The Bottom Line
- One of the few lighthouses in Ireland you can experience close up and personal.
- One of the oldest working lighthouses in the world.
- Walks along the craggy southern tip of the Hook Peninsula.
- It takes some time to get there.
- Medieval lighthouse built in 13th century, one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world.
- Lighthouse was made fully automatic in 1996.
- Open as a tourist attraction since 2000 it draws a crowd of around 60,000 visitors per year.
Guide Review - Hook Head Lighthouse (County Wexford)
The southern tip of the Hook Peninsula marks the entrance to sheltered waters and safe harbors - busy ever since the Vikings settled down in nearby Waterford. On the other hand the rocky shore stopped lots of vessels seriously short of safety in low-visibility conditions. Which are not exactly a rare occurrence here. So around the early 13th century the "Tower of Hook" was built as a navigation aid by order of William Marshal. Monks from a nearby monastery looked after the signal fire at night.
The idea for such an erection might well have been imported from the Holy Land. And Marshal certainly had a thing for cylindrical buildings - five of his castles, including one at Kilkenny, had circular towers.
In service ever since, the lighthouse has seen structural and technical improvements to keep up to date. In 1911 it became a flashing beacon courtesy of a clockwork mechanism, in 1972 it was electrified and the fog gun was replaced by fog horn only in 1972. In March 1996 the lighthouse became fully automatic - and the complex was converted into a visitor centre, opened in 2000.
The medieval tower is now accessible to visitors while a café and craft shop in the old lightkeepers' cottages make for a good stop before hitting the road again. One should, however, take soome time to explore the vicinity, especially the rocks just in front of the lighthouse. On a sunny day they make an ideal perch from which to watch the world go by. And with a lot of luck you might even see the tall ship Dunbrody sailing past, its home port being nearby New Ross.