In the last ten years I have been asked “what is it like to own a lighthouse” hundreds of times. My first response was always “we do not own a lighthouse but the keeper's accommodations.” In “Scotland the Northern Lighthouse Board does not sell a tower” if it is still operating and Eshaness is.
After answering this question so many times, I have decided that I would finally put the answer in writing as it might be helpful to potential owners. Like everything, owning a lighthouse has its pros and cons. What everyone should do before they make the decision to buy one is to evaluate how owning one will affect you personally. I have to admit Dean and I did evaluate that to a certain extent but we were so involved in the emotion of wanting to do it that we missed a few things.
The pros or positives are easy. If you love lighthouses you know the emotional feeling of seeing the tower operating, and to know that it is operating on top of your house is an astonishing feeling. In the article “Why Lighthouses” I wrote for this magazine, I talk a lot about the beauty of where lighthouses are located and that is a big positive. Living by the sea is awesome. When you own a lighthouse property, there are many times you find yourself alone with this beautiful
structure. Over the years I have stood outside at night with a glass of wine and watched the beacon sweep across a starry star. It was just me, the sound of the ocean and that golden blade of light whirling above me. There is nothing like it.
Now let us look at the negatives, or a term I like better –
challenges involved with lighthouse living. Like any piece of
property, there is upkeep and maintenance to consider. With a lighthouse, that is a HUGE consideration. Because of their
location they are battered by high winds and storms. Every year after the stormy season there is damage. We were lucky ours was always what would be called minor, but it is quite common for it to be major. You cannot put off repairing the damage for it will just get worse. Lighthouse property needs constant maintenance. We had to paint Eshaness every year and sometimes twice a year because of the damage of the salt spray.
Most lighthouses are listed historic buildings, which I believe they should be. From an owner’s perspective, that means you cannot do what you want to your own property without the permission of another group, in our case Historic Scotland. Particularly this is true when doing something to the outside of the property. The other downside of being listed as a historic property is that it often costs more to replace and repair items and keep their historical integrity accurate. For example, we had an old rusty gate that needed to be replaced. To get it to matched, we were going to have to have a blacksmith build it and it would cost $800.00. There are grants to help with the cost but the item will still be expensive.
The final challenge, and to me the biggest, is tourists. Lighthouses are popular tourist attractions, which is fine. But, when it is your home it becomes a different matter. I tried to not be outside during the time of the day when the tourists were around. They can be a real nuisance. It truly is like living in a goldfish bowl when the tourists are around. I think just about every Sunday dinner we ate at Eshaness, people would stand outside the fence and stare at us. I have written before how people would not pay any attention to the signs and come inside the fence to look in the windows. No wonder all of our friends who stayed with us considered the T word (tourist) a naughty word.
It seems like I have listed more negatives than positives but if my health would allow it, I would buy another lighthouse and move in.
This story appeared in the
June 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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