Fastnet Lighthouse Sunset Tours




Cape Clear Light

From 1818 until 1854 the south-west corner of Ireland was marked by a lighthouse at the highest point of the southern cliffs of Cape Clear Island. The ruin of Cape Clear Lighthouse is still standing alongside the Old Signal Tower. The old lighthouse had its light dismantled in 1853 when a new Lighthouse was built at the Fastnet Rock 4 miles out to sea.


Fastnet Rock

The outcrop of 2 rocks 4 miles southwest of Cape Clear were chosen as the new base for the Fastnet lighthouse following the loss of 92 crew froom the Stephen Whitney in thick fog in 1848. The cast iron metal however did not withstand the elements of the sea and a new structure replaced at the end of the 19th century.




The Fastnet Lighthouse used to be manned by a crew of 3 to 4 men, but in March 1989 it was automated and converted to unwatched from then one. The Commisionar of Irish Lights - the company responsible for the upkeep of all lighthouses, buoys and markers - carry out maintenance works every summer either with the ILV Granuaile or by helicopter, dropping off manpower and materials needed and on rare occasions you may see the doors and windows of the Fastnet Lighthouse open.






Sunset Tours Cape clear lighthouse

Sunset tours to the Fastnet Rock with her elegant lighthouse to catch the amazing light and colours particularly on sunny evenings on board the Wave Chieftain.  Tours depart from the main steps on the ferry pier.  The departure time obviously depends on the time of sunset but typically is between 6 and 8pm. On this 3.5 hour tour the boat typically cruises on the south side of Sherkin Island, past the Gasnanane Sound and Cape Clear before venturing across the Fastnet Sound to this beautiful lighthouse.  After circumnavigating the lighthouse we return to Baltimore harbour via Roaringwater Bay to see some of Carbery 100 Isles or the south side of the islands if there are likely sightings of whales and dolphins.


Vibrant red skies - subject to weather conditions of course, and regulalor sightings of whales and dolphins (as well as seals) along this beautiful offshore cruise of Ireland's most southwesterly coastal waters. Rugged cliffs, rockes, islands, harbours, sea caves and sea arches populated by sea birds as well as basking sharks (in Spring and Summer), Mola-Mola or sunfish and occasionally orca or killer whales.


    Book (email or phone) to reserve your spaces commission-free with a credit card to secure the reservation & pay cash on board.

  • Price pp 45.00 and children aged between 8 and 12 (primary school age) get a 10% discount when accompanied by an adult.
  • All young people (under 18) must be accompanied by an adult.
  • 3 to 3.5 hour tour from Baltimore harbour.
  • Departure time is typically between 6pm and 8pm.
  • Hot drinks on board the Wave Chieftain (tea, coffee and chocolate).
  • We provide lifejackets on board (youngsters under 15 must wear these during the cruise whilst for adults it is optional).
  • As spaces are limited we have to operate a strict cancellation policy. Free cancellation - 7 days prior to your booked tour.
  • All boat trips are subject to minimum numbers & weather.  We will therefore confirm your trip 1 to 2 days in advance. In case we have to cancel the tour, you will be offered an alternate trip or a full refund.
  • For safety and passenger comfort - should sea conditions be too rough for the Fastnet then a diversion round the islands in Roaringwater Bay may be necessary.


Fastnet Lighthouse - HistoryFastnet Lighthouse

The Fastnet Lighthouse is one of the most exposed in the world and is the tallest and widest rock lighthouse tower in Ireland and Great Britain. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland (thousands of emigrants wiped away a tear when they ventured to the New World, unsure if they would ever set foot on Ireland again), the current lighthouse dates from the early 20th century and measures 54 metres (or 49 above mean high water springs) as some courses of the stonework are below the surface. It replaced a cast iron structure built on An Charraig Aonair (or lonely rock) in the 1850s.

The first lighthouse here was commissioned on January 1st, 1854.  However, due to the building material (cast iron) suffering from the pounding winter storms and salt air it was decided to replace it with a granite tower which took 5 years to build and was completed in 1904.  The granite blocks from Cornwall totalled 2,074 inter-locking stones, weighing from 1¾ to 3 tons and the lighthouse measures 54 mtr with a white flashing light every 5 seconds. and a range of 27 nautical miles (50 km). The Fastnet Lighthouse was manned by four crew but eventually became automated and converted to unwatched at the end of March 1989. A inner circular staircase leads to 7 floor levels.


1st floor Store Room. It used to store the gun cotton for the fog signal.

2nd floor Oil Room and pump for forcing the oil up to a small supply tank in the lantern.

3rd floor Spare bedroom for workmen.

4rd floor Main storeroom with presses and shelving. There was a special felt lined cupboard for storing the detonators for the fog signal charges.

5th floor Kitchen with a cooking range, a circular table, a bookcase, shelving and a white glazed stoneware washing up sink.

6th floor Bedroom for the for the lightkeepers with bunks, a wardrobe, lockers, shelves and a rail with sliding hooks.

7th Floor Service room with a cast iron rainwater tank, the wireless telegraphic instruments, a sink, a wash-hand-basin, cupboards and shelves for light room utensils and stores. The windows were louvred to give bottom ventilation to the lantern.


The first Fastnet Lighthouse - history
The Corporation of Trinity House sanctioned the first lighthouse, a cast iron tower (cast-iron plates bolted together, with an inner lining of brick) designed by George Halpin, in 1848 to replace the Cape Clear Lighthouse, which was too far inside the dangers, too high and too foggy. This was, following a shipping disaster of the sinking of the Stephen Whitney and the loss of life of 92 or her 110 passengers and crew on 10 November 1847. Three dwellings were built at Rock Island at the entrance to Crookhaven Harbour to house the Lightkeepers' families. The Tower was finished in 1853 and the light first shown on January 1st. 1854. The total cost including the dwellings was £20,000.

On November 26th. 1881 a similar tower on the Calf Rock was carried away in a gale. In the same gale the sea broke the glass on the Fastnet lantern. In 1883 an explosive fog signal was installed. A charge of gun cotton was electrically fired every five minutes during fog or thick haze. In 1891 the Irish Lights Board resolved that the light on the Fastnet was not powerful enough for its position as the principal landfall light on the southwest coast. They applied for the sanction of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House to build a new tower to make it the best possible light.

The second / current Fastnet Lighthouse - history
Mr. William Douglass, the Commissioners of Irish Lights' engineer, surveyed the Rock for a new site for the tower. He proposed a granite tower 42ft in diameter at the lowest course and 147ft in height with the focal plane of the light at 159ft above high-water mark. The cost was estimated at £70,387 and after much negotiation between the Commissioners, the Board of Trade and Trinity House, the Board of Trade sanctioned the expenditure for the building of the new Lighthouse on November 28th 1895.

Mr. Douglass increased the diameter of the base of the tower to 52ft. The first course of stone is 6ft below high-water mark. The first ten courses are built into the natural rock. After twenty-five courses there are 5 courses with built-in water storage tanks. The entrance floor is at a height of 57.75ft above high water. The first courses were laid in June 1899 and the masonry work was completed in May 1903. A total of 89 courses consisting of 2,074 stones, having a nett cubic content of 58,093 cubic feet and weighing 4,300 tons, were landed and set in 118 working days. In addition 4,500 cubic feet of granite blocks used to fill in holes in the foundation and the space between tower and rock up to the level of the entrance gallery. The granite stones were brought from Messrs. John Freeman and Sons of Penryn, Cornwall. Good hard granite was needed for the base, but as it would be covered with seaweed its pure colour and coarse grain were not important. For the upper courses, hard fine-grained uniform coloured stone was bought. The stones were cut with dovetail joints in all directions to interlock and give strength to the tower. No stone can be removed unless all stones are removed from above it. This system of dovetail toggles bonds the entire structure into a monolith. The entire tower was erected in sections of 6 - 8 courses in the contractor's yard in Cornwall where Mr. Douglass or Mr. Foot, the Resident Engineer, inspected them before they were dismantled and transported to Rock Island. They were checked rigorously at the Rock Island yard again before they were transported on the Ierne to the Fastnet Rock. The beautiful Cornish granite tower, designed to withstand the force of the Atlantic took five years to build.


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The new light was established on 27th June 1904. The 1854 light was discontinued and the cast-iron tower dismantled down to its lower room which became an oil store. The light source was converted from vaporised paraffin to electric on 10th May 1969 and has a range of 28 nautical miles and power of 2,500,000 candelas. An explosive fog signal was established on Fastnet in 1887. This was transferred to the new tower in 1904. The explosive fog signal was replaced by an electric horn in 1974. As part of a radionavigation plan for the Irish coast a Racon (radar transponder beacon) was established at Fastnet Lighthouse in 1994. On 11 January 2011, as a result of a review of aids to navigation, the fog signal at Fastnet was permanently discontinued.


Roaringwater Bay