Noss Head Lighthouse, Caithness

Noss Head Lighthouse sits on the north coast of Scotland, not far from John O’Groats. Visible across the flat cliff top landscape for miles around it takes time to wind along the roads, around field boundaries to reach the lighthouse. Close by are the ruins of Castle Girnigoe (later known as Castle Sinclair), both perched on the cliffs overlook Sinclair Bay below.

Noss Head is a small headland north of Wick in Caithness and comes from the Old Norse word ‘snos’ or nose. The small extension of land is like a nose!


Key Facts

Noss Head Lighthouse in Caithness near Wick.

Location: Near Wick, Caithness, Scotland

GPS: 58°28.761'N 003°03.085'W

Map: OS Explorer 450 : Wick and the Flow Country

Engineer: Alan Stevenson

Established: 1849

Automated: 1987

Character: Flashing White/Red every 20 seconds

Height: 18m 

Status: Operational

Operator: Northern Lighthouse Board

Access: There is private vehicle access to the lighthouse but access is by appointment only


Noss Head Lighthouse

The lighthouse at Noss Head was built in 1849 by Robert Arnot from Inverness under the watchful eye of Alan Stevenson. This was the first lighthouse to have diagonal glass panes on the exterior of the lantern. This meant that there was less blocking of the light from the frames. This configuration became common practice in other lighthouses after the trial at Noss Head.

To support the farm workers affected by the Highland Potato Famine, farm workers were paid to build the road from Wick out to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is shorter than some at 18metres high with just 76 steps to the top of the tower. It has two keepers cottages and some out buildings which are now privately owned and are all surrounded by a boundary wall.

In 1987 the lighthouse was automated and the keepers moved from the cottages.

To Noss Head Light
As sweet to me as light of moon or star,
Is thy bright gleam, old trusty friend Noss Head
And doubly sweet, when o’er wide ocean far
The ray benignant on my course is shed
Blest be the hand that raised your steadfast tower
And he who trims you never-falling light
For oft when round me midnight tempests lower
Hope’s pulse had failed, but for thy flash so bright
My gallant boat, though scare inch-thick her planks
Flies livelier on the track that heads her home
And dips her prow, as if in grateful thanks
When first you welcome ray reveals the billows foam
Long where the nights and weary were my watch
If from the lively deck thy flame I did not catch.
— James G Duncan

Accomodation And Food

At Noss Head there are no amenities. The nearest food and toilets are located in Wick just a few miles away.

You can however stay at Noss Head Lighthouse in the converted and renovated lighthouse keepers cottages.


Other Things To Do Nearby

Noss Head Lighthouse is located near the town of Wick. There is plenty to do in the area once you have visited the lighthouse and nearby Girnigoe Sinclair Castle.


Getting There


Noss Head can be reached by road from Wick or Thurso. It is an easy detour from the North Coast 500 route and a great stop on the way to the ferry to Orkney.

The road is single track and there is a small parking place by the gates to the lighthouse and the path to Girnigoe Sinclair Castle.

There is a circular walk from Staxigoe near Wick or parking at the end of the track near the start of the path down to Castle Girnigoe.


Look Out For

  • The green letterbox for the lighthouse

  • Castle Girnigoe perched on the cliff top

  • Summer wild flowers in the meadows as you walk to the castle ruins


Photography Notes

The lighthouse can be seen for miles around but the best views are from the final bend in the road on the approach to the lighthouse or from the lochan to the west of the lighthouse. This is perfect for reflections of the lighthouse on calm days.

The lighthouse looks particularly good in the rare snow that falls in this isolated spot, but worth the adventure when it does fall and settle.

As the lighthouse is privately owned and not open to the public you need to be considerate when taking photographs and visiting the area.