Wednesday, May 8, 2019

First Fanad Head Light (Lost Lighthouse)


On my September 2016 visit to Fanad, I tried to find evidence of the original light, with no success.
The first light was shown  at Fanad on Patricks Day 1817. According to the CIL website, 
"The first lighthouse was similar in size to two other towers being built around the same time, one at Mutton Island off Salthill, Galway Bay, and the other at Roche's Point on the eastern entrance to Cork harbour. They were 5 feet 9 inches inside diameter by three stories high-ground, first floor and lantern." 
In 1886, "Construction (on the new light) went ahead and a new larger and higher tower, close to the original tower was built together with an extra dwelling."
I was unsuccessful in finding evidence of the original tower, a stump, or a circular foundation. On the tour of the lighthouse this time around, I came across an old painting of the lighthouse, pre-dating 1886 (see above). It shows a different configuration of dwellings and a much shorter light. It appears that the new tower must have been built practically on the same location as the old tower.

It also shows steps on the left-hand side of the picture leading down to a landing stage at the water. These steps are still there, though blocked off and overgrown, see photos below.

Fanad Head Lightkeepers' Cottages

There are three cottages at Fanad Head available for rent - Tory, Inishtrahull and Dunree, named for the three nearby lighthouses and the way the cottages face. Tory and Inishtrahull were former lightkeepers' cottages, while Dunree is a former storeroom. So, in the photo above, our cottage, Tory, is accessed by the green door furthest left below the visible slate grey roof. Inishtrahull faces a different way. It is situated to the right of the tower (chimneys visible). Dunree is the squarish building extreme right with the two green doors.

The cottage is accessed by a short flight of steps. The walls are extremely thick with the result that you can barely hear a gale blowing outside. The photos on the Lighthouse site are very poor. The rooms are a lot more spacious than the photos indicate and we could easily have accommodated a fifth person on the foldy-up bed.

Excuse the bags on the bed. First bedroom, two twin beds. View of the outside compound. All the rooms have massive radiators and are very cosy.

Sitting room. No telly. No WIFI. Sketchy mobile phone signal.

Bathroom with original red-tiled floor and free-standing bath, which my wife thought creepy but which I would have liked to have used, as any bath I ever had either froze your shoulders or your knees and this was one deep tub. But it would have been a scandalous waste of an awful lot of water, so we all used the shower instead.

Double bed, Bedroom 2

The hall. Although the rooms were in the same positions as the original cottages, the use of the rooms has altered

Very large kitchen with all mod cons.

The house is full of information on the lighthouse, paintings of Fanad Head (all for sale) and boasts a library cupboard, found in many lighthouses and sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation.
Accommodation is offered at about twelve Irish lighthouses around the coast. Best value is probably off season. An absolutely fantastic three-night stay.

The Lighthouse Tavern, Fanad Head

It doesn't really look like a pub, more a converted residence but it was a godsend to us. Staying at the lighthouse, we would drive the one kilometer uphill to the pub every evening and walk back down every night. Then I'd pick up the car again in the morning.

Having a pub so near saved us the hassle of driving to a pub and the necessity for a designated driver. The pub is small and offers a small selection of tasty and generously-sized evening meals. For some reason, RTE Gold appears to be the default channel on the telly but it actually worked quite well!

Building next door with a brilliant mural of the lighthouse itself.

Oh, and a grand pint too.

Fanad Head revisited

As a Christmas gift, my wife bought me a voucher for a stay at Fanad Head Lighthouse, so in mid-April, we set off, along with her sister and husband. The first day was very stormy but with good visibility. After that it calmed down a bit but was quite dull. But staying in a lighthouse is probably the one occasion you don't mind the weather.

It was my first visit since September 2016 and the old visitors center / shop inside the compound had moved to larger premises just outside the gate. But apart from that, little had changed. We got a free tour of the tower with our accommodation, which I will detail in a separate post.

The helicopter landing pad is no longer used by the Commissioner of Irish Lights. These days it is very occasionally used by air / sea rescue helicopters and mad women.

Semaphore flags hanging inside the tower. More internal photos from my September 2016 visit here.

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!!!