The Hook Lighthouse or Hook Head Lighthouse is situated at the tip of the Hook Peninsula in Southeastern Ireland. It is the 2nd oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the world (our guide said oldest, so not sure what the fine line is here), after the Tower of Hercules light in Galicia, Spain.
A missionary in the area established a beacon here in the 5th century, but the current structure dates from the 12th century (1172) and has been operating for 847 years.
The tower was built by Strongbow’s son, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke (successor to Strongbow as Lord of Leinster) and is 35 meters (115 feet) high with a focal height of 46 meters (151 feet). The beacon can be seen from 23 nautical miles (43 km, 26 miles) away. The walls are built like those of a castle and are up to 4 meters thick.
The first light keepers were a group of monks who had been lighting fires in braziers to warn sailors in the years before the lighthouse was built. The monks were replaced by full time light keepers in the mid 17th century. In 1671 a new, coal burning lantern was installed in the light. In 1791, a whale oil burning lantern was installed. It was 12 feet in diameter and had 12 lamps.
New gas lights were installed in 1871, using gas manufactured in the enclosure, known as the gas yard. Paraffin oil was used starting in 1911 and a clockwork mechanism was installed to change the light from fixed to flashing. This mechanism had to be wound up every 25 minutes, a job usually given to the apprentices.
Electricity was finally added in 1972 and photocells were installed to control the light. The lighthouse was automated in 1996 and the last lightkeeper left the site. The light is now controlled from Dun Laoghaire by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
The lighthouse was opened to the public for tours in 2001.
Arriving at the site, we could see that the weather had changed for the worse. A lot more wind, a few drops of rain and all the picnic tables had been turned upside down, so they would not blow away.
Stopping into the info center, we learned the next tour would be at 11 AM and booked ourselves in (10 Euro for adults, 9 Euro for seniors/students) before heading to the raised platform at the edge of the point to see what the sea was up to. Turns out, it was thrashing and bashing, as Lorenzo got ever closer.
As the rain started, we headed for cover to await our tour. The wave action was whipping up a froth in the narrow channel behind the lightkeeper’s house and the foam was blowing up the cliff face and off into the wild blue yonder.
Our tour started right on time, as the weather was not yet nasty enough to halt tours. Access to the light is by guided tour only and starts off in the lower observation area, where the history of the light and the Earl of Pembroke are explained.
Then, it is up to the next level for an explanation of the light itself, with a rotating example to illuminate, so to speak. In this room, you can see how some of the construction elements that make this tower so strong. Inside this room, you could not tell what was happening outside.
Up another stair to the next level for a bit more information on the lighthouse and the other famous lighthouses around the world. Through the small splashed windows, you could see the intensity of the storm increasing.
After the talk here, we were told to button up for the final stop outside on the observation deck. Warned about the wind gusts that would hit as we exited to the platform, we quickly found a bit of shelter to listen to the rest of the talk, shouted above the crescendo of the wind. My Patty volunteered to be the example for what happens to hair in the strong winds and then we posed for a photo…..
….before heading back down the stairs and out. No access is permitted to the level housing the light.
It felt like coffee time by this point, so we stopped into the cafeteria for cappuccinos and pulled up a chair at a window with a sea view, before heading on our way.