Wet, windy weather greeted the Princess Royal when she arrived at Sumburgh for the official opening of the lighthouse complex today.
Princess Anne’s plane touched down early, and she was welcomed by Lord Lieutenant Bobby Hunter, then whisked up to the lighthouse compound by Land Rover, to emerge sensibly dressed in navy blue hooded anorak and trousers.
The Union flag, the Shetland flag and the Saltire were flying damply at the entrance to the area, now transformed into a world-class smartly-painted tourist attraction combining leisure and education in a £5.4 million project led by Shetland Amenity Trust.
The crowd of around 250 invited guests stood outside as Princess Anne, who is patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board, was shown around the 200-year-old complex by amenity trust vice-chairman George Sutherland.
And when she emerged, smiling, to perform the ceremony, it was clear she was enjoying herself.
Princess Anne thanked the amenity trust for inviting her to see the “innovative” project, and said: “It’s a pleasure to see the lighthouse and the environment as it’s meant to be.” The area had a tremendous history of its own, she said, and the renovation would mean it would have a place in today’s society.
The princess went on to say that heritage of lighthouse stations was a “real issue”, both in the UK and internationally, and many places would envy Sumburgh, which had now been given a future.
Amenity trust chairman Brian Gregson recalled the 14 years since the idea of the restoration had been first mooted by the Ness 2000 conference. What had once been a warning to marine traffic was now a “shining beacon” for all to enjoy, and it was “absolutely appropriate” for a major royal to open it.
Capt Sutherland said it had been in 1814 that lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson had first made his “recce” visit to the area. Now: “the wheel has come full circle”, and the area is once again “looking as a lighthouse station should”.
The Shetland flag masking the commemorative plaque was then taken away, and the princess was presented with a Shetland wool “numnah” (saddle pad) and a Burra Bear. She was then quickly transported away to join the lighthouse vessel NLB Pharos.
• More from the royal visit, including a selection of photos, will be published in Friday’s Shetland Times.