Standing isolated in the invigorating Atlantic Ocean, some 3.5 nautical miles southwest of picturesque Cape Clear Island, you’ll find a very recognisable granite tower.
Perched along on the Wild Atlantic Way’s stunning West Cork stretch, the unmistakable Fastnet Rock Lighthouse or ‘Carraig Aonair’ (meaning “lonely rock”), has been a guiding light since the 19th century.
Operated by Cape Clear Ferries, exciting boat tours around this unforgettable lighthouse can be taken from the idyllic local fishing villages of Baltimore and Schull.
From either village, you’ll set sail over the waves and experience one of Ireland’s most iconic lighthouses from the sea itself. For generations, the majestic and isolated Fastnet Rock has fired the imaginations of onlookers. Sentimentally known as ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’, it was, for many thousands of emigrants, the last Irish structure seen as their ship carried them over the waves and away to new lives in America.
Today, you can take in all its rugged beauty without a tear shed, by stepping aboard the Fastnet Tour! You’ll chart a course for Cape Clear – one of West Cork’s charming unspoilt Gaeltacht islands – to learn more about the famous lighthouse and spot lively dolphins with beautiful Roaringwater Bay as your backdrop.
At the North Harbour, either hop on the bus or walk to the Island’s Heritage Centre where you’ll discover tales of shipwrecks and learn just how Fastnet came to be built, taking in the touching memorials as you go. After some free time for lunch or a welcome cup of coffee, you’ll be back on board the ferry – circumnavigating the rock at close quarters twice – perfect for that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
A quick history
- From 1818-1854, the south-west corner of Ireland was marked by a lighthouse at the highest point of the southern cliffs of Cape Clear Island. With the loss of the American ship, Stephen Whitney, near Crookhaven in 1847, coupled with the fact that the lighthouse was often shrouded in mist, it was decided to reposition the Cape Clear light to Fastnet Rock, 6.5km south-west of Cape Clear.
- The Titanic sailed past on her maiden voyage to New York in 1912.
- On May 7th 1915, its keepers, probably peering out from the seventh floor balcony, saw a German submarine cheekily surface to buy the morning’s catch from a local Irish fishing boat. It was reported that the keepers warned the Royal Navy, but to no avail. That same day, the U-boat sank the Lusitania, killing 1,200 civilians on their way from America.
- Fastnet Rock Lighthouse was automated and converted to an unwatched lighthouse at the end of March 1989.
Did you know?
- Fastnet is the tallest and widest rock lighthouse tower in Ireland and Great Britain. Rising 177 ft out of the ocean.
- The children on Cape Clear were taught to include the Fastnet lighthouse keepers in their nightly prayers.
- Voted the fifth ‘Best Lighthouse’ in Europe by European Best Destinations.
- The Fastnet tour featured in National Geographic’s run down of The Best of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
- It is one of 65 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.
Baltimore and Schull, Co Cork
Tours recommence on Easter Sunday, April 9th 2023
7 days | Operates mid April-October subject to weather and availability.
Departs daily from 10am onwards.
Day tours and twilight evening tours available. Check the website for up-to-date sailing times.
Child (3-12): €12
Family ticket (2 adults & 2 children): €100