History in Structure

Gasaigh lighthouse

A Category C Listed Building in Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas, Na h-Eileanan Siar

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Latitude: 57.1489 / 57°8'56"N

Longitude: -7.2898 / 7°17'23"W

OS Eastings: 80218

OS Northings: 818869

OS Grid: NF802188

Mapcode National: GBR 89DT.MSV

Mapcode Global: WGW5G.ZKVX

Plus Code: 9C9J4PX6+H3

Entry Name: Gasaigh lighthouse

Listing Name: Taigh-solais Ghasaigh, Gasaigh, Uibhist a Deas / Gasay Lighthouse, Gasay, Isle of South Uist

Listing Date: 11 December 2020

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 407398

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52576

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200407398

Location: South Uist

County: Na h-Eileanan Siar

Electoral Ward: Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas

Parish: South Uist

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Tagged with: Lighthouse


Gasay is a solar-powered minor light (light beacon) dating from 1985. Standing on a square concrete base, Gasay is a square aluminium open lattice tower 6 metres in height. It is topped by an open gallery with a small solar powered lantern and it has white glass-reinforced plastic panels on the east, north and west sides of the tower. The automatic LED lights flash white and red every five seconds and has a range of seven nautical miles for the white light and four nautical miles for the red light. There is a metal ladder mounted inside the aluminium lattice frame leading up to the gallery and solar panels are attached to the southern side of the lighthouse.

Historical development

In 1985 the Northern Lighthouse Board built the present Solar Powered Lattice Aluminium Tower (SPLAT) on the island of Gasay, as part of a transition from older designs of minor light to new gas-powered and solar-powered examples intended to reduce costs. Prior to this there was no navigational light on Gasay. A SPLAT lighthouse was also placed in 1985 on the nearby island of Calvay (LB52572) to replace an earlier light from 1891.

Statement of Interest

Gasay Lighthouse meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:

Architectural interest


Gasay is a minor light of primarily aluminium construction, known as a Solar Powered Lattice Aluminium Tower (SPLAT) light. The use of aluminium is indicative of its late-20th century date, as a strong but lightweight, non-corroding material that can be prefabricated in the required shape and then transferred to the location. It is also highly resistant to long-term wear and tear, low maintenance and very quick to construct in comparison with more traditional materials such as stone, cast iron or concrete. Gasay was one of the first SPLAT lights erected in Scotland, alongside Eilean nan Gabhar in Loch Craignish (1982) and at the nearby Calvay Island (1985).

SPLAT lights are visually distinctive from 'traditional' lighthouses, unlike the roughly contemporary glass reinforced plastic (GRP) designs. They do not involve any decorative or aesthetic design elements, instead being very much focussed on the functional nature of the light. The compact, practical form of Gasay is typical of an automated minor light of a SPLAT design. Since automation, living accommodation is no longer required on site and lighthouse complexes can be much smaller because large machinery for large, rotating optics, fuel tanks and long-term storage are no longer required, and this is reflected in the light at Gasay.


The location of any lighthouse is critical to its function. Gasay Lighthouse occupies a prominent position at around sea level on the eastern end of the former island of Gasay. Along with a further SPLAT light on Calvay Island (LB52572), the light on Gasay is positioned as a navigational aid for shipping entering and departing Lochboisdale, one of the main harbours on South Uist with a ferry connection to mainland Scotland.

In 2015, a new harbour was opened at Lochboisdale, stretching between the mainland of South Uist at Rubha Bhuailt and Gasay itself, including a breakwater, pontoons and roadway linking the island to the mainland. This development has not altered the interest of the setting in listing terms and adds to the light's continued importance for navigation in and around Lochboisdale harbour.

Historic interest

Age and rarity

Gasay is of interest as it belongs to the earlier phase of transitioning to new designs of gas and solar powered electric lights in Scotland since around 1980. The design of the SPLAT variant lights has developed across three major types. The earliest and only example of the first-generation design was built at Eilean nan Gabhar in 1982, although this light was replaced by a modern third generation example in 2005. Gasay is one of the two earliest of the second generation of SPLAT lights built in Scotland. The other is on the nearby island of Calvay (LB52572). There are 47 second and third generation SPLAT lights in the estate of the Northern Lighthouse Board (2020).

There are over 200 operational Northern Lighthouse Board lighthouses in Scotland, with many other examples either decommissioned or operated by other organisations and groups. They range from elegant stone pinnacles on remote reefs far out to sea, to small navigational beacons and modern modular lights. Of these, around 150 lighthouses of various shapes, sizes and types are currently designated as either listed buildings or scheduled monuments, representing a wide range of specific navigational dangers that required illumination at night.

Social historical interest

Gasay is of social historical interest as it belongs to the most recent phase of lighthouse construction in Scotland. It was built in response to advancements in technology and is directly related to the programme of solarisation implemented since the 1980s.

The significance of Scotland's lighthouse network to the country's history is high. As an island nation with over 18,000 kilometres of coastline and over 900 islands, maritime industries such as fishing, coastal trade and transportation have long been significant social and economic factors. Scotland's coasts are also located on international sea-routes linking northern Europe with the rest of the world. The use of lighthouses was therefore vital to the safety of shipping in Scottish waters. Prior to the construction of Scotland's lighthouses, most navigation markers were landmarks visible only during daylight, and so nautical navigation at night or in poor conditions was a highly dangerous but sometimes unavoidable undertaking. This is reflected in the large numbers of records of ships and sailors lost in wrecking incidents around the coasts of Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The first lighthouse in Scotland was established on the Isle of May (SM887) in 1636. This light aided navigation into the many harbours around the Firth of Forth and took the form of a stone tower mounting a coal fired brazier. Although the Isle of May beacon was far from as bright as later examples, in good weather it good be seen from as far as the entrance to the Tay, and it would remain operational for 180 years. The Isle of May was followed by several other lighthouses and beacons being built from the late 17th century, improving navigation for the Tay, the Solway and the Clyde.

A common factor in all the lights established in the first 150 years was that they were conceived, built and operated by private interests and organisations, such as local magistrates, councils and individuals, supported by the king and parliament when necessary. By the early 1780s, however, there was a growing recognition that many shipping and navigational dangers existed far beyond the profitable harbours and estuaries that had driven the development of the early lights. To address this, in 1786 parliament passed "An Act for erecting certain Light-houses in the Northern Parts of Great Britain" and established a board of Commissioners (subsequently to become the Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouses and then the Northern Lighthouse Board), initially to undertake the work of building and maintaining lights at four locations, including Kinnaird Head (LB31888), Eilean Glas (LB13487), Mull of Kintyre (LB19874) and North Ronaldsay (SM6596). These lights were the work of the Board's first engineer, Thomas Smith, and his assistant Robert Stevenson, and used improved lighting technology in the form of whale oil burners and mirrored reflectors to enhance the brightness.

Following the 1786 Act, the number of lighthouses around the coasts of Scotland began to rapidly grow, along with the technology and engineering skills employed. By the early 19th century oil lamps were replacing the earlier coal burners, and Robert Stevenson had been able to design and build a lighthouse on the Bell Rock (LB45197). Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, Robert Stevenson and his descendants continued to push the boundaries of technology and engineering to expand the network, including lights on Skerryvore (LB17489), Muckle Flugga (LB17479), Dhu Heartach (LB12320), and the Flannan Isles (LB48143). This tradition of technical innovation continues to be evident in the phase of 20th-century lighthouse construction of which Gasay Lighthouse is an example.

Association with people or events of national importance

There is no direct association with a person or event of national importance.

For over 150 years Robert Stevenson and his descendants designed many of Scotland's lighthouses. The efforts of the Stevenson family in designing and constructing the network of lighthouses around Scotland's coasts, often against seemingly overwhelming odds, led to their collective name the "Lighthouse Stevensons" and they are revered as some of Scotland's greatest engineering minds. Whilst little remains of David A and Charles Stevenson's earlier light at Calvay, the current lighthouse is a late-20th century structure that is testament to the legacy of the Stevensons' engineering skills and the modernisation and development of navigational aids in Scotland to this day.

External Links

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