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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Date Added: 09/12/1977


  • Local Authority: Orkney Islands
  • Planning Authority: Orkney Islands
  • Parish: Hoy And Graemsay

National Grid Reference

  • NGRHY 26809 6078
  • Coordinates326809, 1006078


Alan Stevenson, 1851. 6-stage with lantern, circular-plan tapered tower with single stage, semi-circular-plan coal-store/dry-store to E side, standing at E side of rectangular-plan court; single storey 10-bay symmetrical Egyptian-style keepers' accommodation block to W side of court. Tower: painted stugged sandstone ashlar; channelled ashlar at 6th stage. Base course; blocking course to coal-store/dry-store; band course below 6th stage; cast-iron railings around balcony at 6th stage, supported by pointed-headed mock machiolations. Keepers' accommodation: stugged ashlar sandstone with polished dressings. Base course; massive projecting door surrounds with band course below cavetto cornice; blocking course with raised central panel above.

TOWER: raised doorpiece to W (court) side at 1st stage; band course below outswept cornice and shallow pediment above; timber-panelled door; boarded door to coal-store in each bay flanking; 3 every disposed window (blocked) in curved side of coal-store to E; 2 evenly disposed tall, tapering stacks above with band course and outswept cornices. Window (boarded) at each stage to E side of tower. Pointed-arched window at 6th stage to W side. Triangular-pane glass to lantern with hemispherical dome above.

INTERIOR: spiral stone staircase with timber handrail to main tower; architraved, timber panelled doors; timber-lined lamp room beneath lantern; painted central column supporting iron lantern floor above; brass angel statuettes and ventilators decorated with the faces of wind gods; timber and iron stair with brass handrail to lantern above; decorative lattice walkway around lantern; triangular pane apexes bearing lion masks; riveted dome with central ventilator above.

KEEPERS' HOUSES: E (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: window in 2 recessed bays to centre. Deep-set 2-leaf boarded doors with small-pane fanlight in advanced bays flanking. Window in each recessed bay flanking. Window in each advanced bay to penultimate left and right. Boarded door in recessed, slightly lower bay to outer left and right. W (REAR) ELEVATION: 6-bays. Window in each of 2 recessed bays to centre. Window in each advanced bay flanking. Window in each recessed bay to outer left and right.

Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows. Platform roof; tall tapered stacks with band course below outswept cornices, regularly disposed, grouped 2-4-2; tall cans; predominantly cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: timber skirting boards, architraves and panelled doors; timber-panelled shutters.

BOUNDARY WALLS: roughly coursed rubble wall around court with curved rubble cope, extending S to enclose rectangular-plan garden; square-plan stugged ashlar, corniced gatepiers to N.

Statement of Special Interest

Described as 'the Rolls-Royce of Orkney's lighthouses', Hoy High displays particularly fine internal details such as the brass ventilators and angel statuettes. The tower dominates the flat landscape of the island of Graemsay, rising 33 meters from its east coast. In the 1840's and previously, it took skillful seamanship to negotiate the tides and skerries of Hoy Sound to reach the safety of Stromness harbour, prompting the Northern Lighthouse Board to commission the building of two 'leading lights' on the island of Graemsay, one being Hoy High, the other Hoy Low. By lining the two lights up upon approach to the harbour, their navigational use as leading lights becomes apparent, ensuring a safe entry into the Sound. Designed by Alan Stevenson and built by Alexander Wilson, the structure was erected by Irish workers who first had to construct a robust slipway at Sandside (see separate list description) and who subsequently built a road across the island from Hoy High to Hoy Low, on the west coast. The stone was initially quarried at the Bring Deeps on Hoy, but was found to be too soft, and so was imported from the Northern Isles instead. The stone was cut and the courses fashioned in Stromness and transported to the island, completing the structure early in 1851. The lights are described as 'occulating' white and red every 8 seconds with a range of 20 miles, and were tested on the 5 April that year. From plans in the NMRS, it can be seen that the keepers' accommodation consisted of 3 bedrooms along the rear (W) wall with 2 kitchens flanking a visiting officer's room to the E, facing the court. Their design is distinctive and often likened to Assyrian temples or of being Egyptian in chatacter. The semi-circular structure at the base of the tower was reserved as a coal-store with a central dry store between. The courtyard wall was originally much higher, but proved to be too high to withstand the strong sea winds and was subsequently lowered. Hoy High was automated in 1978.



Appears on 1st edition OS map (1882); Groome, ORDNANCE GAZETTEER OF SCOTLAND (1892) p 209; 3RD S A (1985) p 65;

J Hume, THE INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF SCOTLAND, VOL II, (1977), p 242; B Wilson, LIGHTHOUSES OF ORKNEY (booklet accompanying the Summer Exhibition at the Stromness Museum), (1975), pp10-11; R W Munro, SCOTTISH LIGHTHOUSES, (1979), pp 125, 275; K Allardyce and E M Hood, AT SCOTLAND'S EDGE, (1986), p138;

A Ritchie, ORKNEY (1996) p 51; NMRS Records, DC 8738, DC 8743; KIRKWALL ARCHIVE, D8 G/27.

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Enquiries relating to works to listed buildings should be made to the local authority in the first instance. Listed building consent is required for works which a local authority considers will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest and local authorities also decide if listed building consent is required.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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