Monday, September 19, 2016

The Original Youghal Lighthouse

This is the only picture I can find of the original Youghal lighthouse. The current light was erected in 1852 on 'almost' the exact site of this tower which, according to most sources, went up in 1190 or 1202. Youghal had been recently peopled by men-at-arms and traffickers from Bristol, and to ensure mariner safety, a light tower was constructed and placed under the management of the nuns of The Chapel of St. Anne's. The nuns faithfully lit torches to guide ships into Youghal harbour at night until 1542 when the nunnery was abandoned and torn down at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries. The light tower appears to be have been the only part of the building to survive, 
The above drawing by William Willes gives a good idea of the lighthouse's appearance, though by that time, the tower had been allowed to deteriorate for nearly 300 years. The roof had perished and the stairs were so decayed that it was dangerous to get to the top of the tower, a portion of which had already collapsed.
The tower was circular, about 24 feet in height (it seems a lot bigger in the drawing unless the people at the top of the steps are only 2 feet tall!) and ten feet in diameter. The only entrance was a narrow Gothic doorway on the water-side. On accessing the door, a flight of spiral steps began on your right hand side, leading up to two  circular-topped windows at the top of the tower, one of which faced the middle of the bay, the other Capel Island. This particular design of window dates the tower to the end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth centuries.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Castlemaine Beacon Update

Back in July, I had a long and ultimately fruitless walk up the length of Rossbeigh Spit to try and find the Castlemaine Beacon. Sadly, we didn't see it and we didn't even get the benefit of admiring the stunning coastal scenery of Glenbeigh as it was a very windy and rainy day. Furthe renquiries revealed that the beacon, which had been severely damaged by weather and coastal erosion and had been listing at a crazy angle, finally succumbed to the elements in February 2011.

That could easily have been the end of the story. A light that had stood for over 150 years gone, swept away. Another lost lighthouse to add to the already formidable collection around our coastline - Cranfield Point, Wicklow old low light, Calf Rock, Horse Rock, the pair of lights on Oyster Island, Belfast Harbour etc etc. But the good people of Glenbeigh had other ideas and painstakingly collected the stones from the original tower (which had become cut off from the mainland at high tide) to build an exact replica of the 39 feet tall stone tower complete with mast, next to the sports field in the village of Glenbeigh, where it doesn't have to battle raging seas any more, like an old racehorse put out to pasture.

The bottom four photos are by Dave Rolt of Davesphotos from Cromane

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Wyon Point

And so to the final lighthouse on my North coast day out - Wyon (or Wine) Point, marking the southern entrance to the Sound of Aran. Not a classic lighthouse, another white concrete hut, 16 feet tall, in fact but tricky to get to and an army protecting it from nosey lighthouse freaks.

I had tried to find this place eight years ago and failed miserably. You need to head to Maghery, west of Dungloe. On entering the village, take the innocuous looking turn to the right, keeping the sports pitch on your left hand side. This brings you onto Inishfree Island, which is not really an island at all. The road is extremely narrow and bendy and up and downy but keep going for about a half a mile (ignoring the turn to the left marked Cul de sac) until you come to a sort of a T-junction. I say "sort of" because, really, the only navigable road lies to the right. The 'road' to the left deteriorates into a minefield of potholes. Unfortunately, this is the road you want. Either leave your car by the house there and walk or do as I did and drive very slowly down it, praying hard you don't get a puncture. After about three hundred yards, you can go no further. There is a barbed wire fence which opens when you unhook the string from the wooden post (don't forget to replace it!)Nearly there? Yup, the top of the hut can be seen over the brow of the small hill, guarded by the stupidest cows you ever met. Most cows when confronted by a jackeen shouting, "Heeargghhhh!" will turn around and amble off. Not these babies. They try and stare you down.
Anyway, if you can do an Indiana, its only about 300 yards to the hut.

 54° 56.5´ N 8° 27.3´ W, if that's any help. The light characteristic is Fl.(2)W.R.G. period 10s and it stands 25 feet above sea level. It has stood here since 1905.

The Turk Rocks beacon near Wyon Point


Inishsirrer is a skinny island off the northernmost part of western Ireland. It is about 1 mile long by 0.4 miles wide. It used to have a small population but they are long gone.

On the northern end of it sits a concrete hut. I have no idea why the Lighthouse Directory lists it as a lighthouse while other concrete huts of the same style and size (Ravedy Island etc) fail to qualify but an official lighthouse it is. It consists of a white square concrete hut 13 feet tall, sitting at an elevation of 65 feet. The light characteristic is Fl.W. period 3.7s fl. 0.7s, ec. 3s, if that makes any sense.

Best place to see it? Well you can see it from Bloody Foreland, but a couple of miles down the R257 somewhere near Brinlack is probably your best bet without hiring a boat.
Best time to see it? Well, it was after 5 o'clock by the time I got here and the sun was just at the wrong angle. From Bloody Foreland, the hut was just a silhouette but at least I gort a bit of light at Brinlack. Probably the morning time would be best, sun-wise.

Tory Island

Eight years ago, I made the boat trip from hell from Meenlaragh, near Bloody Foreland, to Tory Island. The island was fascinating, the light was brilliant, the sea journey bloody awful. I remember clinging to the mast in a downpour as the waves crashed over the boat, trying desperately hard not to be sick. I was amused to read on my blog from that time that only a quarter of an hour into the boat trip did the island come into view. On this beautiful sunny Sunday, Tory Island lay stretched out like a basking seal, its distinctive lighthouse, a beatific thumbs-up from the island that time forgot.

Built in 1832, the tower is 131 feet tall. The island is 9 miles from the coast of Donegal and its about 3 miles long by half a mile wide. It has a High King and less than a hundred other permanent residents.

Bloody Foreland

One of the nice things about lighthouse hunting is that it takes you off the beaten track to places you wouldn't normally visit. So it was with Bloody Foreland, on the very north-west tip of Ireland. Driving along the N69, you branch off westwards at Gortahork and then follow the signs for Bloody Foreland. Eventually the road becomes a track which becomes a series of potholes which brings you to a gate on top of the promontory. Fortunately the beacon is visible from there, casting its lonely light over towards Tory Island. 55° 09.5´ N 8° 17.0´ W should get you to the point I got to.

The white concrete hut is 12 feet in high and sits at an elevation of 47 feet. It has a flashing white and green light, dependent on the sector

Portnablagh Beacons

Front light

From Ballywhoriskey (previous post) it wasn't a long drive to Portnablagh on the main N56 heading west. The route goes across the modern Mulroy Bridge, a most incongruous sight among the fantastic scenery. When coming into Portnablagh (or Portnablahy) there is a sharp turn to the right, leading down around the beach to the pier, from where the best views of the two beacons are. 55° 10.8´ N 7° 55.6´ W

Front light

There is a front and a rear light here. The front beacon is mounted on a plinth set on some large rocks just off shore, off which a handful of children were jumping. The rear beacon is situated at the back of the beach on the roadside. When lined up they presumably demonstrate safe passage for vessels coming into the pier, off which another handful of children were jumping. 

Rear light

The front light has a red band on a white concrete beacon. The light itself is 16 feet above sea level. It has an Occulting white light (the period of light is longer than the period of no light) lasting 6 seconds in total.
The rear light has a white band on a red concrete beacon 39 feet above sea level.The light characteristic is the same. The two beacons are 85 meters apart.

Rear light

Front and rear light

Ravedy Island

After spending more time than I had bargained for at Fanad, I had to adjust my plans slightly with regards the light on Ravedy Island. Although not a lighthouse worthy of inclusion in the Lighthouse Directory, nevertheless it seemed a large enough structure to merit inclusion in the blog. Therefore I drove west along the beautiful coast from Fanad until I reached a T-Junction. The main road went right but left led to Ballywhoriskey (not signposted) from where I had previously read, I might be able to catch a distance glimpse of Ravedy without a long trek down to Mulroy and up the other side of the peninsula to a caravan park and then a walk from there. Actually the walk comes across as quite exciting - don't attempt it in stormy weather, only cross the bridge at the bottom of a steep flight of steps at low tide etc, etc  - but the day was running away on me.

There were a handful of people at Ballywhoriskey on the beach or on the rocks. Road a bit pot-holed but nothing too major. Eventually I managed to get a straight shot. There is a small island between Ballywhoriskey and Ravedy which I had to drive past.

The satnav position of the light is  55° 15.1´ N 7° 46.9´ W , though the road won't get you that far. It is a concrete tower, some 15 feet tall and sitting 30 feet above sea level. It flashes white once every three seconds, visible for 3 nautical miles. There was a Dail question in February 1956 about placing a beacon on Ravedy Island to safeguard the shipping entering Mulroy Bay and the reply was that one would be erected by the summer of that year. 

Fanad Head Fog Station

Standing just to the east of the tower inside the lighthouse compound is the Fanad Head fog station. At least, the guides told me it was a fog signal station. I can't find any reference to a fog signal station at Fanad, but that doesn't mean there isn't one.

The First Fanad Head Light - a mystery!

I had of course been to Fanad before but decided to make the long trip up again in order to try and find evidence of the original lighthouse that had stood on the spot. Bill Long's "Bright Lights" book says the current light was built close to the original light. CIL's official page for the lighthouse also states "Construction went ahead and a new larger and higher tower, close to the original tower was built..." 
So there would surely have been some evidence of this tower. A circle of stones? A stump of a tower? I paid my fiver in and circumnavigated the tower three times but saw nothing conclusive. The line being given by the guides at the Tower was that no, the new tower simply was an extension of the old tower and when I said that I thought otherwise, they seemed very interested but said they had seen nothing that might suggest an old tower, apart from maybe the domed post above set on the cliff edge. However this seems a bit shorter than the "5 feet 9 inches inside diameter by three stories high-ground, first floor and lantern" mentioned on the CIL site!

I had also viewed aerial photos of the area, trying to identify the site. There did seem to be a circular stone structure to the east and down the cliff from the current lighthouse. However, this turned out to be the old quay wall, visible sticking out of the cliff above. A nearby old stone ruined eyesore turns out to have been the coastguard station.

Maybe one of the buildings on the current site was built on top of the original ruins? Dunno.

Old quay wall visible below and to the right of the lighthouse and, below, the view from above.

I have sent off a few emails but nothing back so far

Fanad Head

The Lighthouse with Helipad, Malin Head in the background

Fanad Head is one of the much- vaunted Great Lighthouses of Ireland, a series of 12 Irish Lights that CIL have developed for tourism purposes. The last time I was here was in 2008 and it was a long drive up then but a beautiful one. Just keep driving north, following the signs for Cionn na Fhanada. When you get to the T-junction, turn right and the lighthouse will appear in about 3kms.

55°16.575' North 07°37.921' West

This light is classified as a sea light as distinct from a harbour light although it does mark the entrance into Lough Swilly which forms a natural harbour of refuge.
In 1812 the frigate Saldana was wrecked on Fannet Point, as it was called then, and became a total loss except for the ship's parrot which bore a silver collar inscribed Saldana
Fannet Point Lighthouse was first lit on 17 March 1817. Its fixed or non-flashing catoptric light showed red to sea and white towards the Lough, and could be seen for fourteen miles in clear weather. Sixty-nine years later, a new larger and higher tower, close to the original tower, was built together with an extra dwelling. The new lights went into operation on 1 September 1886, the main light was occulting white and red every thirty seconds with its fixed catadioptric second order lens and circular occulting screen around the burner turned by a small clockwork rotation machine which gave a character of 30 seconds. An auxiliary fixed white light in one of the windows at the base of the tower shone over the Limeburner Rock.

R100°-110° (10°), W110°-313° (203°), R313°-345° (32°), W345°-100° (115°)
Height of Tower:
22 metres
Height of Light MHWS:
39 metres
Fl (5) WR 20s.
W 18 nautical miles, R 14 nautical miles

I had fondly imagined that the actual visit to Fanad would last no longer than 15 minutes, maybe walk around the lighthouse, take a few photos and be gone on my busy schedule. However, being a Great Lighthouse, you can't go into the compound without paying a fiver for a ticket and for that, you get to go inside and up to the top as well, so, what the heck. why not? I was trying to figure out how many other Irish lighthouses I had actually been up - Hook Head, Old Head of Kinsale, Cromwell Point. So it was an opportunity too good to miss. Fantastic views of course. Inishtrahull is not visible from Fanad Head, though its light apparently sweeps over Malin Head at night. 

Not sure if these are traditional lighthouse windows. I just thought the design was unusual.

Fanad Head from Dunree Head