Ruvaal Lighthouse

The Ruvaal, Rhuvaal, or Rubh'a' Mhàil Lighthouse is a listed 19th century lighthouse, located at the north-eastern end of the island of Islay, in the Inner Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.[1] The active lighthouse marks the northern approaches to the Sound of Islay a narrow channel separating Islay from the adjacent island of Jura, and is one of the seven lighthouses operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board, which act as maritime aids to navigation on and around Islay.[2]

Ruvaal Lighthouse
Ruvaal Lighthouse
Argyll and Bute
Inner Hebrides
Coordinates55.93635°N 6.123483°W / 55.93635; -6.123483
Year first constructed1859
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower, black lantern, ochre trim
Tower height34 metres (112 ft)
Focal height45 metres (148 ft)
Range19 nautical miles (35 km; 22 mi)
CharacteristicFl (3) W 15s
Admiralty numberA4236
NGA number114-4208
Managing agentNorthern Lighthouse Board
Heritagecategory B listed building 


The need for lights near the sound had been identified as early as 1835 by Robert Stevenson, with the Board of Trade requesting that the light should cover the Neva Rocks to the west. This requirement meant that a substantial tower was required. It was designed by the brothers David Stevenson and Thomas the sons of Robert, from the notable Stevenson lighthouse engineering family.[2]

Construction started in 1857 and it was completed in 1859. The total cost was £6,500 (equivalent to £639,534 as of 2018).[3][2] The lighthouse consists of a brick 34-metre-high (112 ft) cylindrical white washed tower, supporting the lantern and single gallery. It has 158 steps to the top of the tower. Sandstone was used to construct the window and door openings. The architecture of the long keeper's cottages was criticised in a report from 1861 as looking 'more like dog kennels than anything else'.[4][5]

Access to the lighthouse has always been difficult due to its remote location, bringing in supplies and relief keepers was eased by the use of helicopters in the 1980s. Helicopters were also used to help in construction of an overhead electricity line to the site in 1981. One helicopter crashed during the project, and the pilot survived the accident.[2]

The new supply meant that a sealed beam electric lighting unit could be installed in 1982, and the light was automated the following year. The keepers were withdrawn and the cottages were sold, which are now private property. The tower and its light are still operated and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board.[2]

The original 3rd order fresnel optic was preserved and now forms part of a garden feature at Colonsay House on the nearby island of Colonsay.[1]

Listed buildings

The entire station including the tower, keeper's cottages, and boundary walls are protected as a category B listed building.[6]

See also


  1. Rowlett, Russ. "Lighthouses of Scotland: Argyll and Bute". The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  2. "Ruvaal Lighthouse". Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  3. UK Retail Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  4. Historic Environment Scotland. "Islay, Rhuvaal Lighthouse And Keepers' Houses (38155)". Canmore. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  5. "Ruvaal Lighthouse". Gazetteer for Scotland. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
  6. "Ruvaal Lighthouse: Listed Building Report". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 14 January 2017.
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