Built in the late 1840s, Ballycotton Lighthouse sits atop the unspoilt eponymous Island, in Ireland.
On January 16, 1847 the paddle steamship Sirius, the first vessel to cross the Atlantic ocean completely under steam, was sailing from Glasgow to Cork via Dublin, but shipwrecked here in dense fog. The disaster claimed the lives of 20 passengers and crew but, luckily, around 70 people lived to tell the story.
The lighthouse was built as a result, and it was first lit in 1851.
Families of the lightkeepers lived on the island until 1896 and their children would row across to Ballycotton for school during the week.
The main light was converted to electric operation on 15 January 1975, the lighthouse was automated in 1992 and the lighthousekeepers left the island for good.
A black lighthouse, one of only two in Ireland, it is only accessible by boat and this makes a trip to Ballycotton Lighthouse something very special: you can walk the original light-keepers path to the island’s summit, and you may meet some of the resident goats, or see the unspoilt flora and fauna.
If you’re lucky you might spot peregrine falcons near the rocky inlets at dawn and dusk, while seals and dolphins are regular visitors to the harbour and whales can be seen from the cliffs in December and January. The nearby beach at Ballynamona is on a wildlife sanctuary, with herons, oystercatchers and sandhoppers.
Until recently, power for the lighthouse on Ballycotton was provided by an underwater cable which linked the Island with Ballycotton Pier.
It is one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.
Did you know?
In July of 1878 the residents of the seaside town of Ballycotton witnessed something astounding. They gathered on the shore and gazed in wonder at a new island that had suddenly appeared off the coast. They claimed to be able to see various features on the island such as woodlands, mountains and valleys, and several fisherman took to their boats to explore this mysterious island. However, as they approached, the island faded into thin air.
This strange anomaly has also been reported by several other coastal towns along the west coast.
A mirage or an illusion?
Or could it have been the legendary island of Hy Brasil, the promised land?
Sought by Brendan the Navigator, this island is said to be hidden from human eyes and only becomes visible for one day every seven years….
Author’s notes: Trips are arranged by Ballycotton Sea Adventures. All their guides are local and will tell you the factual history of the lighthouse and picturesque Ballycotton itself.
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