Turnberry Lighthouse Facts Light established: 1873 Engineer: David & Thomas Stevenson Position: Latitude 55° 19.56'N Longitude 04° 50'.68W Character of Light: Flashing White every 15 seconds Nominal Range of light: 24 nautical miles. Elevation of Tower: 29 metres (above sea level) Height of Tower: 24 metres high. Number of steps to the top: 76
Turnberry lighthouse is one of over 200 located around Scotland's wild coastline operated and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board. Building the Light Turnberry Lighthouse marks a dangerous part of the Ayrshire coast, off which lies Bristo Rock which was responsible for many wrecks. No one was more aware of the toll than the Receiver of Wreck, Ayr and it was he who in 1869 suggested to the Board of Trade that a light should be erected on Bristo Rock. The matter was referred to the Commissioners, whose Engineers David and Thomas Stevenson examined the rock and reported on 18 May 1869 that it was inadvisable to erect a lighthouse on the rock itself but suggested that the best place would be on Turnberry Point, where it now stands. The light is built in the remains of Turnberry Castle, thought to have been the birthplace of Robert the Bruce. Work on building the light started in 1871. The final estimate for building was for £6,576. The contractor responsible for the building was John Barr & co of Ardrossan. Milne & Son made the lantern, machine and apparatus. The Sensational Stevensons For over one hundred and fifty years Robert Stevenson and his descendants designed most of Scotland's Lighthouses. Battling against the odds and the elements - the Stevenson's constructed wonders of engineering that have withstood the test of time, an amazing historical achievement. Robert Stevenson's talented family also included the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson (his grandson). Visits with his family to remote lighthouses are thought to have inspired his books Kidnapped and Treasure Island. Lightkeeping - end of an era Prior to the automation of Turnberry in 1986 there were two lighthouse keepers, a Principal Lightkeeper and an Assistant, with their families staying at the lighthouse. Being situated on the famous Golf Course made it one of the most popular stations to serve at. The families would have been quite self sufficient and grown their own vegetables. Lightkeeping was a remote, lonely and hard existence, at night each keeper was required to keep a watch in the lightroom to ensure that the light flashed correctly to character and at midnight he would check and log in the report the sighting or otherwise of other stations in the area. In Turnberrys case that would have been the lights at Ailsa Craig, Holy Isle, Pladda and Sanda. During daytime keepers were engaged in cleaning, painting if necessary, and generally keeping the premises clean and tidy.
All Scottish lighthouses now operate automatically. The last Scottish lighthouse to be automated was Fair Isle South in 1998. Now, when daylight falls and rises between set levels, a light sensor switches the light on and off. The status of the light and all its associated equipment is relayed back to the Northern Lighthouse Board's head office in Edinburgh by phone link, radio signal or satellite. The former lighthouse keepers cottages at the base of the Turnberry tower have now been sold on.