Photographer spends seven years capturing stunning snaps of Scotland’s lighthouses


A PHOTOGRAPHER spent over seven years travelling by foot, car, boat, and helicopter to take stunning photographs of Scotland’s lighthouses.

Ian Cowe has visited over 96 major lighthouses across the country, taking spectacular images of the impressive structures on his way.

His labour of love makes up part of a new book titled ‘Scottish and Manx Lighthouses’ which features a foreword by Princess Anne.

Ian visited almost 100 lighthouses across the country
Ian visited almost 100 lighthouses across the country


It pays tribute to a Scots family, the Stevensons, who battled against the elements for over 150 years to produce many of the sentinels of the sea.

The talented family also includes famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson, whose visits to remote lighthouses are thought to have inspired his books Kidnapped and Treasure Island.

And a glimpse at a selection of the pictures shows how the historic monuments have retained their splendour over the years.

His stunning pictures are documented in a new book
His stunning pictures are documented in a new book


The book begins in the 17th century, documenting some of the earliest attempts at constructing lighthouses.

These early lights, now historic monuments of the past, are shown in comparison to the magnificent Stevenson towers which followed.

The formation of the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1786 heralded a unified approach to lighting the Scottish coast.

A few years later the young Robert Stevenson entered the narrative, establishing a dynasty of
lighthouse engineers which spanned several generations.

The lighthouse at Cape Wrath, Durness
The lighthouse at Cape Wrath, Durness


Ian’s journey starts at the small lighthouse perched on the soaring cliffs of St Abbs Head on the east coast and ends at Chicken Rock, a spectacular sea-washed granite pillar off the southern tip of the Isle of Man.

Along the way, Ian visits some of the remotest islands in the British Isles and marvels at the many engineering wonders the Stevensons created, including the wave-swept towers at Bell Rock, Skerryvore and Dubh Artach.

The story is brought right up to the present day with images of the work and people of the Northern Lighthouse Board in the 21st century.

Ian, a lecturer at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University, has had an enduring interest in lighthouses from an early age.

Ian says he has been "obsessed" with lighthouses since he was a child
Ian says he has been “obsessed” with lighthouses since he was a child


He said: “It’s an obsession I’ve had since I was a child.

“Growing up in a seafaring community on the north-east coast of Scotland, I was never far from a lighthouse and have many happy memories of pestering my folks to take me to see some of these.

“My father and grandfather were both trawlermen and there was always a tale to be told about the lighthouses they had seen when they returned from their trips on the open seas.

“My initial thoughts were to try and photograph some of the more famous lights on the west coast and Northern Isles.

“This soon grew into a quest to photograph all the lighthouses which the Stevenson family of engineers built. There have been many early morning alarm calls to catch the dawn light and roaming in the twilight after capturing a wonderful sunset.

“Some were very difficult to get to, I had to be flown in by helicopter a number of times.”

The book, sponsored by The Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust, also features some of Ian’s personal experiences of visiting the wild and captivating locations.