The Butt of Lewis is about as far north as you can go in the Western Isles. Standing at the north tip of the Isle of Lewis, it achieves a mention in the Guinness Book of Records for being the windiest place in the UK. Look West from here and there's nothing between you and North America: look north and it's open ocean all the way to the Arctic.
The Butt of Lewis itself comprises rocks and cliffs of 60 to 80 feet high. It is no surprise to find it's the location for a lighthouse, though to find a red brick lighthouse in a country better known for painting them white is less expected.
The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse stands 121ft high and was built between 1859 and 1862 by David and Thomas Stevenson. Compared with some of the Stevenson's Scottish lighthouses it's location may seem relatively benign.
It is easy to overlook the fact that road communications in Lewis were so poor at the time that all the materials involved in its construction had to be landed by ship in the sheltered and sandy bay of Port Stoth a couple of hundred yards to the south east of the site for the lighthouse.
The Stevensons quoted £4,900 for the work involved in building the lighthouse and the housing for the lighthouse keepers. Work was delayed when, demonstrating the dangerous nature of the waters here, a ship carrying material for the work was wrecked on the rocks while trying to gain the shelter of Port Stoth. A further delay was caused when the only man with the skills needed to construct the 168 step spiral stone staircase went on strike. He won his claim for an extra 1d per day in wages.
The lighthouse continued to be supplied by sea until as recently as 1960. The communications wires strung from the lighthouse are associated with its role in acting as a relay for the Flannan Isles lighthouse to the west. Since 1998 the Butt of Lewis lighthouse has itself also been operated automatically. Nearby is a foghorn which ceased operation in 1995.
The cliff architecture of the Butt of Lewis is spectacular, and home to many seabirds: making this a haven for ornithologists. On the opposite side to the approach road as it passes the inland end of the Port Stoth inlet is a relatively well preserved open field runrig system, a relic of the communal farming that once prevailed here.
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