Lighthouses of Ireland
Best Lighthouses to visit in Ireland
Lighthouses are among the most striking structures on the Irish Wild Atlantic Way landscape. They were built to protect ships and warn of dangerous rocks. Many were built in response to the tragic loss of ships with crew and cargo. They are magnificent feats of engineering and a prime example is the Fastnet Lighthouse, built high on a rock 9 miles into the Atlantic. They have their origins hundreds of years ago, going back to the stone-vaulted cottages for a light-keeper with a platform nearby for a fire signal.
Early lighthouses were replaced by sturdier buildings with the majority being developed in the 1800s by George Halpin, senior and junior, who designed buildings to withstand the force of the wind and the sea. Each lighthouse had its own signal of lights to identify it in the dark, a foghorn in case of fog and for visual identification, during the day the lighthouses have distinctive paint schemes. The early light cabins built on the headlands used fires in a cauldron which were kept going at night. Lamps were lit using whale oil were used in the 1800s, replaced by paraffin, the electricity from generators and in recent times solar lights have been installed.
Who Manages the Lighthouses of Ireland
Trinity Lights used to manage lighthouses around Ireland and the UK and since independence, the Commissioner of Irish Lights has had responsibility for the management, maintenance and staffing of lighthouses. The job of a lightkeeper was taken seriously and people entered the service as lightkeepers hoping for a full career. On most lighthouses, there was a 3 man crew, who lived in a rotation of two teams on the stations. Some stations like Skelligs in Kerry were so remote that families lived and died on the rock as they maintained the light for passing ships.
Lighthouses were like the wifi signal of today – essential to all shipping, trade and safety at sea. From the 1970s onwards the lighthouses were brought under central management in Dublin and they were gradually automated. Some lightkeepers still maintain the lighthouses or manage them as a visitor
The south coast has many lighthouses due to the high level of shipping and the treacherous waters. Cork Harbour on the south coast was used for provisioning by ships sailing to the Americas, Asia and Australia for centuries.
The lighthouse information here has been divided into separate blogs on Lighthouses:
2 The best of the Wild Atlantic Way and
3 The best of the East Coast of Ireland.
Lighthouses may be used for any or all of the following now:
- Visitor and Education Centres.
- Lighthouses reachable by a scenic walking route
- Lighthouses to sail around,
- Lighthouses to stay attractions. Communities have become more involved with the lighthouses and they are seen as an important part of our maritime heritage to be shared and visited.
My own love of lighthouses stems from when I used to depend on them as a sailor in a sail training tall ship along the Wild Atlantic Way. Trainees were taught to sail and navigate using the stars and the signals from the lighthouses to navigate safely along the Irish coast. The photos on this blog mostly come from Galley Head where some of my ancestors lived and worked – in the lighthouse.
We have details in the blogs on
- Position and nearest town for each of the lighthouses
- Height of the Tower and details on the light
- When the Lighthouse opened and were automated
- Short history and information on the lighthouse
- The best activity to do in that Lighthouse and how to get there
- Best place to get a photo from for each lighthouse.
These are not all the lighthouses of Ireland but they are the ones you can stay in, walk to, or sail around on Irelands West Coast For further information on the stories and legends of the lighthouses click here. For the most Instagram-able lighthouse’s read the blog’s and get planning the trip to the best lighthouse of the Wild Atlantic Way.
Have we left out any important information to help you find the best lighthouses in Ireland? Blog 2 deals with the Lighthouses of the Wild Atlantic Way and blog 3 has the Lighthouses of the East coast of Ireland. Enjoy and tag us in your best lighthouse photos up close or from the mainland. For those who want help in planning a holiday in Ireland to include a lighthouse stay contact Activity Days Ireland by contact form.
This information was compiled by ActivityDays.ie ( firstname.lastname@example.org). Permission must be asked to reproduce any of these images or information.
Reading Material on Lighthouses
Lighthouses of Ireland by Roger o Reilly – an Illustrated guide to the Lighthouses of Ireland with Drawing of each lighthouse