Fastnet Lighthouse: The Story Behind ‘Ireland’s Teardrop’ And How You Can Visit It

One for the bucket list

fastnet lighthouse
Photos via shutterstock.com

I first heard the story of Fastnet Lighthouse (often referred to as ‘Fastnet Rock’) in the summer of 2018.

It was mid-July, the sun was blazing, and I was sat outside Bushe’s Bar in Baltimore wondering why I’d ordered a lava-like cup of coffee on what was one of the hottest days of the summer.

It was on my 7th or 8th failed attempt at trying to take a sip without burning the mouth off myself that I overheard the story of Fastnet Lighthouse, and where the nickname ‘Ireland’s Teardrop‘ originated.

In the guide below, you’ll find everything from where to get the Fastnet Ferry from to the sad aul story behind the Rock’s nickname. 

Some quick need-to-knows about Fastnet Lighthouse

Fastnet Lighthouse Ireland
Photo by David OBrien on shutterstock.com

A visit to Fastnet Rock is arguably one of the most unique things to do in West Cork (especially the sunset tour!).

Although a visit to here is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

Fastnet Rock (known as Carraig Aonair in Irish – translates to “lonely rock”) lies roughly 6.5 km southwest of Cape Clear Island, off the coast of West Cork.

2. Ireland’s Teardrop

Fastnest rock earned the nickname ‘Ireland’s Teardrop‘ as it was the last part of Ireland that many 19th-century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed across to North America.

3. The Fastnet Rock tour

There are several different ferry providers offering tours around Fastnet Lighthouse (not onto the island itself – you just sail around it). You’ll find info on each of the tours below.

4. Ireland’s tallest and widest

Interestingly enough, Fastnet is to tallest and widest rock lighthouse in Ireland (and in Great Britian, as it happens). 

A brief history of Ireland’s Teardrop

fastnet lighthouse
Photos via shutterstock.com

Fastnest rock earned the nickname ‘Ireland’s Teardrop‘ as it was the last part of Ireland that many 19th-century Irish emigrants saw as they sailed across to North America.

Many never returned. It’s been nearly a full year since I heard where the name came from, yet the story behind the it keeps coming back to me, often several times a week.

The thought of the emotion that those passing Fastnet must have been experiencing en route to what they hoped would be a better life must have been incredible.

A tragic event led to the construction of the first lighthouse 

Fastnet Rock (known as Carraig Aonair in Irish – translates to “lonely rock”) lies roughly 6.5 kilometres southwest of Cape Clear Island, off the coast of Cork.

The decision for Fastnet Lighthouse to be built came after a tragic event on a foggy evening on November 10th, 1847.

A ship known as ‘The Stephen Whitney’, which was making its way from New York City to Liverpool, mistook the Crookhaven lighthouse for the lighthouse at the Old Head of Kinsale. The ship struck the head of West Calf Island, resulting in the loss of 92.

The first lighthouse

The first lighthouse was constructed with cast iron and completed several years after the incident in 1854.

However, the original structure proved no match to the intense weather conditions and it was soon in need of reinforcement.

The black base of the original lighthouse is still visible on top of the rock to this day. Not long after, in 1895, the decision was made to construct a new lighthouse and work began two years later.

The different Fastnet Rock Lighthouse tours

The Fastnet lighthouse in west Cork Ireland from the air just after sunrise
Photo by mikeypcarmichael on shutterstock.com

When it comes to tours, there are three types to choose from. The first is the direct ferry to Cape Clear Island that visits Fastnet Rock on the way back to Baltimore.

The second is the direct tour, where you skip Cape Clear and just visit Fastnet by itself. The third is the sunset tour, which is arguably one of the most unique things to do in Cork

1. Visit the lighthouse on the way back from Cape Clear

The first tour (note: link below is an affiliate link) is one that takes you over to Cape Clear Island, first, and allows you to explore the island for a bit.

You’ll then, on the return journey, take a spin around Fastnet Rock and get to see it up close and personal for yourself.

  • Leaves from: Baltimore Harbour
  • Cost (may change): €49.84
  • Duration: 6 hours in total
  • More info: Right here

2. The direct tour

If you don’t fancy visiting Cape Clear, you can also head off on a direct tour to the lighthouse itself.

  • Leaves from: Baltimore or Schull
  • Cost (may change): €50
  • Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours
  • More info: Right here

3. The sunset tour

If you fancy a very unique experience, the Fastnet Lighthouse sunset tours are well worth considering. The departure time varies depending on the time of sunset, usually between 6 and 8.

  • Leaves from: Baltimore 
  • Cost (may change): €45
  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • More info: Right here or here

Things to do near Fastnet Lighthouse

Beach on Sherkin Island
Photo by Sasapee (Shutterstock)

One of the beauties of Fastnet Lighthouse is that it’s a short spin away from a clatter of other attractions, both man-made and natural.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Fastnet Rock (plus places to eat and where to grab a post-adventure pint!).

1. Baltimore

baltimore beacon
Photo by Vivian1311 (Shutterstock)

Baltimore is one of my favourite towns in Cork. It’s a great spot for a bit of food and, if you fancy a ramble, you can head off on the Baltimore Beacon walk.

There’s also several West Cork whale watching tours that leave from here along with the ferry to nearby Sherkin Island

2. Some of West Cork’s top attractions

lough hyne walk
Photo via rui vale sousa (Shutterstock)

Fastnet Rock is a stone’s throw from many of the most popular places to visit in the region. Here are a few to check out:

FAQs about visiting Ireland’s Teardrop

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from where the name Ireland’s Teardrop came from to where to catch the ferry from.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Where is the Fastnet Rock?

Fastnet Rock lies roughly 6.5 km southwest of Cape Clear Island, off the coast of West Cork.

Can you visit Fastnet Lighthouse?

Although you can’t get into the lighthouse itself, you can see it from the comfort of a ferry on one of the Fastnet tours.

Is it worth visiting?

Yes! Especially if you do the tour that combines a visit to Cape Clear with a visit to the Rock.

Howaya! Thanks for visiting the Irish road trip! This site exists to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories (sounds very arsey altogether, I know!) You'll find everything from things to do in Ireland to where to stay in Ireland (unique and unusual places) if you have a nosey around!

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