Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ballagh Rock lighthouse


Ballagh Rocks from nearby Calf Island

Over two months since we spent a week on beautiful Arranmore Island off the coast of Donegal, its about time I wrote about the two lighthouses in that part of the world. The first of these that the visitor encounters is Ballagh Rocks, a lighthouse since 1982, though a beacon has stood on the treacherous rock since 1875.
As most people live on the sheltered eastern side of the island, and as practically every house has a sea view, the Ballagh Rocks, much more than the main Arranmore Island lighthouse, is a very familiar sight to islanders and visitors alight. It was indeed the first thing I looked for on pulling back the curtains in our own rented accommodation, although my wife, as usual, dismissed it as 'not a real lighthouse.'.

Rather like Long Island in county Cork, the construction of a beacon at that point was a long time coming about. The rocks sit in the middle of the main northern channel between Arranmore Island and the mainland and were therefore a hazard to any craft entering Burtonport or indeed Arranmore. It was recommended that a beacon should be erected there in 1867 but it was not until 1875 that the 30 metre high stone beacon was erected. It was built by a local landowner, John S. Charley, who apparently earned little affection from his hard-pressed tenants, despite the obvious advantage of this new maritime aid.

At some point, probably after the terrible 1935 Arranmore disaster, when lighted beacons were hurriedly erected between Burtonport and Arranmore, the broad black band was added. Eventually, like Long Island also, lighthouse status was conferred at a ceremony in Killiarney in 1982 and the Ballagh Rocks beacon was required to take the Lighthouse Oath and took its place amongst the lighthouses of the world. Unlike Long Island though, it was not merely a case of sticking a light on top. As it was to be a West Cardinal light, requiring propane, new equipment was needed, with new construction. During the course of the transportation of the equipment to the lighthouse in 1981, the helicopter was forced to ditch in the sound where, according to the kayak instructor, who somehow managed to get us onto nearby Calf Island, it still lies today. The pilot managed to bail out and was saved.

It must be said, I took far too many pictures of this photogenic beacon.


  1. Our Long Island beacon light is visible from our house and makes a wonderful counterpoint to the Fastnet flash.

    1. I'm sure it does Finola. I remember staying near Kilcrohane and watching that Fastnet light swoop over the Mizen.