It is a harbour light, whose purpose is to guide vessels from the sea into Valentia harbour, past the treacherous Harbour Rock.
Visible across the water, on the north side of the bay, is Dingle Peninsula, with Slea Head at its westernmost point, jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean.
The lighthouse itself stands within the confines of Cromwell Fort, a walled compound containing a white barracks building. A fort has stood on this spot since the middle of the 16th century and the first lighthouse was built on this scenic headland in 1841. For more than a hundred years from 1841, the lighthouse was maintained by a single keeper, who lived on the premises with his family. The lighthouse was automated in 1947.
For anyone who grew up listening to the shipping forecast on BBC Radio, as I did, the name “Valentia” carries with it all kinds of romance, mystique and danger, as it is also one of the thirteen coastal weather stations serving the British Isles. From my childhood, I recall the regular gale warnings issued for the Valentia shipping zone. They always conjured up in my mind grim images of brave sailors battling high winds and heavy seas off Ireland’s southwest coast.
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