Galley Head Lighthouse rises an imposing 53m above the roaring Atlantic ocean outside of Rosscarbery, County Cork, on the south coast of Ireland.
It is a charming white lighthouse that sits at the southernmost point of a picturesque headland known as Dundeady Island and is close to the charming market town of Clonakilty, home of the famous black pudding.
The headland is cut off from the mainland by the ancient walls of the old Norman stronghold of Dun Deidi, an important fortress of the local O’Cowhig Clan.
Despite Galley Head Lighthouse was completed in 1875, the site did not become operational until 1878. The original light characteristic consisted of six or seven flashes of white light within sixteen seconds every minute. This was due to the operation of a revolving octagonal optic, combined with a light powered by coal gas burners that were switched on and off every two seconds or so. When it was constructed, it was the most powerful lighthouse light in the world as its original light could be seen in clear weather for a distance of 30km.
The lighthouse’s lantern, dome and 21-metre tower are still painted white, just as they were in the 19th century. Interestingly, the lightkeepers at Galley Head would have witnessed the loss of the Lusitania in 1915 and sighted many British and German vessels during World War I and II.
Moreover, the lighthouse displays an unusual landward arc of light because, it is said, the Sultan of Turkey asked to be able to see it from Castle Freke at Rosscarbery nearby on his visit there. The castle, abandoned in 1952 can be seen from Galley as a Gothic ruin.
It was converted to electric operation in 1969 and automated in 1979.
Galley Head Lighthouse is still today a major shore light on the South Coast and an important aid to offshore navigation.
It is one of 65 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.
Irish Landmark Trust has restored two lightkeepers’ houses which offer self-catering accommodation in a perfect base to pursue a wide range of outdoor activities from dolphin and whale watching, surfing at Inchydoney Blue Flag Beach to a historical walking tour of pretty Clonakilty.