With Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh
Whose imagination is not stirred by the sight of a lighthouse? These lonely sentinels, standing at the meeting place of land, sky and sea, arouse the eternal human fascination for frontiers and extremes. Glimpsed on the horizon, they endure through the decades and centuries as history unfolds around them. And yet they also have their own histories, their own drama.
In 2015, the Commissioners of Irish Lights (the organisation which manages Ireland’s lighthouses) launched the Great Irish Lighthouses initiative, to draw attention to these maritime beacons as an important part of Ireland’s cultural heritage. Twelve of the most remarkable lighthouses were chosen as the focus of this campaign. In this series, we will take a tour through the history, architecture, folklore, and exploration of these Irish lighthouses. We begin on the East coast with Wicklow Head—the most easterly point of the mainland in the Republic of Ireland.
Wicklow Head gained its first lighthouses in 1781, when two were erected at the same time by the Revenue Commissioners (the body which had responsibility for lighthouses at the time). The waters around Wicklow Head had seen a growth in traffic from English coastal ports at this period, and a guiding light was thought necessary.
Two lighthouses were built so that mariners could tell Wicklow Head from the nearby Hook Head and Howth, both of which had single lighthouses. The lighthouses were designed by the Scottish architect John Trail, who also built Kilmainham Jail and worked on the Grand Canal.