Fantastic Lighthouse Facts
Although entries for Great Lighthouses of Ireland and Fighting Words’ fantastic Young Storykeepers initiative have now closed, we still have a boatload of lighthouse facts you might enjoy!
Check back on June 13th to see the Storykeeper tales showcased for Cruinniú na nÓg 2020!
Row, row, row your boat
Before lighthouses became electrically automated, lightkeepers – often with their families – lived at the lighthouse and watched the light. Getting to school could be tricky if you lived on an offshore station. Families lived at Cork’s Ballycotton Lighthouse until 1896, the lightkeeper’s children had to row a boat to school!
The waters around St John’s Point Co Down and Blackhead Co Antrim boast impressive shipping connections. Blackhead’s light guided many famous vessels in its heyday, including the renowned Titanic. That same ill-fated ship also undertook her sea trials in the waters near St John’s Point.
Knights and pirates
Wexford’s Hook Head Lighthouse was built by a 12th-century figure the history books call ‘The Greatest Knight’ – William Marshal. While Clare Island Lighthouse in County Mayo boasts royal connections. The family of legendary pirate queen Grace O’Malley owned the island in the middle ages.
Lost gold and warfare
Did you know that sunken treasure lies in the waters around Fanad Head? Over €410 million worth of gold cargo drifted below the surface when the SS Laurentic sank in 1917. Twenty-two of those gold bars have yet to be found…
Two years earlier, Galley Head’s keepers would have witnessed the tragic sinking of the Lusitania. The ocean liner was sunk by a German U-boat during World War I.
Enormous optics, towering lights
While not a lighthouse itself, the Great Light on Belfast’s Maritime Mile was one of the largest optics ever built and once produced one of the strongest ever lighthouse beams.
While ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ off the coast of Cork – Fastnet Rock Lighthouse – is the tallest and widest rock lighthouse tower in Ireland and Great Britain.
Ancient embers and armadas
Loop Head in Co Clare has boasted a lighthouse since 1670. Its original form was a coal-burning brazier on a platform on the roof of the lightkeeper’s cottage.
While in 1588, three of Spanish Armada’s ships were wrecked on Streedagh Strand near St John’s Point Lighthouse, Co Donegal.
Ever seen an upside down lighthouse? You’ll find one in Co Antrim and some winged wonders too! Rathlin West Light, the island of Ireland’s only upside down lighthouse, shares Rathlin Island with the UK’s largest seabird colony too.
Over in Wicklow, you need a head for heights to get to Wicklow Head Lighthouse’s kitchen – it’s 109 steps up the tower!
The rocky shore near Valentia Island Lighthouse, Co Kerry boasts the remarkable fossilised footprints of a dinosaur. Some 300 million years ago, a Tetrapod (the first four-legged animal with a backbone) stepped from water onto land right there on the island’s shoreline.
Now that you’ve all the facts, why not create your own lighthouse story?