Mine Head Lighthouse

Mine Head Lighthouse in West Waterford is somewhat off the beaten track. To get there you have to negotiate a warren of by-roads in the Old Parish area and I would have given up had I not had the co-ordinates programmed in to my Sat Nav, co-ordinates which I had obtained by studying the location on Google Earth. The road ends at the entrance to a farm and from there to the lighthouse there is a driveable path of about a mile or so. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I should have sought permission to proceed at the farmhouse. On the basis that it is easier to seek forgiveness than permission I kept going and I didn’t meet anyone throughout my time there.

It is a wonderful looking lighthouse perched on a cliff-top with views across the coast of Waterford as far as Brownstown Head near Dunmore East. The white pillars near the Metal Man at Tramore were clearly visible in the late evening light. Looking west you can see Ram Head in Ardmore and beyond that Ballycotton Island in East Cork.

(Left-click to see images in larges size)

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The lighthouse looked resplendent in the Autumn sunshine and I was eagerly looking forward to sunset when the sensors or timers would activate the light and the lighthouse would do what it is meant to do: emit flashes at regular intervals. With a bright waxing-gibbous moon, a calm sea and little wind all the conditions were right for some stunning blue-hour lighthouse photography.

So, I waited and waited. Eventually, the sun set. Off to the south-east, Hook Head Lighthouse began to flash, its light just visible over the horizon. It wouldn’t be long now before Mine Head started to do its thing. I could hardly wait. It might be a long time again before I’d get conditions as good as this and I was going to make the most of the opportunity.

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Mine Head Lighthouse photographed from Ram Head, Ardmore 

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The light of Mine Head photographed from Ardmore 

I looked through the viewfinder anticipating that first magnificent flash. And then … a tiny little light, about the size of those halogen units you can buy in hardware stores, clamped on to the railing at the top of the tower started to flash. What the f….? Was this it? It was. I stood up and, John McEnroe-like, addressed the lighthouse in a loud voice – “ You. Cannot. Be. Serious.” I had waited a couple of hours for this piddling little light? Alas, I had. And with it went my expectations of capturing some great images of the lighthouse in full blaze and the light of the moon on the sea.

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The lamp that currently serves as Mine Head Lighthouse’s light clamped to the railings of the tower

The magnificent light built into the lighthouse itself is no longer operational and instead this puny latched-on lamp does the job instead. No doubt it serves the purpose but what a disappointment it is! What an insult to the men who manned the lighthouse down the years and who kept the fresnel lens of the light in optimum condition the better to signal to passing mariners. The beautiful tower built in 1851 might as well be knocked down if this is going to be its fate. The Commissioners of Irish Lights could just as easily erect a thin steel pole on the spot and clamp the light on top of it.

So, having waited for the amazing images that were never to be I packed up and went home.

What a disappointment!

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