Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wicklow Head High Lighthouse (1) Revisited

Okay, pay attention everyone, because this gets a little complicated.
In 1781, it was decided to build two lighthouses on Wicklow Head, the most easterly point on the Irish mainland. Two lights to distinguish the headland from Howth and Hook Head (who only had one light each). And also, by lining up the lights it would give ships the lead between the treacherous India sandbank and the Arklow sandbank.

Apparently the two towers were in scale and dimension pretty identical, with the rear light (pictured here) taller than the front light.They were designed by John Trail who was the engineer for the Revenue Commissioners, who at that time had control of the lighthouses. Okay so far? Good.

However, like a good few Irish lighthouses at the time - Old Head of Kinsale, Inis Mor, Cape Clear etc - they found that the lights had been built too high up the cliff and were continually being obscured by fog. So they decided to build two more lights. This is where it gets complicated.

The larger rear light (pictured here) was discontinued as a light but allowed to remain as a daymark. The 1781 Front light was demolished. In their places they erected a new Rear Light (located pretty close to the old front light) and a new Front light (halfway down the cliff) The new Front light is the only light still active.

The light in this lighthouse were twenty tallow candles. It was discontinued in 1818 when the new lights came into being. At the time, it was suggested that the old lighthouse should be capped with a stone dome and with typical Lighthouse Service haste, this was done in 1866.

The lighthouse was taken over by the Irish Landmark trust in 1996 and has been split up into six holiday apartments, one on each floor. I have seen the prices and much as I would love to do it, it's way out of my league. Be warned though, if you are thinking of spending a week there, the kitchen is 109 steps up on the top level of the tower!

These bottom two pictures show the Old High Light (1781), with the New High light (1818)

Wicklow Harbour Lights

A selection of lights and buoys in and around Wicklow harbour. The first two are visible from the end of the East Pier, looking south-easterly out to sea.

Above, the West Pier (actually the North Pier) light

And finally the Packet Pier light.

Wicklow East Pier

Six years since I was here and the new motorway means that my old hometown is only 45 minutes away from the northside of Dublin. Of course I'm biased, but Wicklow harbour at 7am on a glorious summer's morning was the place to be, scarcely a ripple on the sea and a man checking his lobster pots.

 As I said six years ago, Wicklow lies on the east coast of Ireland. The harbour has three piers, the north pier, the south pier and the packet pier which lies in between. But, being Ireland, the north pier is actually the west pier and this, the more southerly of the piers, is officially the east pier.

 Its easy to find - come through the town from Rathnew, go through the town until you reach the statue in the small square at the far end. Ernie's pub - which is a new one on me - is on your right, Ta Se's (which isn't) is on your left. Take the road to the left. It bends right. Take the next turn left which brings you down to the harbour. Take a right which brings you down to the end of the pier.

 It is rather a pretty little lighthouse, reminding me for some reason of a boiled sweet. A bit of graffiti on the door, but otherwise immaculate. You can walk right up to, and around it. It was built in 1884 and is operated by the Wicklow Port Authority.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


I was intrigued by an entry in the Lighthouse Directory for Annalong and I quote:
"Date unknown. Inactive for many years. Approx. 5 m (17 ft) round stone tower, painted white. Eric Jones has a photo, but the tiny tower has not been found in Bing's satellite view of the town. Jones writes that "In the old days a light used to be placed in the pepper-pot style white tower to assist ships wishing to enter the harbour." Located on the south side of the Annalong River in Annalong. Site and tower closed (private property), but the light can be seen from nearby."

 Annalong looks to be a nice modern village on the shores of the Irish Sea, slightly tarnished (to southern eyes!) by the abundance of Union Jacks and kerbstones painted red, white and blue, which many of us in the Republic find a bit intimidating but is really only an expression of pride in their nationality up here. A turn on the main road, signposted to Harbour (on the north side of the church) brings you down to the lovely old-fashioned harbour.

 The top photo shows a view of the harbour with the strange lighthouse up on an elevation behind it. The house can be half seen from a number of locations in the vicinity but in the end, I took the bull by the horns and knocked on the door of the house in whose garden it was.

A man answered and he was very helpful, telling me to go ahead and snap away. He told me the light was 300 years old and was built when the harbour was built. It was a leading light and there had been another one at the mouth of the harbour. Boats would line the two lights up to access the narrow entrance of the harbour.

He pointed out the very significant lean on the lighthouse and pointed out where the holes for the lights (oil lamps, he said) had been plastered over in the past. He also said that when they had come to build the extension on their house, they had been amazed at the extent of the foundations of the lighthouse! The building was a Grade 2 listed building, which meant they couldn't even give it a lick of paint.

I later found that Annalong Harbour was built around 1820, which would put this most unusual and unique lighthouse at an age of nearer 200 years, than 300. But it still is a most remarkable edifice.

 Below and above, the new light at the end of a pier outside Annalong Harbour itself.

Cranfield Point (Lost lighthouse)

The Haulbowline light (see previous post) at the midpoint entrance to Carlingford Lough was built in the early 1820s to replace the Cranfield Point lighthouse on the northeasternmost tip of Carlingford Lough. It is actually the most southerly point in Northern Ireland. The lighthouse was built in 1803 and I can find precious little about it on the web, save that it succumbed to coastal erosion in the 1860s and tumbled onto the foreshore. But it was apparently built on a site with lighthouse keepers cottages attached, which remained as the relieving cottages for Haulbowline until 1922.

The most straightforward way to reach Cranfield Point (says he ironically) is to go into Kilkeel. If coming from Newry direction, take a right turn at the lights. If coming from Annalong direction, keep going straight at the lights. Keep on this road for about 3 miles. There is a left turn on the road opposite a house with a large tower chimney and a conservatory. Follow this - watch out for the ramps! - until you come to the sea. Turn right and follow the road, which deteriorates. When the old coastguard station (bottom photograph) comes into view, you'd better park up and walk the rest of the way (I found a lovely man made descent down to the beach where I could park)

Follow the path overlooking the beach until you come to the house at the end with the black chimneys. This is the lighthouse keepers cottages. The gates are locked - it is private property - but you can just about circumnavigate it through a) clambering down boulders by the wall onto the beach and b) taking the gate through a field behind the property. Be very careful though - evidence of coastal erosion is everywhere (see the second last photograph on the page)

So we have the cottages. But where is the former lighthouse? There is a lot of coastal erosion around the property, so maybe it was seaward side of the cottages and has completely disappeared. (there were no traces of it on the beach) Or maybe, that circle in the garden, marked by poles, buoys and boulders is the site of the original foundation. The latter seems more likely. It is quite close to the edge and the foundations could easily have been disturbed. Sadly, my hopes of finding an old bit of gallery rail or stone steps were not to be!

I did follow the beach to Cranfield Point itself just past the cottages. The sand had disappeared and it was boulder strewn. Not advisable to do it in high heels, I'd imagine. One desolate place!

 Coastal erosion

The old Coastguard station (pass this to reach Cranfield Point)

Haulbowline (yet again)

 Five years since I was here and this time I got two different perspectives of it. The first four photos on the page were taken about 8.35pm on a summer's evening from Greenore lighthouse on the northern tip of the Cooley peninsula in the Republic. In these pictures the rock that the light sits on is clearly visible and is a lot more extensive than I had imagined. The bottom four photos are taken from positions on the Northern Ireland side (the north eastern tip of Carlingford Lough) a position much nearer than Greenore.

 The lighthouse was built after a request was made in 1817 to the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (the Ballast Board) by the merchants of Newry to replace the 1803 Cranfield Point Lighthouse due to the latter's poor position in marking the dangerous rocks at the entrance to Carlingford Lough and also its inadequacy for the guiding of vessels at the west end of the Lough. 

The cut stone tower of Haulbowline Lighthouse was designed by the Board's Inspector of Works & Inspector of Lighthouses, George Halpin (senior), and was built under his direction by workmen of the Board. Its overall height is 34m and the main light is 32m above high water. Building this tower on a semi-submerged rock with fast currents running around it was a remarkable achievement at the time. The tower was painted white and remained so until 1946 when it was changed to its natural stone colour.

 A fixed white light was exhibited on 1 September 1824, and a half tide light was also exhibited from a small lantern approximately half way up the tower on the seaward side. During daytime a large ball was hoisted on a mast above the lantern to indicate the tide.

Newry River Narrow Water Beacon

Roughly 300 yards upstream from the Newry River Rear Light (previous post) lies this magnificent stone beacon, abreast of Narrow Water castle. It was somewhere near here that King John forded the river on a pontoon in 1210.

This little baby doesn't date back as far as that - it possibly dates back to the 1880s like the two pseudo-Irish round towers just downstream. The castle itself dates back to the 1600s but as far as I can see, nobody ever shone a light through it to guide ships up or down the river, so it can't be classed as a lighthouse.

The castle was closed when I visited, but by skirting the walls, I came out only a few yards from this beacon. Even a t that distance, its appearance was deceptive, because the high water mark lined up with the bank behind. I had to tell myself that the stonework below the high water mark was not a reflection in the water but part of the tower exposed by the low tide! In the second and third photographs on this page, the rock that it guards is clearly seen. It appears to rise about 12 feet above the high water mark.