Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cape Clear Island

 The ferry from Schull to Cape Clear Island (or Oileann Cleire) now only runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, so we drove down to Baltimore to get the ferry over to Ireland's most southerly inhabited island.
 A lighthouse was established here in 1818 on the southern part of the island. However, it very quickly became apparent that, like Wicklow, Kinsale and others, its position on top of a cliff meant it was frequently obscured by fog and mist
Despite much petitioning by the maritime community, nothing was done about this state of affairs until the inevitable happened. The passenger-carrying sailing ship, the Stephen Whitney, was heading eastwards along the southwest coast of Ireland in heavy fog and, not being able to see Cape Clear light, mistook Crookhaven Light for the Old Head of Kinsale, and ran aground on one of the many jagged islands off West Cork, with the loss of 92 of the 110 souls on board.
 Even then, the authorities procrastinated until a letter to the Times from A Seaman (believed by many to be a ship's captain) lambasted them for their tardiness and turn-a-blind-eye attitude and more or less ordered them to put a light on the Fastnet instead. When this happened on the first day of 1854, the Cape Clear light was extinguished.
 From the north harbour, where the ferry leaves you, follow the road that cuts through the centre of the harbour, keep going around south harbour and then start climbing. The road leads all the way to the lighthouse.
The light is situated next to an old signal tower built in the early 1800s when the British authorities thought the French might attack, but quickly deserted when it was clear they wouldn't. The lighthouse keepers and their families appropriated the old signal tower quarters. In fact at one time, there was a covered walkway between the lighthouse and the signal tower, only recently removed.
 The plaque above was originally placed on the lighthouse but is now situated on the main road between the North Harbour and the Church
 Above, the view from the light, with the Fastnet in the distance.
 The old cottages are now just end walls and no more.

 Good woman yourself, Elizabeth!


  1. Absolutely beautiful. My beagles and I could live very happily there! arrrroooooooo

  2. I suppose the acid test would be to experience it in February and the wind howling in from the Atlantic and a cold rain falling! But in summer, its idyllic!

  3. Cape Clear is idyllic at any time of year, we live there :)

  4. Well, there you go! I envy you immensely!!

  5. Was there last weekend. Was suprised at how perfect the stone was. Seemed to be superficaly similar to Fastnet in terms of the top detail. I wonder does it have a roof or does the rain fall through it. I would like to know where its light ended up. It looks like it will stand forever.

  6. If you got as good weather in Cape Clear as I did up in Malin Head last weekend, it must have been brilliant. Yes, the stonework is in remarkably good condition, which leads me to suggest they sealed the roof in 1854. I'm thinking, based on other lights, that there would have been steps leading up to a hatch which opened to allow access to the gallery and the light. As to the light, well, they tended to recycle in those days. Roches Point was dismantled brick by brick and moved to Dungannon. It would of course depend on the nature of the light itself - there was a great improvement in light technology during the 19th Century, so the old light may have been obsolete.

  7. Did you meet Elizabeth? I remember being hosted by her for lunch (after meeting her at the pub) in 2009.

  8. Sorry, just to follow up with a comment that will send me an email!

  9. Sadly not. Like all lighthouse enthusiasts, I'm very grateful to her and her family. I hope she realises her work is appreciated.