Highland lighthouse enters new bright spell with community buyout

IT has lit the passage of vessels through some of the west coast’s most challenging waters for more than 170 years – now the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse is entering its very own bright spell.

The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse complex has been bought over by the local community after years of negotiations with hopes to develop further the landmark as  a major attraction in this remote part of the Highlands. PIC: Creative Commons.
The Ardnamurchan Lighthouse complex has been bought over by the local community after years of negotiations with hopes to develop further the landmark as a major attraction in this remote part of the Highlands. PIC: Creative Commons.

Following years of negotiations, the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse complex, which sits on the most westerly point of the British mainland, has now been bought over by the surrounding community with plans to develop it further as one of the great heritage and wildlife attractions of the area.

In the hands of former Milwall FC owner and luxury hospitality entrepreneur Peter de Savaray, access to the lighthouse grounds was restricted to the public, with Highland Council buying it from the businessman in 1991.

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It has been run by a community trust for the past 20 years, with a community asset transfer (CAT) recently concluded.

Ardnamurchan Lighthouse Trust now plans to carry out essential repairs and maintenance to the buildings routinely battered by water, wind and salt and invest in its holiday accommodation on the site to help draw more visitors to the area and drive economic growth in this part of the west Highlands.

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Stephanie Cope, project manager for the trust, said: “We are all delighted and the feeling at the trust is highly positive. It has been a very challenging year to attempt to get ownership in terms of Covid but we feel now we are in a good position.

“The peninsula is so special and we have this wonderful natural environment to share. Its a fantastic experience for our guest to come here and enjoy everything the Highlands and Hebrides has to offer. People come to enjoy the history of the place and the marine wildlife and the eagles.

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“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.”

Trust chairman Ritchie Dinnes added: “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.”

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The peninsula runs alongside Loch Sunart and the Sound of Mull on the south coast with views to islands of Skye, Muck, Eigg and Rhum from the north. The coastlines meet at Ardnamurchan Point, where the lighthouse was built by the Stevenson dynasty in 1849.

The lighthouse, a 39-metre tower built from Isle of Mull granite, was designed by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson. It is the only lighthouse in the world to be built in an “Egyptian“ style.

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The lighthouse itself is still maintained by the Northern Lighthouse board, with the trust running holiday accommodation, a visitor centre and cafe in the surrounding buildings.

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Priorities for the Grade A heritage site include upgrading the private water supply to and improving self-catering cottages and the foghorn viewing platform.

The CAT was completed after the trust was awarded £224,900 from the Scottish Land Fund last year to purchase the lighthouse complex and carry out essential repairs.

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John Watt, chair 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.”

The handover from Highland Council was completed on July 27, bringing to a conclusion a lengthy campaign to bring it into community hands which was started in 1996 by Dr Michael Foxley, then a councillor, who persuaded the local authority to buy the site from Mr de Savaray.

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Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the communities and place committee, said: “The council is 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. We wish them success in their future ventures.”

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