complex and deliver much-needed emergency repairs.

As part of this support package, the trust also appointed a dedicated project manager to push the multi-phase restoration forward.

Ritchie Dinnes, chairman of the trust, explained: ‘…local people have always felt a sense of ownership over this site. Now, with the completion of our community asset transfer, the focal role of the lighthouse complex in our community has been strengthened.

‘This important change will help us to attract grant funding; allowing us to upgrade facilities at the site so that it can play an even bigger part in community life.’

The challenge of concluding this transfer was heightened by the ongoing pandemic. It has taken tenacity, sleepless nights, strong partnerships, and a collective vision of the huge potential this attraction has for buttressing Ardnamurchan’s remote rural economy.

John Watt, chairman of the Scottish Land Fund, commented: ‘It is good to see the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust achieving its goal of taking this landmark into community hands, and ensuring its future as a local asset.’

As its efforts to protect and enhance the lighthouse complex are redoubled, the trust says it looks forward to collaborating with heritage partners, interest groups, and most importantly, Ardnamurchan residents.

Joyce Hillard, chairwoman of West Ardnamurchan Community Development Company (WACDC), added: ‘The WACDC welcomes this exciting development, and looks forward to working with the trust and local people as plans to upgrade this iconic site are taken forward.’

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Ardnamurchan lighthouse. Photograph: Michael Macgregor Photography.

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