Ballycotton Lighthouse History

Ballycotton Lighthouse History

Position: 51°49.522′ North 07°59.169′ West

The Ballycotton Lighthouse lantern was first lit in 1851 and 141 years later the last lighthouse keeper was taken off the island due to the automation of the light. Now, for the first time ever, you can step foot onto the wild, natural and unspoiled island, climb the original iron staircase and enjoy the same incredible views from the lantern balcony that up until now only resident lighthouse keepers could have enjoyed.

Situated on the steeply sloped Ballycotton Island, the Lighthouse is indirectly linked to numerous requests between 1828 and 1846 from merchants of Youghal and Cork, ship owners, Masters of Cork Harbour Board and the Admiralty for a lighthouse to be build on Capel Island off Knockadoon Head 5 mils (8km) south of Youghal. Throughout this time the Inspector of Works and Inspector of Lighthouses, George Halpin, with the support of the Ballast Board, much preferred a new lighthouse to be positioned on Ballymacart Head (or Mine Head as it is called today). Legal steps were being taken to acquire ground on Capel Island during 1846-47 when an incident occurred which was to seal the fate of the proposed Capel Island lighthouse and secure the development of the Ballycotton lighthouse.

On January 16th 1847 the paddle steamship ‘Sirius’ (famous for being the first vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean under steam in 1838), struck Smith’s Rock, south west of Ballycotton in dense fog and later became a total wreck when Captain Moffat tried to run the crippled vessel into Ballycotton harbour.

Sanction to build Ballycotton Lighthouse was obtained from Trinity House in March 1848 and an inquisition was held in Youghal on 16th June regarding the value of the ground. September 1848, Mr M Longfield, the proprietor of Ballycotton Island received £36.5s 0d for the Island and 20 others including the Archbishop of Dublin received 1 shilling and Queen Victoria received 5 shillings.

The lighthouse was commissioned and building began on the lighthouse in 1848 and was completed in 1850. The sandstone for the buildings was quarried on the island itself. The lantern was first lit on 1st June 1851 and at this time the Lighthouse keeper and his family lived on the island and their children rowed to school in the village weather permitting. By 1899 the four keepers were housed in the town with keepers rotating duty at the lighthouse. In 1892 to prevent any confusion with the unlit beacon on Capel Island, a broad, black band was painted round the middle of the tower and in 1902 the whole of the tower was painted black – and remains today only one of two black lighthouses in Ireland. In 1975, the light was converted to electricity and in 1977 the lighthouse was modernized and a helicopter pad built next to the lighthouse. On 28th March 1992 the light was automated and the lighthouse keepers withdrawn.

On 11 January 2011, following a review of aids to navigation, the fog signal at Ballycotton was permanently disestablished. The light continues to be exhibited in poor visibility during daylight hours.

Visit for more information on the area and where to stay and visit the Commissioners of Irish Lights for more information on lighthouses around the island of Ireland.