About eleven miles to the north west of the village of Durness lies Cape Wrath, the most
north-westerly point on the British mainland. The name Wrath comes not from the fury of the stormy waters to
be found around the Cape but instead derives from the Norse word for a turning point.
The Cape is a rocky headland with cliffs that rise 360 feet from the sea. On top of these cliffs is the lighthouse.
Built in 1828 by Robert Stevenson the lighthouse tower is 70 feet tall with 81 steps inside to the top. At the base of
the tower are stores and the lighthouse keepers' accommodation, although since 1998 the light has been operated
remotely from the Northern Lighthouse Board's headquarters in Edinburgh.
There is no public road access to Cape Wrath. Instead, a mile and a half south of Durness is Keoldale where a ferry
crosses the Kyle of Durness to connect with the summer mini-bus service. The area between Durness and the lighthouse
is known as the Parph and contains 207 square kilometres of moorland that has been designated a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI). The cliffs around the Cape support huge colonies of seabirds including puffins, fulmars,
razorbills, kittiwakes and guillemots.
Cape Wrath is owned by the Ministry of Defence and since 1933 has been home to a naval gunnery and aerial
bombardment range. The range is in use throughout the year by ships and aircraft of the Royal Navy and Royal Air
Force, although exercises are relatively infrequent. When the range is in use sentries are posted on the road and
red flags are raised. On some occasions it is also necessary to close access to the road to the lighthouse. It is
often possible to watch these exercises from Balnakeil beach near Durness and you may see warships firing rounds
from far out at sea or aircraft dropping bombs on Garvie Island.
The three photographs of Cape Wrath Lighthouse used on this page are from the
and were taken by Colin Wheatley, Rob Burke and Colin Price. They are re-used under the terms of the
Creative Commons Licence.