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England & Wales Scotland Ireland

Start Point Lighthouse

Island of Sanday, Orkney Isles

Featured Location Guide

This is the eastern most lighthouse of the Orkney Isles, located on a small tidal island off the north eastern tip of Sanday Island. Sanday is accessible by ferry, and the lighthouse can be reached on foot at low tide, as the causeway is now washed away due to rising sea levels. It stands close to Mount Misery, a chambered cairn.

The first beacon to mark Start Point on the Island of Sanday was an unlit masonry tower, but this was not enough as ships still continued to be wrecked on the island. It is another Stevenson lighthouse, this one built by Robert Stevenson, and was first lit in 1806. The original great ball was removed from the top of the first beacon on this island and placed on the Old Beacon at North Ronaldsy, take a look at North Ronaldsay Lighthouse to find out more.

It was the first revolving light lighthouse in Scotland and the only one to be painted in black and white vertical stripes. It was first painted this colour in 1915. It was automated in 1962 and is now powered by solar energy.

This image was taken on the its 200th anniversary in 2006.

Photo by Beth Loft

Prior to this it was manned by a Light keeper and his assistant, and being such a small island cut off from its nearby neighbour at high tide, they had to be almost self sufficient. For this reason they would have kept sheep and cows. The light keepers tasks included by night having to keep watch in the lightroom to make sure the light worked correctly, by day however they were merely cleaners and kept the paintwork tidy when needed. The two storey keeper's house is now occupied as a private residence, but the owner also looks after the lighthouse informally.

Since its 200th anniversary celebrations in 2006 when it opened to the public for the first time, it has continued to open on selected days only. The tours are operated by the Sanday Ranger and only take place if the weather is good and on a small number of days only.

Lighthouse information Grid


Start Point Lighthouse, Orkney Isles

Current status:


Geographic Position:

59 16.638'N  002 22.577'W

Grid Reference:


Ceremonial County:

Orkney Isles


round stone tower with lantern and gallery, painted with black and white vertical stripes, lantern painted black.

Map Link:


Aerial photo:


Other photos:

view   Geograph

Originally built:


Current lighthouse built:


Height of Tower:

25 metres

Height of light above mean sea level:

18 metres

Character of light:

Flashing (2) White every 20 seconds

Character of fog signal:


Range of light:

24 nautical miles

How powered:


Owned / run by:

Northern Lighthouse Board


Open detail 

Other Useful Websites:

NLB     Start Point Leaflet






Lighthouse Visit Planning Grid


Start Point Lighthouse, Orkney Isles

Grid Reference: HY787435
Getting there: At low tide via causeway. Return flights are available to Sanday from Kirkwall Airport via Loganair. Orkeny Ferries also run ferry crossings.
Access: If you wish to cross the tidal causeway from the Sanday Trail to Start Island and the lighthouse, accurate tidal information is required. It is a 25 minutes walk each way. Keep strictly to the path as the rest of Start Island is private property. Visitors wishing to see the interior of the lighthouse must be accompanied.








Sanday Ranger 01857 600341


Opening times:

A few selected days each year - see NLB information page for this years openings. Booking is essential.


A small charge to cover costs.

Best Times to Visit:  



Things To Do, See and Photograph:


What to take:

Wellies essential, binoculars useful

Nature highlights:


Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

For more articles, lists and other information see the Lighthouses Section

Lighthouse Map of Scotland

Featured List of lighthouses - Scotland 

List of minor lighthouses and lights - Scotland  

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By:  Tracey Park    Section: Lighthouses Key:
Page Ref: Start_Point Topic: Lighthouses Last Updated: 06/2010


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