We've learned a lot of new and interesting things about Ireland with you on the pages of our blog, but there are still hidden places we have yet to discover on this Emerald Isle.
Today we want to lift the veil on one of these places, where something that is quite essential to life on an island can be found. This ‘something’ is, of course, a lighthouse! Interestingly enough some lighthouses have their own individual ‘frequency’ of flashes per minute, and a savvy seaman could possibly determine his location just from seeing the flashes of a distant lighthouse.
However, we would just like to digress from this subject for a moment. Currently, in Ireland there are ninety-four stationary lighthouses and several mobile lighthouses mounted on special platforms. There’s nothing surprising about this, of course, because the Irish coast is surrounded by many dangerous cliffs and bays with fluctuating water levels.
At the beginning of their appearance lighthouses produced their light from wood and coal fires, followed by wick kerosene lamps, gas lamps, and finally with the advent of electricity, electric lamps became the norm. Since the beginning of the 19th century lighthouses have been using special Fresnel lens to amplify light.
In fairness it should be noted that the role of lighthouses in modern seafaring has decreased significantly during the last century, as almost all ships now possess accurate navigational equipment that allows their captains to do without lighthouses.
But since a large number of lighthouses already exist all over the world, sailors can still find use for them should something go wrong with their ship’s equipment. It’s also a big bonus that modern day lighthouses can usually work automatically, without any sort of human interference. This significantly reduces the cost of keeping them running. Nevertheless, a number of lighthouses have "went on holiday" and are often used as romantic inns, for example, Loop Head Lighthouse in County Clare.
Naturally, when talking about this it’s really tempting to talk about a very unusual lighthouse. And the unusual lighthouse we would like to tell you about today is Hook Head Lighthouse in Wexford. It is a paragon of Irish lighthouses and according to the publications of people who share an interest in this topic; this lighthouse is not only one of the top ten oldest operating lighthouses on the PLANET, but also one of the most beautiful. This is quite surprising considering it was built in the 13th century, 800 years ago!
Our first impression of the lighthouse was awe of its sheer monumentality. It looked like a very large Martello towers! The walls are about 4 meters thick, its base has a diameter of 13 meters (6 meters at the top) and the overall height is around 35 meters. The massiveness of the lighthouse is further enhanced by its paintjob, thick, black horizontal stripes on a white background.
The inside of the lighthouse looks quite austere. This is understandable, as the first lighthouse keepers were monks. Three of its stories have recesses in the walls similar to monastic cells, as well as two closet-like lavatories, very similar to the ones described in our earlier post on Trim Castle. The last caretaker left the lighthouse in 1996. Now his old home, adjacent to the lighthouse, is a tourist office and cafe.
When you climb with a guide to the observation deck of the lighthouse, you will see the beautiful coast with its very impressive stone formations, such as those that can be seen on the Giants Causeway. Actually, you can see all this yourself thanks to the webcam that has been installed on the lighthouse and connected to the internet. However, seeing it on a screen doesn’t quite match the awe of seeing it in person.
Just to note we would like to say that we are describing a lighthouse located in County Wexford at the Hook Head Peninsula near the town of Slade. The best time to visit this lighthouse is during the summer or even near the end of October, when the lighthouse is transformed into a haunted attraction for Halloween. At this time, the show is something similar to the ‘Dublin Ghost Bus Tour’.
Finally we would just like to say that in Ireland, there is a lover of lighthouses called John Eagle, who not only has published several books about Irish lighthouses, but also organizes weekly trips to the lighthouses of Ireland. In our next post we will tell you about the lighthouses found in the Howth peninsula and in the city of Dublin.