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

One for the bucket list

Photos via

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 (West Cork) wondering why I’d ordered a lava-like cup of coffee on what was one of the hottest days of the summer.

Baltimore village cork
Photo by Lukasz Warzecha via Tourism Ireland

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.

Fastnet Rock: The Story of Ireland’s Teardrop

Fastnet Lighthouse Ireland
Photo by David OBrien on

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 

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

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.

Discover more: Find out more unique things to do in Ireland on your visit.

Fastnet Lighthouse Tour

Those that visit Cork and follow our West Cork road trip guide will be taken on what I’ve always believed is one of the most unique tours Ireland has to offer.

Over the course of a day, you’ll sail through the spectacular waters of Roaringwater Bay (near this island that’s currently for sale), in search of whales and dolphins, before arriving to Ireland’s most southerly Gaeltacht Island – Cape Clear Island.

On the way back to the mainland, you’ll be taken around Fastnet Rock.

A trip that’s well worth the visit. Have you done this tour? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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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