Historic Lighthouses On the Irish Coast
To get to the Clare Island Lighthouse in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland, you climb up to the island’s northern cliffs along a road of stones, past damp sheep chewing grass, around the bend through an alley of fuchsia hedges in bloom. Keep walking until you reach the lighthouse and slip your key in the lock, hang your parka by the door and take a seat beside the peat-burning fireplace. Someone may be nearby to take your drink order, and the reward for a long walk will be a cold gin and tonic and the soft heat of the fire.
Built in 1806, Clare Island Lighthouse sits at the northern edge of the island, 387 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Until it was decommissioned in 1965 (its clifftop position turned out to be less than ideal during fog), the lighthouse played an important role in maritime safety. Ireland is, after all, an island — before the time of GPS, lighthouses were essential in preventing shipwrecks along the rocky coast. The golden age of lighthouse construction in the country was in the mid-19th century; between the 1830s and 1860s alone over 40 lighthouses were built.
From “Beckoning Beacons” by Jessica Colley Clarke for the New York Times, 2016; Photo by Andy Haslam
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