Hook Head , County Wexford

The lighthouse at Hook Head is an astonishing building , if only for the fact it was constructed some 600 years before the stone-built lighthouses pioneered in the 18th century by James Smeaton. It was a Norman , Raymond le Gros , who built it in 1172 , giving it 13ft thick walls made of stone bonded with a mixture of mud and bullock’s blood. Norman builders believed that bullock’s blood gave strength.

The possibility that there is an earlier lighthouse on the point could help to endorse the legend that it was founded in the 5h century by a Welsh monk , Dubhand (“Hook”).

The Norman structure consists of three bullet-shaped chambers mounted one above the other. Each has an arched cross of stone at the top to strengthen the vaulted ceiling and bear the weight of the chamber above. Together they rise to a height of 100ft , to support a light that has guided shipping for 1400 years. For most of that time the lighthouse was manned by monks , who carried timber and peat up 149 steps to the beacon fire , and who slept in rooms set in the walls. Now the light is run by electricity.

The lighthouse is a real hidden gem and well worth a visit on your tours of Ireland. On clear days it overlooks a bright blue sea pitted with grey , black and yellow limestone rocks. But in stormy weather the sea thunders through ‘blow holes’ that eject spectacular fountains of spray.