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Old North Ronaldsay Light Beacon

A former lighthouse located on Dennis Head in the northeast of the island of North Ronaldsay (Orkney), the Old North Ronaldsay Light Beacon was built in 1789 in response to the extraordinary number of shipwrecks in the vicinity, the third lighthouse to be commissioned by the Northern Lighthouse Board. The tower is 21m (70 feet) in height and was constructed in local undressed stone, at a cost of £199 12s 6d, by the noted engineer Thomas Smith (1752 - 1815), with the assistance of his stepson Robert Stevenson (1772 - 1850) - progenitor of the noted dynasty of lighthouse engineers. Illumination involved a state-of-the-art reflecting system, based on a cluster of oil-lamps and copper reflectors, which required regular polishing.

With the building of the light at Start Point at the east of Sanday, it was thought that North Ronaldsay was no longer required and it was discontinued in 1809, its light replaced by a masonry cap, topped by a distinctive ball. However it became clear that a light was still required and a larger structure was built a half-mile (1 km) to the northwest in 1854, but the old lighthouse was retained and still forms a notable landmark. The ruined lightkeepers' cottages still lie adjacent.

The beacon featured in the BBC television series Restoration in 2006, with plans for refurbishment of the building as a heritage and learning centre.


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