Location: KIntyre
lighthouses, ships and boats, travel by sea

The Mull of Kintyre lighthouse

"In 1788 the first lighthouse was built on a cliff top 240ft above the roaring tidal races that batter the end of the Mull of Kintyre. It is only accessible by a seven mile trek over a narrow road which is built over boggy land. The end of your journey is at the highest point of the Mull and it’s here you have to leave your vehicle. This area is known as The Gap and as the road zig-zags down another mile to the lighthouse. One of the building engineers on the lighthouse was Robert Stevenson, a close relation of the author Robert Louis Stevenson. Due to the difficult terrain the Mull lighthouse took 22 months to build as all the materials had to be landed at Southend and taken by horseback over the mountainous road to the site, each journey took a day’s work. In 1817 the lighthouse keeper was awarded an extra £5 annually to enable him to keep a horse to carry his stores from Southend.

"In 1821 and 1830 the lighthouse was rebuilt. A foghorn was erected in 1876 and after several alterations to the power of the light the lighthouse was finally automated in 1996.

"Hector Lamont and his wife Ester were residents at the Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse from Oct 1988 until the light became unmanned in March 1996. When I visited them their home at Stewarton near Campbeltown they told me that the time they spent at the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse was the happiest time they had spent at any of their postings. Hector started his career with the Lighthouse Board at Duncasby, John O’ Groats in 1960. After marrying in 1964 they had postings in Orkney, Isle of Man, the Isle of Tiree, Caithness, Sanda Island and Corsewell Point in Wigtownshire before moving to this southernmost tip of the Kintyre peninsular. Ester told me that she had thought at first that the lighthouse would be too remote for her but soon realised that she loved it and called it her ‘wee heaven’, with its wild goats and other wildlife and the constant procession of shipping and the occasional helicopter visit from the Army Signals Corp who maintained the aerial transmitter near the lighthouse. Hector told me that there were three lighthouse keepers and a local assistant while they were at the Mull lighthouse and at times their wives would have to help out as well. Ester laughed as she said that there was always something happening. They were never without visitors which she loved to entertain, especially their family at weekends. Other visitors included royalty, showbiz stars, high ranking service personnel, sightseeing holiday visitors, all were made equally welcome. The hallway in their house bears witness to the high esteem they were held by the many different branches of the services who gifted them their badges in gratitude of the kindness and assistance that both Hector and Ester gave them during their ‘watch’ at the Lighthouse.

"There is no doubt that on a clear summer’s day the beautiful wildness of the Mull of Kintyre is boundless and as you travel overland towards the Mull Lighthouse the complete serenity and calmness of the area really makes you feel that you have arrived at God’s Kingdom. However, there is another face to this coin and that is when the winds are howling in from the West and the rain is battling in sideways, or when the silent, all enveloping blinding mists roll in from the sea.

"It was an evening like this on the 2nd June, 1994, when Hector and Ester Lamont were just arriving at the top of the hill above the lighthouse after their weekly shop when overhead they heard the throbbing of a helicopter engine. The next moment the RAF Chinook crashed into the hillside above them and burst into flames with all 29 lives lost. The theories and counter arguments regarding this accident still rage on 26 years after the event and whatever caused this terrible event it has left an indelible scar on all those who became involved at the crash site and many of these were the Southend Auxiliary Coastguards. Hector received his MBE from the Queen in 1995 for his service to the Lighthouse Board."

As told by Avril Stone

More information on visiting the area can be found here.