Lighthouse keeper wanted for north-westerly corner of Britain | Scotland

The role of a retained lighthouse keeper is, says Barry Millar, an extremely attractive job. At 74, the former biology teacher has no intention of quitting his position maintaining 10 lighthouses across Ayrshire and Galloway across Scotland’s south-west coast.

And his message to anyone considering an application to fill the vacancy for a keeper at the most north-westerly point on mainland Britain is simple: “Give it a go.”

With a closing date of 31 August, the Northern Lighthouse Board is advertising for somebody to carry out routine inspections and maintenance of the lighthouses at Cape Wrath and Stoer Head, further down the Sutherland coast.

An applicant in search of peace or isolation will find it on the desolate Cape Wrath peninsula, where the lighthouse looms over the rolling Atlantic.

Constructed in 1828 by the renowned civil engineer and lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson, the 20-metre tower of white-washed granite dominates the cape, which takes its name from the old Norse hvarf, meaning turning point, and was used by Vikings as a navigation point for their ships.

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The part-time position requires one eight-hour visit a month to Cape Wrath between April and September and two further visits, before and after Christmas, along with similar monthly visits to Stoer Head – a grand total of 184 working hours a year.

The starting salary, pro rated, is £2,043 per annum, and the applicant must have a good general education, be physically fit and have a current, full UK driving licence.

Up to 60 applications are expected for the role, with such posts only coming free every five to 10 years.

The Northern Lighthouse Board operates and maintains 208 lighthouses across Scotland and the Isle of Man, guiding mariners safely through coastal waters for over two centuries. All are fully automated, but still demand regular inspection and maintenance.

Lighthouses are surprising complex, Millar says. They are generally Category A listed and most are more than 200 years old. Considering this along with their exposed positions, it is “extraordinary”, he says, how reliable they remain. “Since I started more than 20 years ago, I’ve only had one out on one night,” he says proudly.

Despite ever more sophisticated onboard navigation systems, the shipping and fishing industry still rely on these fixed points on land.

While the lighthouses are very robustly built, inspections are essential to spot damage that an automated system cannot.

“Occasionally the glazing around the light breaks. Sometimes you can feel it shuddering in the wind, or doors blow open on the balcony. Once the solar panels on the Ailsa Craig lighthouse blew off in a gale,” he said.

Millar would encourage anyone to consider the role that he realised was “absolutely ideal” when his wife pointed it out to him as he approached his mid-50s. “Everybody in the team is very supportive and it’s like a big family.”

“My day at the office is taking a boat to a beautiful lighthouse. I enjoy working alone and getting to climb a tower that people have been going up for 200 years to keep that tradition going.”

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