Saturday, December 29, 2018

Inis Mor (Dun Oghil) Light

Forgive the large amount of photographs of this lighthouse but it was a great thrill to finally meet it and say hello and I was somewhat star-struck! As previously mentioned, a light was first placed on the highest point of Inis Mor on 1st June 1818, with the intention of lighting the whole Aran Island group. It quickly became obvious that the results achieved were not good enough and it was replaced in 1857 by Eeragh and Inis Oirr, when the light was put out to grass.

A report into the harbours and shores of the British Isles in 1845, states that "The light at Arran is perched too high; it is 413 feet above the level of the sea. Captains of vessels often see the rocks before the light. The lighthouse is painted white and the light is a revolving one." An 1831 description of the light by Alan Stevenson says that "this light revolves and is seen at the distance of five or six leagues, or at lesser distances in hazy weather, The light appears once in every three minutes in its brightest state, like a star of the first magnitude, and, gradually becoming less luminous, is eclipsed."

Well, the light is no longer painted white - not a trace of paint remains. Approaching it, a large sign says that Dun Arann is closed for renovations but there was no sign of any renovation work going on when I was there. There are large holes in the wall where you simply walk into the compound. Considering it has been abandoned for 160 years, the tower itself looks in a great structural state. The lantern of course has been removed and the surrounding buildings are in various stages of demolition but the tower looks great. The door has been replaced by a piece of metal and iron railings. Peering inside one of the windows, the inside staircase appears intact.

How to get there? Well, if you don't feel like biking it out to Eeragh, take the road uphill from The Bar in the centre of the village of Kilronan and just keep walking. Its about a mile and a half. Watch out for the little lane leading up to the left.
I approached it after visiting Eeragh by bike. Returnig downhill to Kilmurvey Beach, don't take the coast road back but the next one. Its a long climb but not particularly steep. Obviously the lane is on your right this time. You should be able to see the light from the road, as there are several lanes. I wheeled my bike up and there is a little area just below the light to leave it.
I must admit that freewheeling all the way from the light down into Kilronan again was absolutely exhilerating and made me feel like a seven year old again!!!

Eeragh Light

Okay, so you've arrived on the largest of the Aran Islands on the eastern side of the island. The vantage point from which you might be able to view Eeragh Lighthouse is 12 kms away on the western side of the island. It is unclear if the roads are navigable on the western side of the island. What's the best way?

Well, you could walk, I suppose. I considered it. I reckoned I could do 24kms easily in four hours, there and back and be back in time for the ferry. Or maybe take one of the myriad minibuses that meet you at the pier. But if you can only go so far and then walk, would they wait? Ditto the pony and traps that tout for business.
But I opted for a bike. I had only biked once in the past forty years and that turned into a disaster. But this route followed a coastal path, so was less likely to be undulatory. So €10 for a bike for the day from the shop at the end of the pier, a few cursory directions and off I went.

Basically, from the shop, you don't turn right to follow the road around the coast but turn left to go to the centre of Kilronan. At the imaginatively-titled pub "The Bar" turn right and go uphill till you come to Watty's Bar and then turn right. This brings you onto the road you want - simply keep the coast on your right, all the way.

After Kilmurvey Beach, the road rises steadily. It is a long hill and was the only part I had to get off and walk and me 57 years old and unused to cycling. Shortly after reaching the top of the hill, on the downward leg, the lighthouse hoves into view on the right hand side, saving you the bother of a full ascent on the way back.

It appears that the lighthouse is on the second (further)  island out and presumably only accessible by boat or helicopter. It is either painted white with three black stripes or black with three white stripes, although the bottom stripe is more grey than black. There is a large solar panel visible on the other side of the keepers' house, which looks like a dormer bungalow with windows in the attic. Built in 1857, it is 31 metres tall. It was automated in June 1978.

53° 9' 1.08'', -9° 51' 24.99''

Killeany Harbour Beacons

When on Inis Mor twenty years ago, we walked along the coastal path to a pub called Tigh Fitz's, on the way to the airfield. As it happened, we got sunburnt on the way and we were grateful for the shade of the very basic pub and I for the lovely smooth pint of Guinness served up there. Sadly the pub is no more but nearby, I found these beacons to guide boats into the small harbour nearby.

Galway really seems to be the place for these beacons. There are others, all conical, at Lettermullan and Gorumna and one near Rossaveal. There are also a lot of them at the mouth of the River Boyne, leading into Drogheda. The way into this harbour was marked by two types of beacons, both conical and tapered, the latter appearing to be somewhat newer.

The beacons were erected, rocks blasted and the entrance channel widened in the period 1887 to 1889.

53°06'30.2"N 9°39'41.3"W

Straw Island, Inis Mor

Travelling over to Inis Mor on the ferry from Rossaveal, the next light you come across - apart from a very brief glimpse of Eeragh beyond the northern point of the island - is the lighthouse on Straw Island. As my wife would say, this is a real lighthouse and is remotely operated from CIL HQ in Dun Laoghaire.

Built in 1878, the lighthouse here sits on a very low-lying rock of land on the approach to Kilronan, the largest settlement and landing berth of Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. So low-lying is this island, that it is believed that the light is in danger of being washed away. In 2014, it was extensively damaged by a storm.

The Aran Islands consist chiefly of three islands running in a string from northwest to southeast across the mouth of Galway Bay. Inis Mor is the largest, then Inis Maan and then, closest to the Clare coast, Inis Oirr. In 1818, a light was erected on the highest point of Inis Mor and this was deemed sufficient to safeguard marine activity in the vicinity.

However, as with several other lighthouses around the country - Wicklow Head and Cape Clear, for example - it was soon evident that the light was built at too high an elevation and was frequently shrouded in mist and cloud. Therefore, they decided to build one light at the top of the chain of islands (Eeragh) and one at the bottom (Inis Oirr) and this was done in 1857, when the original light was dicontinued.

However, the islanders soon came to realise that neither Eeragh nor Inis Oirr was in fact visible from Killeany Bay, the natural harbour that protects Kilronan, the main port on the islands. So they petitioned for  a harbour light. And, with their usual speed and efficiency (in the nineteenth century), a light was eventually established on Straw Island in 1878.

It appears from the map that it should be possible to view the lighthouse at close range from land by taking the coast road past the airport and then striking out to the left when this road turns right. However, it does not seem to get you any nearer than the ferry, which passes very close, though of course, a steadier hand than mine would have got better pictures!

Photographs 1-5 on this page are taking on the approach to Inis Mor.
Photographs 6-7 are taken leaving Inis Mor.
Photographs 8-10 are taken from the old lighthouse in the centre of Inis Mor.

53°07.065' North 09°37.840' West

Cashla Bay West Side Light

Further out, on the western side of the entrance to Cahla Bay is this squat, unattractive concrete box painted white. It looks as though it should be possible to reach this light by road by driving round the bay and heading south west when you hit Carraroe. Not that its worth the effort, of course.

The light is powered by a solar panel, just visible in the top picture. Trabas lists its location as Killeen.

N53 ° 14.24 ' 
W9 ° 35.19'

Cashla Bay Light

My annual trip to the Baffle Poetry Festival in Loughrea gave me the opportunity to visit Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands, a place I hadn't been for twenty years. Skies were alternately clear and threatening but instead of the rickety old boat that brought us over from Rossaveal the last time, there was a brand new catamaran, high tech, high spec.

The Cashla Bay Lion Point light is best seen from the ferry as it sits on private land on the promontory guarding Rossaveal facing south. The last time I was here it consisted of a white box with a red stripe. This has now been altered to a white box with a grey stripe.

N53 ° 15.83 ' 
W9 ° 33.98'

John Eagle RIP

I was very saddened to learn, shortly before Christmas, of the death of John Eagle, author of two photo essays on Irish lighthouses.
John was an Englishman whose connections with West Cork dated back to the sixties. He lived in Eyeries on the beautiful Beara peninsula and was often found in the tourist office in Castletownbere.
A long-time lighthouse enthusiast, he made it his mission to photograph every Irish lighthouse, or at least those under the control of the Commissioner of Irish Lights. He produced postcards of the lights and also two photo books. I have to say I was extremely envious when he applied to CIL to cadge rides on helicopters bringing technicians to the remoter lights. The resulting photographs were absolutely stupendous.
Latterly, he acquired a drone which gave him another angle to his lighthouse photography. In addition to this, he ran annual lighthouse tours around Ireland - normally a southern tour and a northern tour, which were very well received.
Apart from his love of lighthouses, he was also a very accomplished artist, painting landscapes of his beloved West Cork.
I never met the man but conversed with him by email on occasion, when some change to the lighthouse infrastructure happened. Through his contacts in CIL, he was always able to answer my queries.
His website is still up, full of photographs. I have no idea what is going to happen to it.
John, rest in peace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lighthouses of Ireland by Roger O'Reilly

For some reason, there has been a lot of lighthouse stuff in the media recently and consequently a lot of people who know of my fascination with the subject, coming up to me and asking if I heard the radio series on the Lightkeepers or watched the recent Great Lighthouses of Ireland television series. (The answer to both was yes!!)
Now comes an absolutely sumptuous book "Lighthouses of Ireland" written and illustrated by Roger O'Reilly, a 200 page hardback volume with over 280 illustrations that show the great diversity of lighthouses in Ireland, whether in their location, size or colouring. However, this is no mere text book - though each of the lighthouses is described in an informative yet easy-to-read style - but more of a work of art. For the illustrations are not photographs but hand drawn illustrations that capture mood as well as detail. It is a beautiful book, personally signed and quite a bargain at €27.99 on Roger's website. This price approximates to the cost of a bottle of Jameson's, so I will be asking one of my children if they will buy me this book rather than another whiskey for Christmas!!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Great news from Balbriggan

Despite the fact that I live in the same county, it is five years now since I last visited the beautiful and historic Balbriggan lighthouse on the northern shores of county Dublin. The lighthouse is one of the earliest original structures in the country that is still operating - with an inauguration date stretching back to the 1700s - and I have always been fortunate to visit in brilliant sunshine.
Sadly, over the years, the lighthouse fell into neglect and looked very dirty and dishevelled. The dome had been removed in the 1960s due to corrosion and it looked very much as though the lighthouse was destined to fall into complete disrepair.

However, towards the end of August, I got a mail from Russ Rowlett of the lighthouse directory in America, asking how work on replacing the dome was progressing. To my shame, I had heard nothing about this project but, scouring the net, discovered that plans had been afoot towards the end of 2017 to install a replacement dome and restore the historic light to its former glory in time for its 250 year anniversary in 2019.
But, nothing seemed to happen after that. I sent off a few mails and got little in reply until Eoghan Brady contacted me to say the dome had been installed that very day! And, doesn't it look well!!! Fair play to all the local citizens and councillors who invested so much energy into preserving an important part of our maritime heritage. I hope to visit soon.

Further reports on the installation of the dome can be found on and also on

Lightkeepers on the radio

This blog is mainly about lighthouses, their physical structure, history and location. The role of the lightkeeper, whereas it has been a secondary area of interest, has been neglected by me, probably for the extremely selfish reason that my family, as far back as I can remember, consisted primarily of agricultural labourers (or 'ag labs' as they are commonly known in genealogical circles) with a few fishermen thrown in for good measure.
Recent correspondence with a lovely lady named Heather Walker has focussed my attention on the role of the lightkeeper. She is descended from an Irish lightkeeping dynasty - the Redmonds - that scanned Irish waters in the nineteenth century. Trying to help to unravel the various branches of the family has been akin to a murder mystery puzzle and great fun.
I sometimes wish for the solitary life of the keeper but this may well be pure romanticism on my part. The Sheeps Head peninsula in West Cork is heaven on earth when seen on a sunny summer's day but you would want to live there during a wet and cold February to see if you would live there permanently. The same applies to lightkeeping. All very well to imagine yourself setting the light at regular hours and writing poetry or putting ships in bottles, but the reality of the roaring of the weather when you're trying to sleep or maybe being stationed with someone you didn't really like for years on end maybe another kettle of paraffin oil.
Anyway, I recently caught the end of RTE's short series of radio podcasts on lightkeepers and their stories on Sunday nights. Anyone with an interest can catch up with them on

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Dingle lighthouse

Its been quite a while since I bagged what my wife would term a real, Irish lighthouse. The lighthouse at the eastern entrance to Dingle Bay is certainly that, though it is not operated by the Commissioner of Irish Lights. Actually, we got photos of it in two ways - firstly from the water and secondly from the land.

We tried our hand at rowing a naomhog (little saint), similar to a currach, except long and slender. There is a place on Dingle marina where you can try your hand at it. The boats are easily rowed, fly through the water and the day we did it was as calm as sea as you're likely to get. Anyway, we rowed almost to the mouth of the harbour near the lighthouse and I managed to get the first two photographs here.

The second set of photographs from land can be reached by a path all the way from Dingle, if you have the time, or from a quarter of a mile away, if you haven't. A beautiful spot and even Fungi, the dolphin, put in an appearance for us.

The lighthouse and the keepers' cottage were erected in 1885 to provide safe entrance into Dingle harbour. They appear to be in great condition and have benefitted from a relatively recent lick of paint. The tower itself is quite small, only 24 feet high. The whole site is surrounded by a low stone wall

We took the road out of Dingle heading for Annascaul. Passing the Dingle Skellig Hotel on the right hand side, about 1.3 kms further on there is a very small turn to the right, on a right hand bend, that almost doubles back on itself. This will bring you to the shore, where there's parking for about 5 cars. From there it is but a 10 minute walk past Hussey's Folly to the lighthouse. Alternatively, if you miss this turn, take the next right turn a few hundred yards further on. This will also bring you to the coast but you'll approach the lighthouse from the opposite direction.