Monday, October 31, 2016

Corlis Point Rear Leading Light

This is the rear leading light of the Corlis Point range. For the front leading light, please see here. For the CIL page, see here

My research was obviously a bit faulty. The sat nav reference was obviously a bit out because a half a mile from Querrin pier, it told me I was at my destination. Basically you need to drive through Querrin to the pier. At the coast turn left and its right there. I was out there and had no WIFI, so I didn't know that at the time. Besides, you'd be too close to get a good photo, I reckon. These photos were taken from the beach near the front leading light (see here, which also gives the history and reason for the lights. The rear light has the same characteristics as the front light, except there are six lights instead of four. The night light looks to be the same as the front light (visible in the top photo to the right of the six lights) And obviously, the rear light was first exhibited the same day as the front light!

The tower is a lattice structure 25 meters high and 27 meters above the high water mark.

Corlis Point Front Leading Light

Lighthouse enthusiasts who like their lighthouses to be the classically tapered variety will doubtless be disappointed with the front leading light of the Corlis Point range on the north bank of the Shannon estuary. Dedicated lighthouse lovers only need apply because it is also one of the most difficult to access. 

You will probably be driving from Kilkee, so from there head south to Querrin and Querrin Quay. This is where the rear leading light is, a large skeletal structure. From here, take the coast road, with its large area of wetland to its left. The road comes inland slightly. Shortly after a small cemetery, you reach a T-Junction, where you turn left, back towards the coast. Shortly after this, the tarmac stops and you're better off parking up and continuing on foot. The 'road' is very wet and muddy but after 200 meters, you reach the shore. (Incidentally, if you arrive during a spring tide, the path may be inaccessible!) 

At the shore, turn to the right, scale some shingle onto a small beach. At the other end of the beach, traverse some rock, then more shingle, then another small beach, then some more shingle. By now, you should see the roof of the concrete hut you're aiming for. A wet and slippy path alongside and below the field to the right leads you up to it.

Th hut is about 4 meters high and stands 9 meters above the high water mark. It is home to four large high intensity lights (third picture on this page) which shine for five seconds out of ten. At night, they are replaced by a less intensive single light with the same characteristics.

The two lights, this one and the skeletal structure at Querrin pier, help to guide vessels through the entrance to the Shannon estuary. There are rocks and sandbars at the estuary's mouth and large vessels were going to be needed to bring coal to the Moneypoint Power Station. The first idea to get these ships in was to dredge the sand, which would have cost billions. Plan B was to involve the Commissioners of Irish Lights, who, after thorough groundwork, came up with the plan of two lights which, when lined up, would guide vessels through deep water. Nowadays, coal ships of up to 175,000 tonnes dwt regularly use the channel to access Moneypoint. The record, so far, is 189,000 tonnes. The CIL page has further information.

Though I may complain about the accessibility of this light, fact is, when it was being constructed, the ground around was so wet that supplies had to be landed by helicopter. The two lights first exhibited on 20th September 1998. There does appear to be a track leading to the hut (see above)but I have no idea how to find it and it's probably private property anyway. (Checking Google Earth View, it looks like this path originates just after you turn left at the T-Junction I mentioned above)

Inis Oirr

So, the 10am trip sailing from Doolin in county Clare to Inis Oirr, the smallest and nearest of the three Aran Islands. The sailing only takes about 30 minutes. The island is about 3 kilometers long and two kilometers wide. The ferry docks at the north point of the island, next to the white Caribbean beach, and the lighthouse is at the southern end. I decided to walk it, rather than taking the 45 minute guided tour of the island by horse and trap or van and trailer. I was glad I did because firstly, it was such a beautiful day and secondly, I'm not terribly sure that any of the tours go down to the lighthouse. I saw none when I was there anyway.

The island, though small, is a maze of small roads, and its important to choose the right one if your time is limited. Leaving the pier, take the road around the white beach and keep going until you reach the airport. Take a right up the hill. About 300 meters up the hill, there is a turn off to the right. This is the road you need to take. It brings you directly to the lighthouse.

Unfortunately, not being armed with a map, I went straight on up the road less travelled. A beautiful walk among the incredible stone-walled fields, take a well-marked path to the right after about 2 kilometers and the lighthouse comes into view, Sadly the track then leads onto a big expanse of shingle, which you have to negotiate for about 400 meters (don't wear high heels!) until you see ared gate. Head for this. It joins on to the road you should have taken at the top of the hill!

The gate is of course locked and the compound is not open to the public. Someone though has very thoughtfully built stepping stones into the wall next to the gate so you can look over the wall. Unfortunately, while doing this, I accidentally fell over the wall onto a pallet placed strategically on a small scaffold and then down onto another pallet  leaning up against the wall. Oh, well, I thought, picking myself up off the ground and dusting myself off. I'm here now, so I  might as well take a few photographs.

Inis Oirr (angl. Inisheer) light was first exhibited on the 1st December 1857. The first light on the Aran Islands was built on Inis Mor but, like many others around the coast, was found to become fogbound due to its high latitude. It was decided to replace it with a light at the north end of the chain of islands (Eeragh) and one at the south (Inis Oirr) The light showed a red sector over the dangerous Finnis Rock which is now marked by a Super Buoy.

The tower is 34 meters high and the light is the same distance above high water mark. The light characteristic is W (partially vis beyond 7M) 225°-231° (6°), W231°-245° (14°), R245°-269° (24°), W269°-115°. Which I hope makes more sense to you than it does to me.

The compound also contains two keepers' cottages. A couple of broken windows excepted, they both look in pretty good nick to me. The light became unwatched in 1978.

Finnis Buoy, Inis Oirr

Travelling to Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, from Doolin in County Clare, I got an unexpected bonus when passing the Finnis Buoy, 0.8 nautical miles from the island. Not easy getting a good shot when trampolining up and down on a boat but you get the picture, so to speak. Incidentally I have labelled this post as county Galway, as Inis Oirr is county Galway but in fact it lies in the sea between Clare and Galway, so it could easily be Clare.

The Finnis Rock buoy is a First Class Cardinal Marker (as opposed to a fourth-rate one, presumably) It sends regular tweets (@FinnisBuoy) as to Wind Speed, Wave Height and Periods and Water Temperature. Not sure when she is there since, but probably about the turn of the millennium.

The Finnis Rock was the piece of marine topography that did for the MV Plassy (see below) now lying in rusting bliss on the coast of Inis Oirr. And, as Tedheads around the world will know, the Plassy features in the opening credits of Father Ted, as the camera sweeps across a supposed Craggy Island.

Doonagore Castle, Doolin

Can't remember ever having visited Doolin before. Certainly I don't recall this beautiful fairytale castle sitting high on the hill overlooking the town. The original castle was built in the 14th Century, though the tower dates from the 16th Century. In 1588, a ship of the Spanish Armada was wrecked nearby and 178 survivors were hanged at the castle on the orders of the High Sheriff of Clare. It is now a private holiday home.

There is no evidence that it was ever a lighthouse but it is included here because a) it looks great and b) some sites refer to it as being used as a navigational marker for boats coming into Doolin pier. In the picture above, the small island lying just off shore is Crab Island which protects the pier from the buffeting of the waves which can be quite fierce south of the island. Seen from out to sea, there is a constant haze in the air, marking where the Atlantic smashes into Crab Island. Personally I'd have thought that any boats would be better off making for the haze than the castle but if the internet says its a navigational daymark, I need no further excuse to include it here!

Black Head Lighthouse

Eight years after we made the journey on a wild and windy February day, I retraced my steps on a glorious end of October morning. The road across the north coast of Clare was absolutely stunning in the sunlight and I actually came upon the one parking space faster than expected after leaving Ballyvaughan. Problem was, the one parking space was full! Fortunately there was another three-quarter space about 100 yards further on.

Strangely, I remembered this lighthouse as having a house and a garden attached but obviously I was thinking of another (possibly French?) lighthouse! Being located on the edge of the Burren, vegetation is somewhat sparse and you'd be hard pushed to find space to grow a turnip out here.

The lighthouse itself is comparatively knew, having been constructed in 1936 at the behest of the Galway Harbour authorities to help guide ocean-going liners through Galway Bay to the harbour, which used to be the case at that time. Being situated at the point where the southern shore of Galway Bay turns southwards, Black Head was marked out as the ideal location.

The solar powered panels (shown above) replaced the propane light in 1980 which in turn had replaced the original acetylene light. The light is a flashing white and red light every 5 seconds and the tower itself is 8 meters high, including the beacon. The light stands 20 meters above the high water mark. 

The lighthouse was built by the Commissioner of Irish Lights on the condition that a) the money would be repaid and b) that the Galway Harbour Commissioners would maintain the light. This was agreed but unfortunately after the Second World War, transatlantic traffic stopped, as did much coastal traffic, and the Harbour folk announced they were unable to continue the maintenance of the light. So it reverted back to CIL ownership in 1955.

Sat nave reference - 53°09.253' North 009°15.839' West

Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara

This is Dunguaire Castle in county Galway, at about the easternmost reaches of Galway Bay. Its about 400 yards north of the busy little town of Kinvara, right on the coast (you can't miss it) It was built in the early 16th century and has associations with Yeats, Synge and Shaw. I was travelling from Loughrea, heading for Doolin and decided to make a short detour to see this and Black Head lighthouse.

Why Dunguaire Castle? Well, I found one photo of it on the net saying that they used to shine a light from the top of the castle to guide boats into Kinvara harbour. In which case it would be a lighthouse. Sadly, I have been able to find no corroborative evidence anywhere of this!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Drogheda North Light

In stark contrast to my last post lamenting the dilapidation of the Passage East Spider Light, news has come out via the Drogheda Independent that the Drogheda Port Authority has commissioned a restoration of one of the three iconic lighthouses on the north bank of the River Boyne - Drogheda North Light. The work will be carried out by Fergal McGirl Architects of Dublin, who have a long history of conservation architecture.
Three lights were constructed in the 1880s in the Mornington area to guide ships past the treacherous sandbanks at the mouth of the Boyne. The three form a delightful cluster of interesting maritime archaeology which, when added to the Maiden's Tower, the Lady's Finger and the old lifeboat station, ensures a fascinating ramble at the estuary entrance.
Drogheda North Light was decommissioned in 2000 and it is much to Drogheda Port's credit that they are prepared to stump up a significant amount of money to restore it when other lights around the country are left to the elements. 
See also here for my last visit to this light.
See also here for the architects page on the project

Passage Point, the Spider Light

I am indebted to Andrew O'Doherty, who writes the brilliant "Waterford Harbour Tides 'n' Tales " blog  for drawing my attention to an excellent post of his on the Passage Point Light, which I visited in 2014 and which appears in a sorry state of disrepair.
There are only four such screwpile lighthouses left in Ireland - at Moville in Derry, Dundalk Bay, Cobh and here, marking the approaches to Waterford and New Ross harbours. The blind engineer, Alexander Mitchell, who designed the screwpile lights, also took his invention to England, where none survive. America seems to be the only place where they are thriving.
The lights at Cobh, Moville and Dundalk are very well maintained but here at Passage East, the Spider Light (as it is colloquially known) which marks a dangerous bank of sand stretching to the Waterford shore, appears uncared for. A brick support, for example, appears to have been replaced by metal bars. The paint is peeling and one can see, in years to come, that it will be replaced by one of those soulless poles with a light on top. It is already halfway there.
As a country, an Taisce and the like seem to be keen to preserve every old post office and bank but turns a blind eye when it comes to lighthouses. Greenore in co. Louth has been left to the elements. Castlemaine Beacon fell into the sea. The old lights at Inish Mor and Cape Clear have been left to the mercy of the elements. The incredibly important cottage lighthouses at Loop Head and the Old Head of Kinsale lie derelict.
Lighthouses are a valuable part of our maritime history and deserve our protection too. The Spider Light will be 150 years old next year and it would be a great boost, not only to the area, but also to those of us who care about our maritime history, to see it restored to its former glory.