Hook Head Lighthouse maintained its vigil without interruption until around 1641. We cannot be certain when exactly it ceased to be operational, but it was described in 1657 as ‘a former lighthouse’, suggesting it had fallen out of use for at least a period. The lighthouse was restored in 1671 by Robert Readinge, who encased the light in glass, and had it powered by coal. The lighthouse keeper and his assistant, together with their families, lived in the first and second floors of the building in quite crowded conditions. In 1791, the large lamp of the lighthouse was powered by whale oil, and the lighthouse was under control of the Ballast Office.
By the middle of the 19th century, new houses were constructed for the lighthouse keepers, and the distinctive black-and-white stripes became the identifier of the lighthouse. In 1867, the tower was handed over to the Commissioners of Irish Lights, who still operate it to this day. The lamps were first converted to gas, then paraffin and finally in 1972, to electricity. In 1996 following the installation of an automated system, the last lighthouse keeper left Hook Head Lighthouse. Today the lighthouse is a fascinating and unique place to visit, and the experience is made all the more rewarding by the scenery of County Wexford and the Hook Peninsula that surrounds it. You can explore this with our Hook Peninsula Itinerary, available exclusively for Tuatha Members here.
In addition to all that medieval heritage, you can also discover a much older story at Hook Head, as the rocky headland around the base of the lighthouse can be a good place to spot fossils. The rock is part of the Ballysteen Formation of limestone and shale, formed during the early part of the Carboniferous Period around 350 million years ago. If you have a sharp eye, in the right light you can see the remains of sea creatures and plants, like crinoids (related to starfish and sea urchins), lamp shells, corals and sea mats (lacy looking colonies of tiny sea creatures). But remember tampering or removing fossils is illegal here in Ireland, so please don’t interfere with these reminders of the time depth of Ireland’s natural and geological heritage.