Reprint – Finders Keepers

Finders keepers
Published: 31/07/2012 with permission from the Aberdeen Press and Journal

Earlier this month, we revealed that the Northern Lighthouse Board was selling off three lighthouses near Stonehaven, Lossiemouth and Thurso, with price tags ranging from £75,000 to £270,000 – along with a foghorn at Girdleness, in Aberdeen.
All the buildings, once a beacon for sailors and fishermen, would be ideal for those willing to spend some time and money creating an unusual home.

Rua Reidh Lighthouse, on the other hand, is ready to move in to. The keepers’ accommodation, at the foot of the tower, has been run as a successful home and holiday accommodation for years.

This B-listed home sits in a stunning location, on the cliff edge at Melvaig, around 12 miles from Gairloch on the west coast – officially named as the happiest place in the UK last week – and overlooking the Isle of Skye to the south-west, Harris to the west and Lewis to the north.
It is for sale at offers over £325,000.
Building of the lighthouse was started by David Stevenson, one of the famous family of lighthouse engineers, in 1910. Two years later, it was helping steer boats safely through the seas.

The original 1912 light was a paraffin vapour burner which displayed six white flashes every 30 seconds.

The huge optic – one of the largest ever produced – rotated by clockwork around the light source.

The foghorn was operated by compressed air provided by large diesel engines which powered the compressors.

Built at the same time was a house with three self-contained flats for the three keepers and their families, while outhouses contained toilets and a bathhouse, a stable and workshop.

The house was modernised in 1962, with electricity, indoor toilets, bathrooms and a hot water supply, while coal fires alone kept the house cosy until 1989.

Popping into visit the keepers and their families would at one time have been almost impossible as the only way to reach Rua Reidh was either by sea or by pony across the moors.

In 1962, a road was built, but even today it is said the best way to soak up the views is to walk the three-mile, single-track road to the lighthouse rather than drive.

The lighthouse is owned and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board and is not included in the sale, but the owners have the use of the area surrounding the tower as well as the right to use the road to the nearby pier.

The old keepers’ accommodation is owned by Chris Barrett and Fran Cree, who have been running Rua Reidh since 1989.

Chris, a qualified teacher and mountain leader offers guided walks. Fran is the domestic manager, looking after the needs of the guests.

The flexible accommodation is currently split into a spacious self-catering letting flat with three bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen.

A connecting door leads to the rest of the house which has six bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen, WC/cloakroom, bathroom and a large conservatory.

The house currently operates as a rural holiday retreat, and is ideal for those looking for a base from which to explore one of the last wilderness areas of Europe. It also comes with various outbuildings and a small but modern visitor centre which offers information on wildlife, nature and the lighthouse history, while a viewing area overlooking the Atlantic has a telescope and binoculars to let you get a closer look at the wildlife.

From here, you can expect to see deer and goats roaming wild, white-tailed eagles, seals, dolphins, otters and the occasional whale and basking shark.

There are spectacular cliff walks to be enjoyed, and if you don’t mind stretching your legs, some wonderful deserted sandy beaches about an hour’s walk away.

Gairloch is not too far away and it has a number of hotels, shops and recreational facilities.
For further details on this west-coast home, contact Strutt and Parker on 01463 719171.

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