I LOVE lighthouses. I think they are mysterious, full of history and stories, and they are usually part of absolutely stunning scenery. Hook Lighthouse is no exception and provided, hands down, some of my favourite photos from our whole trip to Ireland- as you’ve no doubt guessed as one of those photos is the big image gracing my new homepage. I just can’t get enough of this view!
Situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Hook Lighthouse, or as it is locally known “the Tower of Hook“, marks the entrance to Waterford Harbour. The headland is called Rinn Dubháin in Irish which actually means St.Dubhán’s Head, but the word is so similar to the Irish word ‘duán’ which means fish hook, hence the English name.
The lighthouse wasn’t on one of our earlier rounds of pins on our Ireland map but somewhere along the way I came across it and thought it sounded like a neat place to visit. At first L wasn’t too excited about it but once he learned it is the oldest operational lighthouse in the world, well, he was hooked! :-)
The first beacon in the area, used to warn sailors of the shipwreck dangers of this rocky headland, was kept by the monks that lived in the area monastery from around the years 500-1000 AD. By the 1100’s the Anglo-Normans moved in and a knight by the name of William Marshal founded the town of Ross and began to develop the area with towns and castles. To help guide ships into his port of Ross he built the Tower of Hook to provide the light in the early 1200’s.
The light for his lighthouse was provided by a coal fire beacon and the historical records show the monks continued on as the custodians (light keepers) during this time, and for several more centuries (likely until the dissolution of monasteries of Henry VIII). The lighthouse is considered to be a great example of medieval architecture with its four meter thick walls reaching four stories in height. Inside are three rib-vaulted chambers made of local limestone, complete with 13th century fireplaces in each, and even a couple of garderobes (toilets)!
By the 17th century, with the light no longer attended, there had been numerous shipwrecks and the people called for the lighthouse to be restored. It was improved with a glass lantern to protect the coal fire beacon from the weather, and then in the late 1700’s that beacon was replaced by a lamp burning whale oil that provided better light to the sailors.
In the mid 19th century dwellings were built at the base of the lighthouse for the light keepers and their families. These buildings now serve as the visitor’s center and café that you can pop into on a visit and have a cup of hot chocolate. It’s delicious!
Over the next hundred years advances to the light continued- from gas lights, to paraffin oil, and finally electricity. In this time a mechanism was installed that changed the beacon from fixed to flashing- the only thing was the mechanism (at the top of the lighthouse) had to be wound every 25 minutes! The light keeper would run from his home at the base, up the 115 steps to wind the mechanism, in only three minutes! Wind it up, return home, and then do it all again in 25 minutes.
In 1996 the light was automated and the last of the light keepers, after 800 years, departed.
Read More: List of Light Keepers since 1800’s
Today the lighthouse is open year round to visit on guided tours. The tours start in the first chamber at the base where you can see one of the past beacons and learn about the history. They continue up into each chamber, with more stories, from what is likely to be a very lively and knowledgeable guide (our guide was Jason and he was great!). Finally you reach the red balcony and oh my…the views! Out to see, or back on to the peninsula itself. You’ll be taking photos the whole way around the balcony I’m sure, especially if you are there on a day as beautiful as we were.
Open all year: June-August 0930-1800/ May & September 0930-1730/ Rest of the year 0930-1700.
Access is by guided tour only and they depart every half hour from 1000-1730 (June-August) and every hour, on the hour, from 1000 to 1700 for the rest of the year.
Admission is € 6.00 for adults, with reduced prices for seniors and children, and value tickets for families. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online.
Free parking is available, along with a café, bakery, picnic areas, outdoor games for kids, art exhibits, a gift shop, toilets, and free WiFi in the café area.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org || Phone: 051-397055 / 051-397054
And in this post I’ve saved the best for last…
Check out this awesome Virtual Tour courtesy of Hook Lighthouse and Heritage Centre!
There are seven views in all. Scroll up, down, left, right. Zoom in, zoom out. Try full screen. I think you’re really going to like this.
Virtual Visit Tours
To read more about our adventures on our Ireland Road Trip, please feel free to check out these posts:
Previous Post: Dunbrody Famine Ship & Irish Emigrant Experience