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)


  1. Thanks for the photos and info. Cheers.

  2. Excellent blog all round, cheers for sharing your explorations from another lighthouse nut!

  3. Very enjoyable and interesting read! Even if it is six years after this blog was first published!