Hook Head: the oldest operational lighthouse in the World!
A lighthouse is most of the time a tower, or other type of structure, designed to emit light from a system of lamps and lenses and used as a navigational aid for maritime pilots at sea or on inland waterways. Lighthouses mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, safe entries to harbors, and can also assist in aerial navigation. Once widely used, the number of operational lighthouses has declined due to the expense of maintenance and replacement by modern electronic navigational systems.
Do you know the Hook Head lighthouse?
It is located in the south-western corner of County Wexford, and it is also known as Waterford Harbour. The amazing headland is based on a peninsula, which means “almost an island”, because as you’ll see, it is still connected to Ireland, even if the road that you need to go through is tight and curvy. But the journey is rewarding, if just for the magnificent views and the clean, fresh air alone.
Thanks to the 3 rivers which flow into this area: Barrow, Nore and Suir, a long time ago the Hook Head area was known as Comar na dtrí nuisce (in Gaelic), which means exactly “the confluence of three waters”. This area is one of the richest in history: the Vikings called it Vadra Fiord, which in English means “the weather estuary”. Believe it or not, this is also the origin of the name Waterford.
Who was the creator?
In the fifth century a monk named Dubhán, decided to establish a monastery where the lighthouse is now based. The medieval church was built on the on the site of Dubhán’s monastery, so for this reason, the headland became known as Rinn Dubháin (Dubhán’s headland).
Another funny thing is that Dubháin in Irish means “fishing hook“, but it is likely that the Hook Head got its name from the old English word “hook” which means: a projecting piece of land.
The tradition says that the monks from Dubhán’s monastery erected the first fire beacon because they wanted to keep the sailors away from the dangerous rocks.
Who constructed the big tower?
Someone attribute the construction of the first tower in 1172 to Norman Raymond LeGros; someone else maintained that William Marshal (Earl of Pembroke) built it in 1245.
We don’t really know who started the construction but we know that monks continued to tend the “beacon on a tower” until 1641. After that year, the Hook had a period of continuing shipwrecks which ended around 1667, the date of the final re-established of the Lighthouse.
Something changed during the years…
The begging the tower was 18m high and approx. 8.5m in diameter.
It may have had a glass lantern to shield the fire in the late 1600’s. The coal fire was substituted by twelve oil lamps with reflectors around the end of the 1700’s. A bit later, in 1871, coal gas replaced oil lamps until 1910, when the paraffin was replaced with electricity in 1972 (only 42 years ago!)
The guided tour of the lighthouse
A visit to this hidden Irish gem is a must and it is an ideal day trip. For this reason our High School groups visit Hook Head during their one-day excursion, and immediately after they move on to Wexford.
The students always fall in love with this high tower, with its striking white and black bands, surrounded by the sea and the rocky promontory. In 1996 the keepers were withdrawn and the tower became remotely monitored. Now the medieval tower is accessible to visitors and every hour there is a guided tour, and in one of these our students join in.
The guide explains to them the story of the lighthouse and how the lighthouse keeper lived there. The tour ends on top of the lighthouse. The view from there holds the Saltee Islands to the East, and Brownstown Head to the West. In the distance the peaks of the Comeragh and Blackstairs Mountains can be seen.
Duncannon has been a fort since Celtic times. The present structure was erected around the 1588 in preparation for the arrival of the Spanish Armada. On a clear day as the one that our students found, one can see for miles. When the wind rises sea spray often reaches the top of the lighthouse – either way, the sight is breath-taking.
After the tour our students have lunch directly in the lovely cafe & restaurant next to the tower. They can choose between freshly made soups, or their famous Hook Head Seafood Chowder served with different types of sandwiches.
Try to guess which one is the favorite?
Yep, of course the Chowder!
Do you know what a Seafood Chowder is?
It is a chunky, creamy soup with salmon and smoked haddock, mixed shellfish and potatoes. The origin of the term “chowder” is obscure.
Someone thinks that it comes from the French word “Chaudière”, the type of heating stove on which the first chowders were probably cooked.
Someone else instead thinks that it comes from the French dish called “Chaudrée”, which is a sort of thick fish soup from the coastal regions of Charente-Maritime and Vendée.
An unknown author wrote this poem about it, and I wanted to share this poem with you!
To Make a Good Chowder
To make a good Chowder and have it quite nice
Dispense with sweet marjoram, parsley and spice:
Mace, pepper and salt are now wanted alone.
To make the stew eat well and stick to the bone,
Some pork is sliced thin and put into the pot;
Some say you must turn it, some say you must not;
And when it is brown, take it out of the fat,
And add it again when you add this and that.
A layer of potatoes, sliced quarter inch thick,
Should be placed in the bottom to make it eat slick;
A layer of onions now over this place,
Then season with pepper and salt and some mace.
Split open your crackers and give them a soak;
In eating you’ll find this the cream of the joke.
On top of all this, now comply with my wish
And put in large chunks, all your pieces of fish;
Now put on the pieces of pork you have fried
I mean those from which all the fat has been tried.
In seasoning I pray you, don’t spare the cayenne;
This makes it fit to be eaten by men.
After adding these things in their regular rotation
You’ll have a dish fit for the best of the nation!
Can’t wait to eat it or visit the lighthouse?
Book your flight and get on board.
We welcome big groups of students every year; the next one could be yours, just contact us!
Travelling Languages…your English School on the road.