Located on a promontory on the north side of the Shannon estuary about 5 km south of
Bay of Carrigaholt, County Clare
copies of photos are available for purchase
This is a slight departure from my normal excursion of California lighthouses. Recently I went on vacation to Ireland and Edward and I paid a visit to 2 lighthouses in County Clare, this happened during the latter half of January 2009. Kilcredaun head and Loop Head, both in County Clare Ireland where these lighthouses were located.
When venturing out in the best of times, weather in Ireland cannot be taken for granted. Normally it’s raining and in the winter, the icy winds and sleet can cut through the most protective clothing. So when taking to the highways and byways be well prepared, wrap up warmly with thermos, sweaters and brollies. The Irish experience was one to be remembered and it was a lot different from our excursions in California. I made a little bit of research online about some of the Irish lighthouses. I came up with two that were within distance of where we were staying in County Clare. Loop head and Kilcredaun, both at the north side of the Shannon estuary in County Clare.
As we started out the day was sunny and fairly fresh, sunny days are a rarity in the winter in Ireland, but we were blessed to have such mild weather. The drive was pleasant we stopped in Kilrush to have lunch, and a quick stroll around town. Kilrush is a beautiful town and definitely worth the visitor’s time to tour, lots of quaintness and friendly people.
Part of any lighthouse experience is the Journey and this includes the towns, people and its scenery. The rural areas in Ireland has it all. They provide ample scenery for the photo album and the most friendliest people to make any journey enjoyable.
Eddie and I sat in a pub in the middle of Kilrush had lunch and spent some time looking at the old signs and photos on the walls of the pub. basically drinking in the past. Nostalgically, we looked and observed the people and their culture, we looked at the grocery shop with their medley of goods for sale. From turnips, carrots, potatoes to briquettes, wood and coal. We looked at the shops and their ancient buildings, the town square and the spires of the churches as they raised themselves skyward. Its hard to explain the simplicity of the past and tradition caught in the 21st century of cell phones and the internet, but it is the rawness of the past captured in today’s world that intrigued me in this village or town of Kilrush.
We left the town of Kilrush and continued our journey out into the winding narrow country roads, proceeding as if the sign posts where leading us in the right direction. Once or twice we erred off in the wrong direction and through the kind generosity of some farmer or tractor hand we were put back on the right road. They looked at us in a friendly fashion as one would look at a dumb tourist who could not understand signs.
After a few detours, we arrived at a very quaint village Carrigaholt. It’s a small town whose inhabitants speak mainly Irish. The people we met where mainly children cycling their bikes up and down the main street. The main part of the village is a pub, a shop and a house. The side street contained a closed post office which displayed signs about the summer’s activity of watching dolphins. The village is really a cross roads, of a few shops and houses. It has a beautiful view of the bay and local harbor. I loved the scenery that filled my vision, you could feel the isolation from the rest of the world. We saw a few children, but not much of anyone else, a small harbor with a few boats and a castle sitting on a natural pier jutting out to sea. Picture perfect, you could say, not a care for the outside world. The village appeared as if the world had past them by and they were waiting for the summer to come and wake them to the hustle and bustle of the tourist trade.
For now their work was done rest was at hand and whale watching and Dolphin watching was for another day, today is for the enjoyment of family and friends.
Eddie entered a pub and managed to get directions to Kilcredaun point from the locals, he was told “its straight out the road”. We got in our car and headed off in the pointed direction, not in the direction towards Loop head, but the road that headed east, you have to understand Irish mentality when it comes to directions. Straight on does not always mean straight on, it can mean the most used or common route. The narrow road we took soon turned into a dirt track and then literally to a mud track, it was not long until we came to a seemingly cross roads, if you could call it that.
It was a set of narrow lanes surrounded on all sides by luscious green shrubbery, a farm gate with a no entry sign to the field and each lane to left, right or straight on was no more than a mud track. The lane in front went straight towards the sea, the left looked at dead end and what was supposed to be a college, at least that’s what the sign said, and the right skipped alongside some farms with houses and barns. We in our American way of understanding believed the locals and headed for the lane to our immediate front. As we drove forward my apprehension grew, there was no room on this dirt track to turn around or manipulate the vehicle in case of trouble, we were surrounded by puddles of water and briary bushes. Approximately one mile later, we came to a dead end. Our forward progress was blocked by a gate and field. We could see the sun glisten off sea water, the proud cliffs as they basked in the rays, but no sign of the lighthouse.
Eddie, was the first to leave the car and he laughed out loud so the cows in the nearby field could hear him, I got out surveying our situation. My feet slowly sank into the deep mud, I felt the water seep into my shoes and the cold water made its way through my socks and began to freeze my feet. Without a further hesitation, I got back in the car.
We now had to maneuver our way out of this mess. Slowly I reversed the car, taking great care I would not lose traction. Slowly I made my way back to the cross roads ever fearful that we would be trapped in the middle of nowhere and no ability to call for help.
Slowly we managed to get the car back to the junction and turned around, rather than venture on the other roads we headed back towards the village to clarify our directions.
I espied a young lady briskly walking along the side of the road, I pulled alongside and inquired about the lighthouse, and she looked at me puzzlingly and replied she did not know of the lighthouse in the area. I drove on and came upon an friendly elderly lady, she was smartly dressed with hat from another era and her large handbag hanging from her arm. She was dressed in a fine woolen coat, no fear of getting cold. At first she did not recollect if a lighthouse existed in area, and then recalled that there was a broken down lighthouse managed by a couple called Stephen and Peggy Rohan. She leaned into the car as she explained that the government was paying him to look after this broken down lighthouse. And she started to fill us in on a few details about Stephen, His wife and their family. I am sure she would have invited us for tea if we were staying in the neighborhood.
I inquired of her as to how we could get to the lighthouse; she said turn around and follow the road straight on. I explained we had already tried that and we had gone up a track road to a dead end. She was surprised we managed to get out without assistance as many of the visiting tourists gets trapped in that area every year and a tractor has to be called in to tow them out. Silently, I thought the ultimate tourist trap. I joked with her about our encounter with the lane, she jovially went on to clarify her directions; it was straight on, follow the road by the houses. Which really meant
“go right at the cross roads”.
Back we went, following the modified her directions, roads was not much different. But at least we had some civilization to go for help if needed.
We arrived at lighthouse location. My first impression was one of beauty. The light was located on a farm that overlooked the Shannon Estuary. The clouds and light and the time of day was making a great sight to behold. As we approached the lighthouse, we were met by the wife of Stephen, a pleasant lady, she was carrying a bucket and looked as she was about to feed some farm animals. I asked if I could wonder around and take pictures, she replied it was okay.
Both Ed and I got out of the car, soon to be met by Tom Ross; he volunteered to open the lighthouse and gave us a tour. His dad had operated the lighthouse for 45 years and he took it over after his dad. They both took care of things along with managing the farm. Outside from the cars and the light poles, everything else looked like it had stopped in time.
This was not the typical lighthouse that we had become accustomed to in California.
There was no barren living of fighting the elements. You did not get that feeling of isolation as the farms nearby, which generations old where in clear sight. Ireland is not a hostile environment, and usually the villagers were well known to the local inhabitants. This lighthouse also had two nearby lighthouse neighbors Tarbert and Loop Head, which could be seen from its tower. As a side note, In 1919, Theresa Glanville was born in the lighthouse on Kilcredaun Point in County Clare, Ireland. There is a short movie made by her grand daughter on Lighthouse keepers whom her grandmother was the keeper of Kilcredaun.
Most of the history of this lighthouse came from Stephan Rohan, It was built in 1827, and established the 1st Sept, its current apparatus, which is fully functional was installed in 1931. This came from Birmingham, England. The lantern was truncated 1n 1941 and converted to electricity in July 11th 1979. 11th March 2005 a battery powered optic drive was installed. The status of the lighthouse is controlled remotely. The characteristic of the light is it flashes white every 6 seconds, flash 0.1 second and dark 5.9 seconds for a total duration of 6 seconds. The range is 15 nautical miles. The construction of the building is a conical style stone tower lighthouse with a lantern and gallery attached to a one story building. The height of the light is about 137 ft above water. It is maintained by Commissioners of Irish Lights, The Commissioners of Irish Lights are appointed under statute to act as the General Lighthouse Authority for Ireland. The Commissioners are responsible for the superintendence and management of the Aids to Navigation around the coast of all of Ireland, its adjacent seas and islands.
Photo's © OcairdeStudio Photography
The Commissioners of Irish Lights