Huge roaring fires on top of high hills were the early ancestors of the lighthouses of the world. Height increases the projection distance of the light whether it be fire, Fresnel lens, or the beacons of today. Most of the lighthouses were built in high places or had tall towers to compensate for elevation.
Eshaness sits at the top of a 200 foot cliff in Scotland and towers over the surrounding island area. To get there by land requires going up a very steep hill. As a result of it elevation Eshaness has a short 37 foot tower. My husband always lovingly called it “a short and stubby tower.” The high position of the lighthouse gives the tower a nautical range of over 25 miles so it is does the job even is it is short and stubby.
A house on a hill has it advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage is you can see for miles and miles. The setting sun over the North Atlantic is a sight to behold and a not to be missed event. No matter which way you turn the view of the sky, clouds, and ocean are spectacular. The rainbows take your breath away. There is no doubt it truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Living in a house on a hill can be challenging at times. The biggest problem is the wind. Sitting up on its cliff with no protection the wind howls almost nonstop. No matter what the wind speeds are other places on the island it is worse at Eshaness. In other columns and my books I have talked about not being able to walk in strong winds. It happens a lot.
The second big disadvantage is walking or cycling up the lighthouse hill. For ten years I have been trying to walk up the paved road to Eshaness without stopping to catch my breath. I can now make it three quarters of the way but still have to stop. Cycling is worse. I fell and broke my hand going down because my brakes could not hold down the speed. Going up has always been just like walking except I have to drag my bicycle.
When the weather gets cold and ice or snow come to Shetland one of the first places to be isolated by the weather is Eshaness. The drifts on the hill are impossible for snow plows to get through and black ice which is common means nothing can move up or down the hill.
Lighthouses were put in high places to make them more efficient. Living on what seems the top of the world is easier said than done. For me it is at hard times but every time I return my heart beats with joy when over two miles away I see Eshaness sitting on top of its hill. Tears of joy fall because I know soon I will be where I most want to be.
This story appeared in the
July 2007 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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