Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse.

The Old Head of Kinsale lighthouse is situated at the very tip of the Old Head Peninsula. It's geology is Classier bedded sandstone and minor mudstone. It's position is...

Latitude 51° 35.3' North
Longitude 08° 31.9' West

Navigation Aids:-

  • LIGHT:
    Group Flashing (2) White every 10 seconds.
    Intensity of 792,000 candelas.
    Nominal Range of 25nm
    Height above MHWS of 236 ft (72m)

  • RADIO Beacon
    Morse 'OH' 3 times for 15 seconds followed by a long dash lasting fore 45 seconds
    288.0 KHz
    50 nm range

    Three (3) blasts every 45 seconds
    Range 3.9nm (both emitters)




There have been references to a beacon of some form at the Old Head in Pre-Christian Times. However, the first lighthouse proper here was built in 1665. It was one of six built around the Irish coast by a Sir Robert Reading. and consisted basically of a cottage with a coal-fired chauffer or brazier on it's roof for lighting. Service was poor and caused many complaints.

Robert Reading's designed lighthouse built at Old Head. It's design is unique to Ireland. Service slated by many shipping companies. The "light" consisted of a brazier atop the cottage roof.
Coal fire on rooftop replaced by 6' diameter lantern illuminated by 12 oil lamps.

New lighthouse built by the newly appointed "Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin" under the energetic direction of a Mr.George Halpin. The new lighthouse consisted of a tower 42' high with a concentric Keepers' accommodation area at the base where 2 keepers were housed.

Illumination was provided by 27 Agrand oil lamps, each having a parabolic reflector. The light was 294' above sea level and could be seen at a range of 23 nautical miles.

Fog frequently obscured the light due to it's height above sea level. George Halpin again oversees the building of a new lighthouse - the current model - at a lower level. On completion the older house is partially demolished - it's ruins are still to be clearly seen.
A fog signal of 3 cannon added. Staff increase to 3 with the new fog signalman.

New optics added and new clockwork mechanism to rotate the optics. The light was generated by vapourised paraffin which provided a double flash every 10 seconds. The clockwork mechanism was provided by pendulums that slowly dropped through several floors of the tower - the chamber still exists.

The three cannon are replaced by explosives - cotton charged with gunpowder and detonated

1930 The present colour scheme of black tower and 2 white bands replaces the original scheme of white tower with 2 red bands.
1972 Electric power replaces the paraffin oil burning for illumination and a standby generator is installed as a backup system. The explosive charge fog signal is replaced by a manual siren
1974 The Daunt Rock lightship outside Cork harbour is decommissioned. As a direct result of this the Radio beacon is installed.
1985 Electric fog horn added which is controlled by an automatic videograph fog detector.
1987 Lighthouse automated and Keepers withdrawn
today... Since 1987 has been in the care of a part-time attendant.



The Old head has had it's share of wrecks. Below is a list that we hope to add to in time...details we mean!!


30-Jan-1816. A brig, struck the Curlane rocks, (between Garrylucas and Garretstown). She was returning soldiers from the Battle of Waterloo to serve garrison duty at Cork. The ship was quickly ripped apart in the storm with the loss of almost the entire compliment of soldiers and crew. The bodies were quickly buried on the beach but were later exhumed and re-interred at Old Court churchyard at the base of the Old Head.

Lord Melville 30-Jan-1816. A former East-India ship of 818 tonnes, she struck rocks 300 yds off the Old Head of Kinsale. A boat was launched but was almost immediately swamped with the loss of it's 12 crew. The ship remained intact until all the remaining crew had been saved by the lighthouse keepers.

HMS Stillorgan

16-Jun-1778. A 90 gun ship of the line was driven by a storm onto the Bream Rock where it quickly broke up.
City of Chicago 22-Jun-1892. The 3360 ton Inman liner struck and became wedged in the cliffs below the Old Head of Kinsale lighthouse. The captain kept the engines at Slow Ahead to keep the stricken liner from falling back into deeper waters. After 3 days all passengers, luggage and whatever could be saved had been taken off. Today much of the steel plate-work can be found at about 60 ft strewn about an area of approx. 300' x 100'. We are always happy to bring diving teams to the wreck locations.

Journal of the Cork Historical Society, Vol 8, 53-55, 1902,
Journal of the Cork Historical Society, Vol 7, 43-46, 1901,
Shipwrecks of the Irish Coast, Vol 1 and Vol 2,
Eddie Lyons of the Cork Archives.
National Maritime Museum, Dun Laoighre,Co.Dublin, 01-2800969