Rua Reidh lighthouse walk

Rua Reidh lighthouse

The north west coast of Scotland truly is my favourite place and, if not for the small issue of work and accessibility to the rest of the country, I’d be happy to live there. On Monday we decided to take advantage of the fantastic weather (and early season lack of midges) and head west again. This time we headed to Gairloch about one and a half hours drive away. We knew we’d have a short day as due to son’s van being off the road we agreed we’d drop him off and pick him up from work in Strathpeffer.

The drive west is most picturesque and takes you through some dramatic scenery. Along the way we kept saying “we really must come back and climb…” (insert name of practically every hill between Garve and Kinlochewe!) As we drove along Loch Maree we spoke about a return trip to climb those Torridon hills we’ve still to tackle – and which we had originally planned to do today except for son’s work schedule. Little did we know that 5 climbers had to airlifted from Liathach today due to wildfires.

The road into Gairloch is the usual Highland single track road and as usual was busy with tourists – including very many Dutch and German cars.

We stopped briefly on the cliffs overlooking Strath Bay and as we gazed at the empty beach we mentioned how in many other places around the UK the beaches would be mobbed today. We saw precisely one man and his dog!

Bank Holiday crowds on the beach

Leaving Gairloch the road gets even narrower as the no-through road skirts the edge of Loch Gairloch and heads north past the Big Sand camp site and Lunga Island. As typical for many minor roads in the Highlands and road is unfenced and motorists have to slow down occasionally to allow the sheep the right of way.

Lunch time

The approach to Melvaig again is ‘typical’ west coast scenery with scattered crofting townships on narrow flat ‘shelves’ above the Atlantic Ocean.

Crofting township north of Gairloch

Looking to Melvaig itself we see some of the cliffs on this rocky headland.

Looking north to Melvaig

This land is scattered with empty croft houses and a selection of styles of modern replacements.

One of many empty croft houses

According to the OS map the road finishes at Melvaig and the remaining 5km (3 miles) to Rua Reidh lighthouse is a track, so we parked here and set off on foot. However we soon found out this ‘track’ is in fact a tarmac road and we were passed by about 20 cars. 20 cars in about an hour and a half is not busy, and as we had passed a sign stating “vehicular access is for lighthouse customers only”, maybe all the vehicles were visiting the lighthouse. We did not intend to, and did not mind the walk.

The long, empty road

The walk gave us time to admire the wild flowers and natural sea stacks and arches we passed along the way.

Cyckoo flower aka Ladies Smock (Cardamine pratensis)
Cuckoo flower aka Ladies Smock (Cardamine pratensis)

Peat for fuel drying in the sun
Drying peat

Rocky coastline

We passed another sign reminding us the access was for lighthouse customers only – there is a accommodation available at the lighthouse as well as an Outdoor Centre.


We were relieved to catch our first glimpse of the lighthouse, but surprised to see it tucked down below the level of the road.

Approaching Rua Reidh lighthouse

However once were beside it, we could see it was quite open to the sea and would be visible for miles out to sea.

Rua Reidh lighthouse

A lighthouse on Rubha Reidh Point was first proposed by David Stevenson in 1853. Building was started by his son, David Alan Stevenson in 1908 and the light was first lit on 15 January 1912. The light came from a paraffin lamp, subsequently converted to electricity. The original Fresnel lens is now in the nearby Gairloch Heritage Museum.

Since the light became automatic in 1986, the adjacent accommodation is no longer required for keepers. It is run as a hostel and Bed and Breakfast business – Rua Reidh Lighthouse. Since 2004 the lighthouse has been protected as a category B listed building.

Rua Reidh lighthouse

To the north of the lighthouse is the remains of an old quay and ramp which provided access from the sea at high tide. This was the only access for supplies until the road from Gairloch was built in 1962.

Jetty at Rua Reidh lighthouse

Paraffin was pumped from the quay and other goods were transported on a small trolley on rails.

Former jetty and railway at Rua Reidh lighthouse

We peered over the side of the ramp and saw the old winch and railway wagon lying down in the natural rocky inlet.

Railway winch at Rua Reidh lighthouse

Railway wagon used to transport good to lighthouse

Since there is an interesting information board on the end of this concrete ramp, we were surprised they had not hauled these old artefacts up from this gulley and put them on display.

Natural quay (of sorts) Rua Reidh lighthouse

The kelp forest in this inlet was amazing.

Kelp forest

There is no track heading east from the lighthouse, but there are several small paths – some sheep tracks and some obviously made by curious walkers keen to have a look at the northern coast of the headland. We wandered on past the amazing sloping rocks to the crags further east.

Slip, sliding away

Rudha Reidh headland

At the top of a small rise, Cnoc nan Stac you can look down into the next bay, Camas Mor.

Rubha Reidh headland, near Loch Ewe

The map shows ruins at the bay and a track running inland to a couple of lochs. We’d like to return here and backpack into the ruins and lochs. But that is for another day, Today we had to head home.

Melvaig to Rua Reidh lighhouse

Back to the small village of Melvaig.


13 comments on “Rua Reidh lighthouse walk

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post – it makes me want to pack my rucksack and head up north. The weather you got was exceptionally good and what a treat that you managed to avouid the dreaded midgies!

  2. Thanks, John. I also enjoy the west coast in it’s more usual ‘wet and windy west’ persona, I just don’t get so many photos on those days!

    I like the look of your blog (both visually and in terms of content) and will add you to my Google Reader subscriptions.

  3. The beach at Camas Mor is one of my favourite places in Scotland.One of the ruins is a very unusual open bothy 🙂 Also,there is a monument on the headland to Innes Ireland the racing driver and I could never find out his connection with this place.

  4. Fancyhorse, thanks. As I said to someone else recently, on a good day – like this – Neil can easily shoot 200 photos. He’ll edit that down to 150 and I’ll choose about 20 to share. I’ll manage about half of that amount, but still only share 1 in 10.

    Alex – OK, we really will HAVE to hike over to the beach to look at this bothy. Interesting information about the racing driver.

  5. Great to see some photos of the coast here. I’ve never really explored the coast on foot but we did have a memorable weekend about 15 year ago staying at the Big Sand campsite and renting kayaks from the guy on the beach (not sure if he’s stil there). I’ve been hooked on kayaking ever since

  6. Loved your photos and your blog,and one in particular-“Looking to Melvaig itself we see some of the cliffs on this rocky headland”,reminded me so much of the scenery here in Victoria,Australia along ‘The Great Ocean Road’.
    How far away, and yet so close we seem to be with our glorious scenery.
    I’ll be directing other friends to your site.

    Keep up the great work!!

    • You know, I’d *really* like to visit the rocky coastal areas of Australia. I know most people go to visit the long golden sandy beaches, but give me a rocky coast any time! I’d love to visit Australia some day…

  7. Yes,so many people think that Australia has just sandy beaches,but as we are completely surrounded by water,we definitely do have our fair share of wild,rocky coasts.
    In my previous post,I mentioned ‘The Great Ocean Road’ and this area has a section known as the ‘shipwreck coast’.

    Have you written for a travel magazine or done any work for Lonely Planet?
    Your blog is very professional.

    • Thanks Rosemary. and you’ve got me thinking about my writing. I started this blog simply as a way to share my thoughts on some of our outings with a few friends and as somewhere to host these jotting together with our photos.However, I know some posts are read by others(strangers!) and I feel I wish to improve my writing to make it a more enjoyable read for all.

      I feel my current rambling notes are just that – rambling and I think that is because I’m trying to do three things – at once – in my blog posts. I’m giving a factual account of the day (especially for hillwalking days); I’m try to share a little history or geography of the place; and I’m trying to add to this mixture, my thought and feelings of the day. It all comes out a bit jumbled at time. Oh! and a fourth thing – I’m trying to write to suit my photos sometimes! I think (I hope!), with a wee bit more thought to my posts I can make my writing better!

  8. so sad the lighthouse owners seem very adament they are the only ones that can use the road, my disabled mother would love to get up there…

  9. so sad the lighthouse owners seem very adament they are the only ones that can use the road, my disabled mother would love to get up there…

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