Wednesday, May 8, 2019

First Fanad Head Light (Lost Lighthouse)


On my September 2016 visit to Fanad, I tried to find evidence of the original light, with no success.
The first light was shown  at Fanad on Patricks Day 1817. According to the CIL website, 
"The first lighthouse was similar in size to two other towers being built around the same time, one at Mutton Island off Salthill, Galway Bay, and the other at Roche's Point on the eastern entrance to Cork harbour. They were 5 feet 9 inches inside diameter by three stories high-ground, first floor and lantern." 
In 1886, "Construction (on the new light) went ahead and a new larger and higher tower, close to the original tower was built together with an extra dwelling."
I was unsuccessful in finding evidence of the original tower, a stump, or a circular foundation. On the tour of the lighthouse this time around, I came across an old painting of the lighthouse, pre-dating 1886 (see above). It shows a different configuration of dwellings and a much shorter light. It appears that the new tower must have been built practically on the same location as the old tower.

It also shows steps on the left-hand side of the picture leading down to a landing stage at the water. These steps are still there, though blocked off and overgrown, see photos below.

Fanad Head Lightkeepers' Cottages

There are three cottages at Fanad Head available for rent - Tory, Inishtrahull and Dunree, named for the three nearby lighthouses and the way the cottages face. Tory and Inishtrahull were former lightkeepers' cottages, while Dunree is a former storeroom. So, in the photo above, our cottage, Tory, is accessed by the green door furthest left below the visible slate grey roof. Inishtrahull faces a different way. It is situated to the right of the tower (chimneys visible). Dunree is the squarish building extreme right with the two green doors.

The cottage is accessed by a short flight of steps. The walls are extremely thick with the result that you can barely hear a gale blowing outside. The photos on the Lighthouse site are very poor. The rooms are a lot more spacious than the photos indicate and we could easily have accommodated a fifth person on the foldy-up bed.

Excuse the bags on the bed. First bedroom, two twin beds. View of the outside compound. All the rooms have massive radiators and are very cosy.

Sitting room. No telly. No WIFI. Sketchy mobile phone signal.

Bathroom with original red-tiled floor and free-standing bath, which my wife thought creepy but which I would have liked to have used, as any bath I ever had either froze your shoulders or your knees and this was one deep tub. But it would have been a scandalous waste of an awful lot of water, so we all used the shower instead.

Double bed, Bedroom 2

The hall. Although the rooms were in the same positions as the original cottages, the use of the rooms has altered

Very large kitchen with all mod cons.

The house is full of information on the lighthouse, paintings of Fanad Head (all for sale) and boasts a library cupboard, found in many lighthouses and sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation.
Accommodation is offered at about twelve Irish lighthouses around the coast. Best value is probably off season. An absolutely fantastic three-night stay.

The Lighthouse Tavern, Fanad Head

It doesn't really look like a pub, more a converted residence but it was a godsend to us. Staying at the lighthouse, we would drive the one kilometer uphill to the pub every evening and walk back down every night. Then I'd pick up the car again in the morning.

Having a pub so near saved us the hassle of driving to a pub and the necessity for a designated driver. The pub is small and offers a small selection of tasty and generously-sized evening meals. For some reason, RTE Gold appears to be the default channel on the telly but it actually worked quite well!

Building next door with a brilliant mural of the lighthouse itself.

Oh, and a grand pint too.

Fanad Head revisited

As a Christmas gift, my wife bought me a voucher for a stay at Fanad Head Lighthouse, so in mid-April, we set off, along with her sister and husband. The first day was very stormy but with good visibility. After that it calmed down a bit but was quite dull. But staying in a lighthouse is probably the one occasion you don't mind the weather.

It was my first visit since September 2016 and the old visitors center / shop inside the compound had moved to larger premises just outside the gate. But apart from that, little had changed. We got a free tour of the tower with our accommodation, which I will detail in a separate post.

The helicopter landing pad is no longer used by the Commissioner of Irish Lights. These days it is very occasionally used by air / sea rescue helicopters and mad women.

Semaphore flags hanging inside the tower. More internal photos from my September 2016 visit here.