Sule Skerry

Sule Skerry is a remote skerry in the North Atlantic off the north coast of Scotland.

Sule Skerry
Sule Skerry
Sule Skerry shown within Scotland
OS grid referenceHX621244
Coordinates59.08°N 4.41°W / 59.08; -4.41
Physical geography
Island groupNorth Atlantic
Area16 ha
Highest elevation12 m
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Council areaOrkney
Sule Skerry Lighthouse
LocationOrkney, Orkney, United Kingdom
Coordinates59.084713°N 4.407325°W / 59.084713; -4.407325
Year first constructed1895
Constructionmasonry tower
Tower shapecylindrical tower with balcony and lantern
Markings / patternwhite tower, black lantern, ochre trim
Tower height27 metres (89 ft)
Focal height34 metres (112 ft)
Original lens"hyperradiant" Fresnel lens
Light sourcesolar power
Range21 nautical miles (39 km; 24 mi)
CharacteristicFl (2) W 15s.
Admiralty numberA3868
NGA number3568
ARLHS numberSCO-231
Managing agentNorthern Lighthouse Board[4][5]
HeritageSite of Special Scientific Interest 


Sule Skerry lies 60 km (37 mi) west of the Orkney Mainland at grid reference HX621244. Sule Skerry's sole neighbour, Sule Stack, lies 10 km (6.2 mi) to the southwest. The remote islands of Rona and Sula Sgeir lie approximately 80 km (50 mi) further to the west. Sule Skerry and Sule Stack are both a part of the Orkney Islands council area.

Sule Skerry is 16 ha (40 acres) in area and about 0.8 km (0.50 mi) long.[6] It reaches a height of 12 metres (39 ft).[7] It is formed of Lewisian gneiss.[8]


Sule Skerry together with Sule Stack are listed as a Special Protection Area as they are home during the breeding season to thousands of puffins and gannets and smaller numbers of the rarer Leach's storm petrel and storm petrels. Note that Leach's petrel visit the island but breeding is not proved. Since the first visiting birds in 2003 there is now a large breeding population of gannets; a possible overflow from nearby Sule Stack.

Every three years the puffins and other seabirds on Sule Skerry are monitored by a team of birders called the Sule Skerry Ringing Group. They have been monitoring the seabirds on the island since 1975.

The island is treeless, since few trees would withstand the high winds of winter and salt spray environment. The dominant plant is maritime mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritimum).


There is a lighthouse at the centre high point of the island and a number of small cairns around the periphery. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Sule Skerry lighthouse was the most remote manned lighthouse in Great Britain from its opening in 1895 to its automation in 1982. Its remote location meant that construction could only take place during the summer, thus it took from 1892–94 to complete.

A meteorological buoy used in Met Office's Marine Automatic Weather Station (MAWS) Network is located off Sule Skerry. Results from the buoy are used in the Shipping Forecast.


"The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry" is a story of a Silkie who lives on Sule Skerry.

See also


  1. National Records of Scotland (15 August 2013) (pdf) Statistical Bulletin: 2011 Census: First Results on Population and Household Estimates for Scotland - Release 1C (Part Two). "Appendix 2: Population and households on Scotland’s inhabited islands". Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  2. Haswell-Smith, Hamish (2004). The Scottish Islands. Edinburgh: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-454-7.
  3. Ordnance Survey: Landranger map sheet 6 Orkney (Mainland) (Map). Ordnance Survey. 2014. ISBN 9780319228128.
  4. Sule Skerry The Lighthouse Directory. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 12 May 2016
  5. Sule Skerry Northern Lighthouse Board. Retrieved 12 May 2016
  6. SPA description
  7. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: Sailing Directions (Enroute), Pub. 141, Scotland.
  8. Kirton, S.R.; Hitchen, K. (1987). "Timing and style of crustal extension N of the Scottish mainland". In Coward M.P., Dewey J.F. & Hancock P.L. (ed.). Continental Extensional Tectonics. Special Publications. 28. London: Geological Society. pp. 501–510. ISBN 978-0-632-01605-1.

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