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10 stunning lighthouses to visit and stay in

Lighthouses are meant to catch your eye, and these ten certainly deliver. These tall, white buildings stand out against the landscape, making sure sailors by the shore stay safe.

But these days, a lighthouse is not just for light. Our Scottish lighthouses are sometimes museums, bird observatories and even a place to stay! We round up some of our best lighthouses.

1. Barns Ness Lighthouse, Dunbar

Aurora Borealis lights up the night sky with a spectrum of colour and serves as a perfect backdrop for Barns Ness Lighthouse © Sarah White

The Northern Lights over Barns Ness Lighthouse © Sarah White

Barns Ness Lighthouse is a survivor; it was machine gunned during the war, but no damage was sustained thanks to the tough stone it was built with in 1901 from nearby Craigree and Barnton quarries.

It’s sometimes possible to catch sight of the Northern Lights this far south, but it’s always worth a trip to the East Lothian shore to see the lighthouse and the views out across the firth.

2. Southerness Lighthouse, near Dumfries

Southerness Lighthouse, near Dumfries

This was only the third purpose-built Scottish lighthouse back in 1749, but Southerness Lighthouse is still standing today. Southerness is a beautiful part of Dumfries & Galloway to visit, as you can gaze right out across the Solway Firth for many, many miles.

3. Isle of May Low Light, Firth of Forth

The Low Lighthouse on the Isle of May which is now used as a bird observatory

The Isle of May Low Light only acted as a lighthouse for around 40 years, before it was made obsolete by the North Carr Lightship and the other lighthouse on the island. The Low Light building is now home to living quarters used by the island’s bird observatory. This small island is home to lots of lovely puffins and is also a National Nature Reserve, so it makes for a great day trip by boat.

4. Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, Fraserburgh

Kinnaird head lighthouse, close to the museum of Scottish lighthouses, Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire.

Kinnaird Head Lighthouse is pretty special. Firstly, it was a castle, which had a lighthouse installed without changing the original structure! Now, it’s the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses so you can see one, and find out about all the others at the same time!

5. North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower, Firth of Forth


Most lighthouses offer pretty views out over the water. But North Queensferry Harbour Light Tower also offers a view of some of Scotland’s most famous bridges over the Firth of Forth. This is one of the world’s smallest working light towers and was built by Robert Stevenson in 1817. In the summer months, you can take a look inside, but it’s worth a trip just for the view of the bridges.

6. North Ronaldsay Lighthouse, Orkney

North Ronaldsay Lighthouse, North Ronaldsay, Orkney.

North Ronaldsay Lighthouse (and visitor centre) is something of a title holder – it’s said to be the oldest intact lighthouse, the tallest land based lighthouse, and has the last working foghorn station in Scotland. That’s got to be worth a trip! Get right to the top by climbing up 139 ft, visit the wool mill and grab a bite to eat in the café. You can even stay in one of the two lighthouse keepers cottages and watch the sun set on Orkney.

7. Butt of Lewis Lighthouse, Outer Hebrides


The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse has good ties to the Lewis Trilogy, a set of three crime books written by Peter May and set in the Outer Hebrides. The Blackhouse opens in Ness harbour, where you can take a circular walk around the Butt of Lewis for views far out across the Atlantic.

8. Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Shetland

Sumburgh Head and lighthouse, Mainland, Shetland.

You can stay over at Sumburgh Head Lighthouse or just pop in for a visit and find out about this well-known Shetland lighthouse. Set high on the cliffs, you can explore the smithy, engine rooms and radar huts but also enjoy panoramic views from the Education Centre and in the new Marine Life Centre.

9. The Lighthouse, Glasgow

The Lighthouse, Scotland's Centre for Design and Architecture, is a visitor centre, exhibition space and events venue situated in the heart of Glasgow.

Glasgow’s Lighthouse… is not actually a lighthouse. That’s just its name. But it’s well worth a visit as it’s Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture and it was one of the first public commissions completed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Plus it has its own spiral staircase. Look out for the exhibitions and events held here, plus the views out over the city – not something you find in every lighthouse!

10. Rua Reidh Lighthouse, Gairloch

Located at the entrance to Loch Ewe, Rua Reidh Lighthouse provides an idyllic weekend retreat where you can escape from technology, relax and enjoy the scenic views spanning across the Minch to the Isle of Skye, the Shiant Isles and the Outer Hebrides. There are also a variety of sea life to spot including whales, dolphins and basking sharks. It really does sound like a rejuvenating experience!

Why not book a stay in a lighthouse or see what other great architecture attractions you can visit? Find out more information on Scotland’s lighthouses and where you can stay at the Northern Lighthouse Board. Share your lighthouse pics with us on Facebook and Twitter.