The Scapa Flow Landscape Partnership Scheme

Lighthouses in Scapa Flow

Hoy High and Hoy Low, Graemsay

Hoy High lighthouseAlthough known as Hoy High and Hoy Low the lighthouses are, in fact, situated on the island of Graemsay. This island lies at the northern entrance to Scapa Flow between Stromness and Hoy.

In 1840 Graemsay was chosen for the site of two lighthouses which were to be built on the east and west ends of the island. When brought into line the two lights would lead ships up the centre of Hoy Sound through deep water and well clear of the submerged rocks. They were designed by Alan Stevenson, son of Robert, and the building of these lighthouses brought many changes to Graemsay.

A slipway was built at the Bay of Sandside to enable materials to be landed. The builder, Alexander Wilson employed Irish workmen who were accommodated in bothies.

After construction a road was built to connect the two lighthouses, the first on the island. Stone was brought in from the North Isles and was cut and prefabricated at the Point of Ness, Stromness. The stones were then transferred across to the island from a wooden jetty.

The east tower is 108 feet high with the foundations dug into the rock. The light flashes white/red every eight seconds. The white light is visible for 20 miles while the red light is visible for 16 miles. It was automated in 1978.



Hoy Low lighthouseHoy Low lighthouse was constructed at the same time and consists of a circular plain short tower with a lamp. By 1851 the lighthouse was ready and the lights were tested on 5 April. Later that month both Hoy High and Hoy Low lighthouses were officially lit.

The height of the tower is 40 metres and the engineer was Alan Stevenson. It is visible for 15 nautical miles and was automated in 1966. 

Cantick Head Lighthouse, Hoy

Cantick Head lighthouseSituated on the south-east coast of Hoy, this lighthouse was designed by David and Thomas Stevenson and provided a safe passage into Longhope and Scapa Flow.  

Built at a cost of £5,661, work began in February 1856. The light was first exhibited on the night of 15 July 1858. A fog horn was put in place and was first heard in October 1913.  It remained until 1987.

The lighthouse overlooks Cantick Sound, the southern entrance to Scapa Flow. It flashes white every 20 seconds with a nautical range of 18 miles. It is 38 metres high and was automated in 1922. The engineers were David and Thomas Stevenson.


Lighthouse on SwonaThe island of Swona lies in the southern approach to Scapa Flow.  A fierce tidal race is present at both the north and the south of the island and whirlpools are seen here. 

In 1896 a lighthouse was built at the northern end of the island.  The Swona minor light was built in 1906 on the south-west tip of the island. Originally made from cast iron it was replaced by a reinforced concrete light with a square galley in the 1980s. It flashes white every eight seconds.


Lighthouse on CavaCava is an island on the western side of Scapa Flow, to the east of Hoy.

Located on the northern tip of Cava, the 29-foot cylindrical cast iron tower was built in 1898.  It flashes red or white every three seconds, depending on the direction it is seen from.   

Tor Ness

Tor Ness Lighthouse

Situated at Longhope, the north-west entrance to Pentland Firth, this lighthouse was designed by brothers Charles and David A Stevenson. 

A white conical steel tower, it was established in 1937 and has a flashing white light every three seconds. 

Barrel of Butter

Barrel of ButterLocated on a rock in the north-west corner of Scapa Flow, the lighthouse was built in 1980 and consists of a conical masonary tower which is painted red. There is no lantern, the light is displayed from a short mast at the top and has two flashes of white every ten seconds. It stands 19 feet (6 metres) tall.

Rose Ness, Holm

Rose NessA sibling to the Cava lighthouse, this was designed by David A Stevenson and is a cylindrical cast iron tower 26-feet (8 metres) high with a lantern and gallery.  A white flash is emitted every six seconds.