Worlds oldest operational Lighthouse

Updated: Jul 23

Located on the Hook Peninsula in Wexford, Hook lighthouse is one of the worlds oldest operational lighthouse still fully intact. Build almost 850 years ago, the lighthouse continues to operate in its original function.

Its striking medieval architecture is fascinating to explore. Standing 36 meters high, its comprised of 4 floors. The walls are constructed of 4-meter tick limestone which has helped it remain intact over the years despite the harsh coastal weather.


It was in the early 1200s that William Marshall, earl of Pembroke (Strongbow’s successor to the lordship of Leinster) began construction of a landmark and light tower. Both Strongbow and Marshall had developed the area significantly in the previous years, with towns like New Ross close by. The construction of a light tower was essential to ensure the safe passage for the ships to the Waterford Harbour.


The peninsula was home to a monastery, and the resident monks became the first light-keepers. Using coal, they provided all year round warnings to oncoming ships of the dangerous rocks in the area. Their work continued until the 1500s when the monastery faded out. This resulted in an absence of light for decades and lead to many shipwrecks.



Finally, in the 1600s the lighthouse was restored and although coal remained its method of lighting, alterations were made to ensure its protection from the weather. The lighthouse eventually fell into the Loftus Estate. (More of Loftus Hall here)


In 1791 (Just before it was handed over to the Corporation for Preserving & Improving the Port of Dublin in 1810), the coal lighting was replaced with a whale oil lamp.


The lighthouse saw many transformations between 1860 and 1911, with the construction of the light-keeper dwellings, and the painting of 3 red stripes on the tower, (changed to 2 black, years later). Paraffin oil Gas replaced whale oil in the 1870s and a clocking mechanism was added in the early 1900s to allow for a flashing light.



Finally, in 1972 the lighthouse installed electricity. Less than a quarter decade later (1996) the lighthouse made its last functional transformation, becoming full automatic and managed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, based in Dun Laoghaire ( over 100KM away)




This same year, a foghorn replaced the cannon gun which was used during times of thick fog, as this weather condition made the visibility of the light extremely difficult.

This foghorn operated for just 15 years before on-board shipping technology made it obsolete. The horn was silenced in January 2011.


In 2001 the lighthouse said goodbye to the last lightkeeper and opened up as a tourist attraction. The lightkeeper's residence was converted into the visitor centre.



© 2020 by Lance Kerrigan.