Inside Haulbowline Lighthouse or the “elegant tapering, stone tower”

  • Carlingford

The Haulbowline Lighthouse is an active 19th century lighthouse. It is also described as an “elegant, tapering stone tower”. The Haulbowline Lighthouse, situated on Carlingford Lough, separating Co Louth and Co Down, is thought to be the first and only lighthouse in Ireland and the UK to be externally illuminated. The multi-purpose light was designed to help mark the rocks and, when first built, the depth of water over the bar, as well as acting as a landfall light for ships entering from the Irish Sea. Associated with the lighthouse are the leading lights at Green Island and Vidal Bank which mark the safe channel along Carlingford Lough, with Haulbowline displaying a reserve light in case of problems with these leading lights. Completed in 1824, the lighthouse was designed by George Halpin following complaints made to the Ballast Board, the predecessor organisation of the Commissioners of Irish Lights that the existing shore-based Cranfield Point Lighthouse was inadequate in marking both the channel and the treacherous rocks at the lough entrance, many of which were only revealed at low tide. The poorly positioned light at Cranfield Point, had also been built too close to the eroding coastline, and in 1860 it finally succumbed to the sea, and collapsed onto the beach. The keeper’s cottages which survived, were subsequently used by the staff and families of Haulbowline until 1922, when new houses were constructed nearby in Greencastle. Construction of the 34-metre-high (112 ft) stone tower has been described as “a remarkable achievement at the time”, given the location “on a semi-submerged rock with fast currents running around it”. Originally white in colour, the paint was removed in 1946 to reveal the stone beneath. The principal light is displayed 32m above sea level as a constant white light. A secondary light was also displayed on a balcony facing the sea, known as a half-tide light, this was lit when the state of the tide was such that there would be enough depth for ships to pass into the lough, and until 1922 a black ball was also raised on a mast above the tower during daylight hours, to indicate the same tidal conditions. The main light characteristic changed in 1899, from a fixed light to that showing a pattern of three flashes of white light in 30 seconds, this changed in 1922 to the one that is still used today of three flashes over a period of ten seconds. The lighthouse is maintained by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, and is registered under the international Admiralty number A5928 and has the NGA identifier of 114-6704. Localities surrounding the Haulbowline Lighthouse include Greencaslte, Ballynamony Murphy, Ballystrana, Ballagan, Rampart. Landmarks surrounding the Lighthouse are Haulbowline Rocks, Cranfield Point, Ballagan Point, Greenore Point, Hellyhunter Rock, Mill Bay. Other places close to the Lighthouse include Nookta Lodge, Four Seasons Hotel Louth, Kilkeel River, Mourne Park House, Ballyedmond, Castletown House.


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