Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rosslare Fort (Lost lighthouse)

Once again, I am indebted to Redmond O'Brien for drawing my attention to one of the lost lighthouses of Ireland. Hunting out lighthouses is very satisfying and it brings you off the beaten track but the discovery of a lost lighthouse is very rare and, for an anorak like me at least, very exciting.
Redmond drew my attention to the Speed map of Ireland (above) drawn in 1610 and pointed out the candle holder symbol - rather like the Jewish menorah - located nearby, asking if I knew anything about it.
As it happened, I had looked at the map a long time ago and come to the conclusion that this symbol did not represent a lighthouse based on the evidence that, though there were several of these around the coast, many more lay inland. And, obviously, what would be the point of a lighthouse in a landlocked county?
However, prompted by Redmond, who suggested a location just north of Rosslare Golf Club, I did a bit of digging and came across the lost community of Rosslare Fort, situated at the end of a long spit of land that jutted out into Wexford Harbour from, yes, just north of Rosslare Golf Club.
There is a great deal of information on this place on the fantastic Rosslare Fort website, which I couldn't possibly reproduce here and why would I need to? The first written mention of the fort is actually 1599, when it appears on an earlier map. Due to its position at the mouth of the harbour, a navigational light would seem to be a necessity and the suggestion is that this was a wooden structure, located, naturally enough, at the very tip of the spit. It is not known for how long it operated but it was certainly no more in the early 1800s, though its circular foundation was still visible by the end of the nineteeenth century.
A strong fort was erected by the native Irish as the threat of a Cromwellian invasion increased, with nine big guns trained seawards to dispel a naval attack. Unfortunately, they were attacked from the landward side. The men tried to escape in a boat and, after a short battle, were sunk. The women and children left behind were rounded up, marched down along the spit and murdered.
In the 1800s a lifeboat station was set up at the fort which held up to fifty households at its height. A perch light was established on one of the large dunes.
The village and lifeboat station survived until 1925 when the sea breached the spit and washed it away, creating an island. The village disappeared under the waves shortly thereafter. However, recently, the sea has receded to such an extent that, at very low tides, remnants of the conurbation can sometimes be seen.
Below, a map of Rosslare fort.

Ballast Bank, Wexford

I am indebted to Redmond O'Brien - how much more Wexfordian can you get? - for alerting me to the unusual green buoy marking the danger of the Ballast Bank situated in Wexford harbour. For some reason, this light does not appear on Trabas, one of the very few omissions I have come across in that wonderful resource.

In fact, I have found nothing online about the light. Regarding the Ballast Bank, itself, it is an artificial island, constructed so that ships might pick up or discharge ballast on entering or leaving Wexford Harbour. Most sources give the date of construction as 1937, though the architecture of Ireland site - which really should have the inside track on these sort of things - dates the island back to 1831. I'm no expert, but the light itself seems older than 1937. Someone should bring it in to the Antiques Roadshow.
Below, a drone's eye view of the island, which I filched from Wexford Hub, an excellent site about all things Wexford.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Inis Mor (Dun Oghil) Light

Forgive the large amount of photographs of this lighthouse but it was a great thrill to finally meet it and say hello and I was somewhat star-struck! As previously mentioned, a light was first placed on the highest point of Inis Mor on 1st June 1818, with the intention of lighting the whole Aran Island group. It quickly became obvious that the results achieved were not good enough and it was replaced in 1857 by Eeragh and Inis Oirr, when the light was put out to grass.

A report into the harbours and shores of the British Isles in 1845, states that "The light at Arran is perched too high; it is 413 feet above the level of the sea. Captains of vessels often see the rocks before the light. The lighthouse is painted white and the light is a revolving one." An 1831 description of the light by Alan Stevenson says that "this light revolves and is seen at the distance of five or six leagues, or at lesser distances in hazy weather, The light appears once in every three minutes in its brightest state, like a star of the first magnitude, and, gradually becoming less luminous, is eclipsed."

Well, the light is no longer painted white - not a trace of paint remains. Approaching it, a large sign says that Dun Arann is closed for renovations but there was no sign of any renovation work going on when I was there. There are large holes in the wall where you simply walk into the compound. Considering it has been abandoned for 160 years, the tower itself looks in a great structural state. The lantern of course has been removed and the surrounding buildings are in various stages of demolition but the tower looks great. The door has been replaced by a piece of metal and iron railings. Peering inside one of the windows, the inside staircase appears intact.

How to get there? Well, if you don't feel like biking it out to Eeragh, take the road uphill from The Bar in the centre of the village of Kilronan and just keep walking. Its about a mile and a half. Watch out for the little lane leading up to the left.
I approached it after visiting Eeragh by bike. Returnig downhill to Kilmurvey Beach, don't take the coast road back but the next one. Its a long climb but not particularly steep. Obviously the lane is on your right this time. You should be able to see the light from the road, as there are several lanes. I wheeled my bike up and there is a little area just below the light to leave it.
I must admit that freewheeling all the way from the light down into Kilronan again was absolutely exhilerating and made me feel like a seven year old again!!!

Eeragh Light

Okay, so you've arrived on the largest of the Aran Islands on the eastern side of the island. The vantage point from which you might be able to view Eeragh Lighthouse is 12 kms away on the western side of the island. It is unclear if the roads are navigable on the western side of the island. What's the best way?

Well, you could walk, I suppose. I considered it. I reckoned I could do 24kms easily in four hours, there and back and be back in time for the ferry. Or maybe take one of the myriad minibuses that meet you at the pier. But if you can only go so far and then walk, would they wait? Ditto the pony and traps that tout for business.
But I opted for a bike. I had only biked once in the past forty years and that turned into a disaster. But this route followed a coastal path, so was less likely to be undulatory. So €10 for a bike for the day from the shop at the end of the pier, a few cursory directions and off I went.

Basically, from the shop, you don't turn right to follow the road around the coast but turn left to go to the centre of Kilronan. At the imaginatively-titled pub "The Bar" turn right and go uphill till you come to Watty's Bar and then turn right. This brings you onto the road you want - simply keep the coast on your right, all the way.

After Kilmurvey Beach, the road rises steadily. It is a long hill and was the only part I had to get off and walk and me 57 years old and unused to cycling. Shortly after reaching the top of the hill, on the downward leg, the lighthouse hoves into view on the right hand side, saving you the bother of a full ascent on the way back.

It appears that the lighthouse is on the second (further)  island out and presumably only accessible by boat or helicopter. It is either painted white with three black stripes or black with three white stripes, although the bottom stripe is more grey than black. There is a large solar panel visible on the other side of the keepers' house, which looks like a dormer bungalow with windows in the attic. Built in 1857, it is 31 metres tall. It was automated in June 1978.

53° 9' 1.08'', -9° 51' 24.99''

Killeany Harbour Beacons

When on Inis Mor twenty years ago, we walked along the coastal path to a pub called Tigh Fitz's, on the way to the airfield. As it happened, we got sunburnt on the way and we were grateful for the shade of the very basic pub and I for the lovely smooth pint of Guinness served up there. Sadly the pub is no more but nearby, I found these beacons to guide boats into the small harbour nearby.

Galway really seems to be the place for these beacons. There are others, all conical, at Lettermullan and Gorumna and one near Rossaveal. There are also a lot of them at the mouth of the River Boyne, leading into Drogheda. The way into this harbour was marked by two types of beacons, both conical and tapered, the latter appearing to be somewhat newer.

The beacons were erected, rocks blasted and the entrance channel widened in the period 1887 to 1889.

53°06'30.2"N 9°39'41.3"W

Straw Island, Inis Mor

Travelling over to Inis Mor on the ferry from Rossaveal, the next light you come across - apart from a very brief glimpse of Eeragh beyond the northern point of the island - is the lighthouse on Straw Island. As my wife would say, this is a real lighthouse and is remotely operated from CIL HQ in Dun Laoghaire.

Built in 1878, the lighthouse here sits on a very low-lying rock of land on the approach to Kilronan, the largest settlement and landing berth of Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. So low-lying is this island, that it is believed that the light is in danger of being washed away. In 2014, it was extensively damaged by a storm.

The Aran Islands consist chiefly of three islands running in a string from northwest to southeast across the mouth of Galway Bay. Inis Mor is the largest, then Inis Maan and then, closest to the Clare coast, Inis Oirr. In 1818, a light was erected on the highest point of Inis Mor and this was deemed sufficient to safeguard marine activity in the vicinity.

However, as with several other lighthouses around the country - Wicklow Head and Cape Clear, for example - it was soon evident that the light was built at too high an elevation and was frequently shrouded in mist and cloud. Therefore, they decided to build one light at the top of the chain of islands (Eeragh) and one at the bottom (Inis Oirr) and this was done in 1857, when the original light was dicontinued.

However, the islanders soon came to realise that neither Eeragh nor Inis Oirr was in fact visible from Killeany Bay, the natural harbour that protects Kilronan, the main port on the islands. So they petitioned for  a harbour light. And, with their usual speed and efficiency (in the nineteenth century), a light was eventually established on Straw Island in 1878.

It appears from the map that it should be possible to view the lighthouse at close range from land by taking the coast road past the airport and then striking out to the left when this road turns right. However, it does not seem to get you any nearer than the ferry, which passes very close, though of course, a steadier hand than mine would have got better pictures!

Photographs 1-5 on this page are taking on the approach to Inis Mor.
Photographs 6-7 are taken leaving Inis Mor.
Photographs 8-10 are taken from the old lighthouse in the centre of Inis Mor.

53°07.065' North 09°37.840' West

Cashla Bay West Side Light

Further out, on the western side of the entrance to Cahla Bay is this squat, unattractive concrete box painted white. It looks as though it should be possible to reach this light by road by driving round the bay and heading south west when you hit Carraroe. Not that its worth the effort, of course.

The light is powered by a solar panel, just visible in the top picture. Trabas lists its location as Killeen.

N53 ° 14.24 ' 
W9 ° 35.19'