Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dingle lighthouse

Its been quite a while since I bagged what my wife would term a real, Irish lighthouse. The lighthouse at the eastern entrance to Dingle Bay is certainly that, though it is not operated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights. Actually, we got photos of it in two ways - firstly from the water and secondly from the land.

We tried our hand at rowing a naomhog (little saint), similar to a currach, except long and slender. There is a place on Dingle marina where you can try your hand at it. The boats are easily rowed, fly through the water and the day we did it was as calm as sea as you're likely to get. Anyway, we rowed almost to the mouth of the harbour near the lighthouse and I managed to get the first two photographs here.

The second set of photographs from land can be reached by a path all the way from Dingle, if you have the time, or from a quarter of a mile away, if you haven't. A beautiful spot and even Fungi, the dolphin, put in an appearance for us.

The lighthouse and the keepers' cottage were erected in 1885 to provide safe entrance into Dingle harbour. They appear to be in great condition and have benefitted from a relatively recent lick of paint. The tower itself is quite small, only 24 feet high. The whole site is surrounded by a low stone wall

We took the road out of Dingle heading for Annascaul. Passing the Dingle Skellig Hotel on the right hand side, about 1.3 kms further on there is a very small turn to the right, on a right hand bend, that almost doubles back on itself. This will bring you to the shore, where there's parking for about 5 cars. From there it is but a 10 minute walk past Hussey's Folly to the lighthouse. Alternatively, if you miss this turn, take the next right turn a few hundred yards further on. This will also bring you to the coast but you'll approach the lighthouse from the opposite direction.

Ballydavid Pier

Okay, not the most visually stimulating of navigational lights but I include it here as a blatant plug for Ballydavid on the eastern side of Smerwick Bay, on the northern side of the Dinle peninsula. Ballydavid is quite off the beaten track and is very small but has a lot going for it, including a lovely safe sandy beach, a very picturesque pier and harbour, great community spirit and a couple of beachfront pubs serving creamy pints of Guinness.

Mount Brandon, its top almost permanently shrouded in mist, in the background.

Dingle daymarks

A few days walking holiday down on the Dingle peninsula in early June and I managed to inveigle my travelling companions, Aiden and Brenda, to climb Carhoo Hill near the western entrance of Dingle harbour to reach Eask Tower. We had been able to see the edifice on top of the hill from back at the Conor Pass but my attempts to describe the structure met with puzzlement. "Its built of solid stone and its rounded at the top kind of like a silo and it has an arm sticking out...." "So its a statue" "No, its a beacon." When we finally got there, Brenda described it much more eloquently as "a big stone Dalek."

It can be reached by branching left from the Ventry Road at Ballymore, 4km west of Dingle. Unfortunately it isn't signposted, so you have to hope you have the right road. You don't see the tower for at least a kilometer but when you do, you should be heading for the left of it. The path to the top is well signposted and there are spaces for four or five cars. The path up is over private property and costs €2 per person. A very nice and chatty lady came out to meet us. I have read that if she doesn't come out and you don't put money in the honesty box, she'll be out after you!

The path up is easily followed and through fields of sheep. Takes about an hour up and down, including time for photos and view-admiring.  Its a bit windy up on top. Dingle is a blind harbour, meaning the entrance, which is quite small, was not readily visible to ships and boats arriving from the Atlantic. The wooden hand pointing from the Tower, guides the boats to their destination. Actually the arm itself looks a lot smaller than it did in some of the photographs I have seen, leading me to wonder if it was a casualty of one of the storms of the last few years.

The Tower is of solid stone. The building of it on Carhoo (Ceathru) hill, 600 feet above sea level, provided work during the Great Famine of the late 1840s at the instigation of Reverend Charles Gayer, Leader of the Protestants, in an attempt to win converts. Twenty-seven feet was its original height, but at the turn of the century, the old hand was removed and an extra thirteen feet of stone was added to its height. A new hand was placed, roughly at the beginning of the extension. A World War Two lookout station stands beside it and the views from the top on a sunny day are stunning.

The Towereen Bán, at Reenbeg Point on the western side of the entrance to Dingle harbour, has been crumbling for some years and is in danger of total collapse. Like Eask Tower, this stone tower was built as a famine relief work in 1847, under the supervision of the local Protestant curate, the Rev Charles Gayer. 

A natural stone arch formed a bridge between the tower and the cliffs at Reenbeg but that collapsed during a storm in January,1981. In recent years the tower has been painted white, by the local sailing club, as one of the markers at the finishing point of the Dunlaoire/Dingle yacht race.

I found this old postcard on my computer. I have no idea whence it came. It purports to show 'The Old Lighthouse,' Dingle but it looks as though it is the Towereen Ban in its heyday. The arch, clearly visible has now gone. Of course, this 'lighthouse' never had a light.

On the eastern headland that marks the entrance to Dingle harbour, Beenbawn Head, stands a pile of stones that once was another Dalek. It has long since been reduced to a pile of stones, many of which have been removed and doubtless feature in local walls and houses! This rather long distance shot was as near as we got.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Blue Light, county Dublin

I have started rounding up all the research I did on my wife's Behan and Kane ancestry with a view to bringing out a small book for the family. One of her antecedents, a lady with the infuriatingly common name of Catherine Byrne, hailed from a place called Barnacullia, which is situated, as per the Dublin tradition of giving directions by pubs, in between Lamb Doyles and Johnny Fox's.

To get there, probably by the M50, its a bit of a rigmarole. Come off the motorway and at the end of the slip take the first exit at the roundabout down the R133  towards Marlay Park. You're kind of doubling back on yourself here. After about 2kms, you take a left at a set of lights, signposted for Stepaside and Glencullen on the R822. Shortly after, at another set of lights, you need to turn left on the R113. Follow this road back over the M50 until you come to Lamb Doyle's pub, after about 1.6 kms. Take a right and keep going up. The road is narrow and you may need to stop occasionally to allow oncoming traffic to pass. The Blue Light is on your right hand side, with car parks both to left and the right.

The pub itself dates from the late nineteenth century. Doesn't serve food but gas a cracking pint and a great atmosphere. Totally overlooked by its more famous neighbours at the top and bottom of the hill, its a great spot for a quiet pint and the views over Dublin Bay are stunning. But where's the lighthouse?
Well, apparently, in the mid-nineteenth century, smuggling into Dublin harbour was rife, so there was a healthy Customs force in operation to stop the scallywags from landing their booty. Problem was, like many of today's Gardai, they all clocked off in the evening time. From the vantage point up on Three Rock Mountain, the occupant of the pub - though I think it was a private house back then - would watch to see the Customs men returning to harbour and, when safely gone, would pull down the blue blind and shine a light through it to advise Johnny Smuggler and his pals that the coast was clear. literally speaking. Hence the Blue Light.
Is this a lighthouse? Well, its a light to warn maritime folk of danger.....

Rossaveal, co. Galway

Its now April 2017 and a long winter nearly done. Its time I was sharpening up this blog in preparation for a new lighthouse-bagging season which, hopefully, will be more productive than last year. First up is a visit to Rossaveal in county Galway, which was made at the end of October last year but, because the maritime aids are less aesthetically pleasing than the beacons of the previous post, I didn't want to leave them up as my home page over the winter.

This is Rossaveal. Not much in Rossaveal except for a pub where I got my dinner and a harbour. These are the front and rear markers to guide vessels into Rossaveal harbour situated above the approach road to the harbour. The harbour of course is the main point of departure for ferries to the Aran Islands and Inis Mor in particular. I was debating whether to do Inis Mor and potentially bag three 'official' lighthouses but the sailings didn't quite work out. Plus it was as foggy as hell.

This is the sea based beacon at the approach of the harbour itself.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bealadangan Gap beacons

On a misty, murky day in late October, I took advantage of a trip to the Baffle Poetry Festival in Loughrea to take in some navigational lights around the Rossaveal / Lettermore areas of county Galway. I was actually heading for Lettermullan at the time when I crossed the first of several bridges that cross the archipelago.

The bridge connects the mainland with the first island of Annaghvaan and I was gobsmacked to find, both to the north and south of the bridge, a number of stone beacons, seemingly scattered at random in the water. They reminded me a bit of the stone beacons along the River Boyne entrance although with several differences. The Boyne beacons are neater and have rounded tops while the beacons in the (Beala) dangan Gap are very weathered and resemble giant sandcastles.

The photo above shows the remains of an old causeway that pre-dated the first bridge which was built in 1836. The channel between the island and the mainland was / is only navigable around high tide and the correct route is shown by the beacons. The causeway was partially dynamited on construction of the first bridge and the beacons were erected around the same time.

For more information on these wonderful beacons, please see Roger Derham's fascinating Windsong blog

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bealtra beacons and lights

Well, its been an incredibly slim-pickings year for this blog, not having had the opportunity of visiting any of the coastal communities around Ireland. A late September hiking trip to the Iveragh peninsular (Ring of Kerry) offered up these pitiful few photos. We were hiking around Derrynane, ascended a cliff at the west end of the townland and below us caught a glimpse of Bealtra Bay.

There appear to be two markers, red and green at the outer entrance of the bay and then a third stone pillar nearer to the quay, probably to line up the correct approach to land. The bottom picture gives a decent view of the relationship between the three.

As things happened, it was a dull and drizzly day, that resulted in dull and drizzly photographs.