Belfast’s Brilliant Beacon: The Great Light
A city renowned for its distinguished maritime heritage and the iconic shipyards that brought Titanic to the world, Belfast also showcases the utterly exceptional Great Light.
Sitting by the water on the scenic Titanic Walkway in the heart of the Titanic Quarter, this 130-year-old optic is one of the largest of its kind ever built. A beautiful and rare maritime artefact, at ten tonnes in weight and seven metres high, it’s little wonder that this striking light produced one of the world’s strongest ever lighthouse beams.
Quite the juggernaut with its enormous Fresnel Hyper-Radial lens, the Great Light’s optic dates back to 1887 and once shone from the lighthouses on Tory Island, Donegal and Mew Island, Down. Also adding to its prestige is the fact that its construction involved two of the world’s most esteemed lighthouse optic manufacturers – Barbier and Fenestre and the Chance Brothers. Made in Paris, the original optic boasted 18 lenses, six in each of its three tiers and covered 60 degrees. The Fresnel lens (invented by Augustin-Jean Fresnel in 1823) magnifies and refracts light into one brilliant, powerful beam. Unsurprisingly, given its sheer strength, the arrival of the Fresnel lens completely revolutionised lighthouse technology.
Nestled on the Maritime Mile, which connects the Titanic Slipways to HMS Caroline and Thompson Dock, the Great Light provides visitors with a unique opportunity to stand face to face with such an important navigational aid. The historic revolving optic guided mariners through Belfast Lough until as recently as 2014 and today acts as a lifeline to Northern Ireland’s rich maritime and lightkeeping past.
Looking for a northern lighthouse experience? Visit the three stunning Great Lighthouses of Ireland on the idyllic Northern Irish coast: St John’s Point, County Down, Blackhead and Rathlin West Light, County Antrim.
Each ideally placed for excursions to Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, Titanic Walkway and Great Light, you can even enjoy a slice of lightkeeping life for yourself at St John’s Point and Blackhead’s cosy self-catering cottages. Or a little further afield, at Donegal’s own picturesque St John’s Point Lighthouse and self-catering accommodation too.