Celebrating 120 Years of Fastnet Lighthouse

Celebrating 120 Years of Fastnet Lighthouse

Celebrating 120 Years of Fastnet Lighthouse

One of Ireland’s best known and most iconic lighthouses, the granite tower of Fastnet Lighthouse off the Cork coast is 120 years old today. Irish Lights will mark the anniversary next month with a commemorative event for all the engineers, technicians and mariners who have ensured that Fastnet has operated reliably as an aid to navigation, using the most advanced technology available for each decade over the last 120 years.

Irish Lights, Chief Executive, Yvonne Shields O'Connor, says the Fastnet Lighthouse plays just as crucial a role now as it did in 1904.

“In our digital age, the role of lighthouses has transformed significantly. Today, they harness advanced technologies while retaining their traditional functions – primarily to ensure safe navigation at sea.” The lighthouse is situated on Fastnet Rock, 7km south of Cape Clear in County Cork. Maintenance and Operations are coordinated between the Irish Lights Vessel Granuaile, the coastal maintenance team and helicopter operations.

The coastal area surrounding Fastnet is infamous for its severe weather conditions, including dense fog, heavy rains and turbulent seas, says Granuaile Master, Captain Dermot Gray. “Even in a time of electronic charts and modern navigation systems, the lighthouse provides a tangible unmistakeable point of reference to help mariners safely navigate these waters. The psychological impact of a lighthouse like Fastnet cannot be understated. The sight of the light provided by this aid to navigation offers a sense of security and reassurance, especially during long voyages or in adverse conditions.”  

Ms Shields O’Connor points to technological developments which enables Fastnet to provide real-time data to nearby vessels. “This information enhances the safety of maritime traffic. Additional sensors also gathers weather and ocean data like wind speed, wave height and water temperature automatically. All of this data makes the region safer for boats and ships navigating Ireland's treacherous southwestern maritime routes.”

The first Fastnet Lighthouse was built in 1853 and was a cast iron tower which was too weak to survive. The construction of the new granite lighthouse represented a major breakthrough in engineering at the time. The jigsaw-style fit of its blocks has enabled it to withstand Atlantic storms, according to James Morrissey, Author of ‘A History of the Fastnet Lighthouse’.
The Fastnet represents our rich maritime heritage, says Yvonne Shields O’Connor. “It serves as a historical monument that connects the present with Ireland’s seafaring past. It is crucial for preserving maritime history and educating future generations about the evolution and importance of maritime navigation.”

Nowadays, a multidisciplinary Irish Lights team of visits the Fastnet station every year to carry out a range of routine and planned maintenance tasks. The team includes mechanical, electrical and electronic technicians along with the lighthouse attendant. Other planned work such as civil repairs, are carried out as required.

For significant jobs, where multiple lifts are necessary, the ILV Granuaile and a helicopter are deployed to facilitate efficient delivery of equipment and personnel to the station. During these works, the team can stay at Fastnet for up to three weeks at a time, ensuring that all tasks are completed to the highest standards without interruptions.

Ms Shields O’Connor says Fastnet has a special place in the Irish Lights network of 64 lighthouses around our coastline. “The Fastnet Lighthouse stands not only as a crucial aid to navigation but also as a testament to innovation, enduring legacy, and human ingenuity.”

You can follow Fastnet Lighthouse on X (formerly Twitter) at @FastnetLHouse where stats like water temperature are automatically shared. To find out more about Fastnet and Ireland’s lighthouses go to: Fastnet Lighthouse A Beacon Through Time (irishlights.ie)