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Hook Lighthouse: History, Tours + Unique Experiences At Ireland’s Oldest Lighthouse

Hook Lighthouse: History, Tours + Unique Experiences At Ireland’s Oldest Lighthouse

A trip to Hook Lighthouse is one of the more popular things to do in Wexford.

You’ll find it at the tip of the Hook Peninsula and it’s arguably the most notable stop on the Ring of Hook Drive.

Hook is the oldest still-operational lighthouse in the world and there has been a tower here since 1172.

Below, you’ll find info on everything from what to expect and when it’s open to info on the Hook Lighthouse tours.

Some quick need-to-knows before you visit Hook Head Lighthouse

Hook Head Lighthouse

Photo via Shutterstock

Although a visit to the oldest lighthouse in Ireland is fairly straightforward, there are a few need-to-knows that’ll make your visit that bit more enjoyable.

1. Location

You’ll find the lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. It’s a 15-minute drive from Fethard-on-Sea, a 40-minute drive from New Ross, a 45-minute drive from Kilmore Quay and a 50-minute drive from Wexford Town.

2. Opening hours

Hook Lighthouse is open all year round from 9:30 to 17:00 (tours run every 1/2 hour from 10 to 16:00). It’s open from 09:30 to 18:00 during July and August (tours every 1/2 hour from 9:30 to 18:00).

3. Admission

The guided Hook Lighthouse tours cost €10 for an adult and €9 for a concession ticket. There’s a mix of family tickets on offer:

  • Family (1 adult + 1 child): €14.00
  • Family (1 adult + 2 children): €18.00
  • Family (2 adults + 1 child): €24.00
  • Family (2 adults + 2 children): €28.00
  • Family (2 adults + 3 children): €30.00

4. Events + unique tours

There’s a handful of other tours and events that take place at Hook. Here’s a quick overview (more info below):

  • Lighthouse Sessions
  • Fish & Chip Supper Tour Experience
  • Seafood Banquet Tour Experience
  • Sunset Tour Experience
  • Sunrise Tour Experience 

The history of Hook Lighthouse

hook peninsula

Photos via Shutterstock

The history of Hook Lighthouse is a long and interesting one and the story all began during the 5th century when a Welsh monk by the name of Dubhán founded a monastery around 1.6 km north of Hook Head.

It’s said that Dubhán set up a beacon at Hook Point (this may have been a pile of stones with burning timber sat on top of it) to act as a navigational light for ships entering the nearby harbour.

The first lighthouse at Hook Head

Many years later, between 1170 and 1182, a Norman named Raymond LeGros landed at Baginbun (a headland in Wexford) where he found the remains of a Celtic fort.

After some time, LeGros constructed another fort. From this point, he battled and beat the Irish advance from Waterford. LeGros was later slain, but it’s said by some that he left his mark on the area by constructing the first Tower of Hook, around 1172.

Another theory is that the first Hook Head Lighthouse was built by a chap named William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, in 1245.

Monks and shipwrecks

The Hook Lighthouse (it was just a tower at this point) was placed in the hands of a group of monks and they kept it ticking over until civil war arrived in 1641.

During this time little-to-nothing was done to maintain the beacon and shipwrecks at Hook Head became the norm. Mariners spent many years trying to convince the Governor of Duncannon Fort to help re-establish the beacon at Hook. 

It wasn’t until 1667 that Hook Lighthouse was finally re-established, and the waters surrounding it were made safe once again.

Falling into disrepair

During 1704, Hook Head Lighthouse was transferred to the Revenue Commissioners by Queen Anne. The lighthouse wasn’t taken over for some time, as Henry Loftus, the owner of the supposedly haunted Loftus Hall, had a 21-year lease on it.

The lighthouse passed to Henry’s son, who had a dispute with the Revenue Commissioners over the renewal of the lease. It’s said that in 1726 he made a threat to extinguish the light unless rent was paid in advance by Revenue.

The disagreement went on for two long years. Over the years Hook tower started to fall into disrepair. It wasn’t until 1791 when Revenue granted a contract to maintain and staff Hook Point along with a number of other lighthouses in Ireland.

A new lease of life

A new lantern was later installed along with 12 Argand oil lamps. This was enhanced later, in 1812 and again in 1864. A new lantern and fixed dioptric lens were installed and the lighthouse at Hook tipped on as strong as ever.

In 1871, the oil lamps were replaced by coal gas. This lasted for just under 30 years. In 1910, a revolving focal distance optic replaced the dioptric lens. Coal gas was given the boot, with vaporised paraffin taking its place. Many years later, in 1972, electricity took over.

Guns, bells and horns

Hook Head Lighthouse has used many different sounds to help with navigation over the years:

  • A fog signal bell (introduced in 1838)
  • A gun (introduced in 1872)
  • An explosive charge (introduced in 1905)
  • An electric horn (introduced in 1995)

Recent years at the historic Wexford lighthouse 

Hook Lighthouse was equipped with a radar beacon recently enough, in 1974. This signalled the coming-of-the-end to the ‘old’ way in which lighthouses were run in Ireland.

3 years later, in 1977, Lightkeepers families were removed from lighthouses across Ireland. 6 keepers were assigned to the lighthouse at Hook, with three on duty at any one time.

The end of the lighthouse keeper post at Hook arrived in 1996 when the last keepers were withdrawn. In January 2009, Automatic Identification System functionality was introduced to Hook Head Lighthouse.

Things to do at Hook

I’ve visited Hook Lighthouse several times over the years. If you arrive on a fine day, there’s plenty to do. If you arrive when it’s p***ing down, you’re a little more limited. Here are some suggestions:

1. Take a guided tour

If you want to go inside the lighthouse, you’ll need to pay to get on a guided tour. I did this tour about 8 or 9 years ago, and it was brilliant.

You can do a regular tour of the lighthouse which will take you on a journey through its history, or you can head off on one of the sunrise or sunset tours.

The Hook Lighthouse tours are led by local tour guides who’ll fascinate you with the areas rich history. Visitors will pass through the lighthouse chambers and hear about those who inhabited the structure over the years.

The tour climaxes at the balcony, where there’s a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.

2. Head for a ramble along the coast

The last time that I visited Hook was during the summer of 2018, and the sun was blazing. We dodged the tour on this occasion, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed off on a ramble along the coast.

If you’re looking for walks in Wexford that’ll banish the cobwebs, get yourself here – it gets wild around here!

In the photo below (from the day mentioned), you can see how clear the waters surrounding Hook Lighthouse were. On the day that we were here, we perched ourselves on the rock and watched a group of divers swimming around.

3. Live music and foodie events

Yes, there’s live music sessions that take place at The Monestery level of the lighthouse, and they look excellent! Tickets are €35 and the 2022 artists are due to be announced soon.

There’s also a seafood banquet experience where you do the tour and then sit down to a seafood-feast in the Light-Keeper’s conservatory.

Places to visit

Places to visit near Hook Lighthouse

One of the beauties of Hook Head is that it’s a short spin away from many of the best places to visit in Wexford.

Below, you’ll find a handful of things to see and do a stone’s throw from Hook!

1. The Ring of Hook (start at the lighthouse)

Duncannon Fort

Photos via Shutterstock

The Ring of Hook Drive can be kicked-off from Hook Lighthouse. Over the course of the route (map here), you’ll visit everywhere from Duncannon Fort and Tintern Abbey to towns, villages and beaches.

2. Loftus Hall (10-minute drive)

loftus hall

Photos via Shutterstock

Loftus Hall is said to be one of the most haunted houses in Ireland. The property used to do tours, but it stopped in 2020 and the house was sold in 2021. While you can’t go inside, it’s an impressive building to view from afar.

3. Beaches galore (5 minutes + drive)

Booley Bay Wexford

Photo left: @dartzirl. Right: @aisling_ashpash

The Hook Peninsula is home to some of the finest beaches in Wexford. The beautiful Dollar Bay and Booley Bay are both a handy 10-minute drive away. Another is Baginbun Beach, a short 15-minute spin away and Duncannon Beach, just 20 minutes away.

FAQs about visiting Hook Head

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How much are tickets?’ to ‘When is it open?’.

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.

Can you go into Hook Lighthouse?

Yes. There’s a guided Hook Head tour that takes you into the building and that immerses you in its history.

Is Hook Lighthouse the oldest in the world?

It’s believed that Hook Head Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in the world that’s still operational.

Is Hook Head Lighthouse worth visiting?

I did this tour a couple of years ago, and it was excellent. It’s one of the more notable stops on the Ring of Hook and it’s well worth a visit.

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Vincent

Monday 19th of September 2022

Thank you so much Keith for this great website! So glad I found it as it’s been so helpful for planning my upcoming road trip!

Do you know if it’s possible to walk around and photograph the lighthouse before the standard opening hours? My ferry arrives super early in Rosslare so looking at options for things to do and this place looks ideal for watching the sunrise!

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