Hook Lighthouse is an 800 year old lighthouse and is one of the world’s oldest lighthouses and the worlds oldest intact operational lighthouses. It is located at the end of the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford and marks the eastern entrance to Wexford Harbour, at the mouth of the Three Sisters river system.
The current tower dates back to the 12th century and was constructed by Strongbow’s son-in-law, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke who had established a port in the town of New Ross about thirty kilometres up river, the construction of the lighthouse was essential for the safe arrival of ships to their final destination. The lighthouse stands at 36 metres high and the first caretakers were a small group of monks who had a small monastery on the peninsula. It is thought that they were also involved in the building of the tower. They are understood to have left in the mid 17th century when the first lightkeeper was appointed.
The tower comprises of three rib-vaulted chambers in the lower tier while the upper narrower section housed the warning beacon. Each of the storey’s have original 13th century fireplaces. The original warning beacon would have been a fire, in 1671 a new, but still burning lantern was installed on the top of the tower, replacing the old beacon light. The coal lantern was abandoned in 1791 when a huge whale oil lantern was installed, it measured an impressive twelve feet across with twelve lamps and was used until 1871, when new gas lights were installed. Paraffin oil was the source of power from 1911 until 1972 when electricity took over, at this time light sensitive switches were put in to operate the lantern. In 1996 it was completely automated and the last light-keepers and their families left the station for good.
Hook Lighthouse is a compliling example of medieval architecture in Ireland. It stands four storey’s high with walls up to four metres thick, and is constructed of local limestone.
There is a climb of 115 stairs to reach the top but, visitors are awarded with spectacular panoramic views from the balcony of the county coastline and surrounding countryside. It is not uncommon to see humpback and fin whales in the waters here during the winter months.
It opened as a tourist attraction back in 2001 following the renovation of the old keepers house into a visitor centre. The final signalling of Hook’s fog horn was in January 2011, they were permanently disabled after this. Lonely Planet has described this compelling lighthouse as “The great granddaddy of lighthouses”. Visitors can take guided tours of this impressive lighthouse, where they will step back in time and discover the fascinating insights, stories and facts of this one of a kind building.
On site there is a cafe that serves a lovely selection of homemade dishes and delicious bakery products. A gift shop selling pretty gifts with a nautical theme. There are picnic areas and children’s outdoor games. A number of events, festivals and workshops are held throughout the year, so worth watching out for these. It also hosts art exhibitions and maritime displays.
It is open daily from 9.30am all year round.