Hook Lighthouse rises skyward showing itself against an azure blue sky. The mystery and history of this Lighthouse said to be the oldest intact operational Lighthouse in the world was brought to life by a wonderful and very knowledgeable guide by the name of Colm Ryan.
From the moment you step in through the door the magic begins. It is very dark at first or so it seems, one needs to give time to allow one’s eyes to adjust to this darkened light. In this first chamber is housed on loan a three-sided glass lenses.
In the fifth century, a Monk named Dubhán established a Monastery at Hook Head. The first warning fire was lit by the monks to warn Mariners of the dangers of the perilous rocks that surround the peninsula. William Marshal who arrived in Ireland in the early thirteenth century realised the importance of the port of Waterford and its river system for trade and maritime transport. Marshal established the port of New Ross on the Barrow River, about 30 km from the sea. Ships needed to be guided safely into the harbour of Waterford through the dangerous waters around the Hook peninsula. To this end, he built a circular tower 30 meters high at the outer most tip of the peninsula to serve as a mark during the day and a fire tower during the night.
"From the moment you step in through the door the magic begins"
The tower itself consists of three rib-vaulted chambers in the lower tier, while the upper, narrower section would have carried the warning beacon. These two tiers are connected with a mural (within the wall) stairway of 115 steps. The tower was constructed of local limestone and the original building survives intact. The first tier is 13m in diameter at the base and has three storeys, each with its original 13th-century stone fireplace. In the thickness of the wall there are a number of mural chambers, including two garderobes (toilets). The upper tier is 6m in diameter: originally it supported the beacon fire lit by the monks. Marshal granted the monks of the nearby monastery an annual assignment to act as guardians of the lighthouse, a task they carried out for several centuries. The monks lived in the tower that served as their monastery and a lighthouse. Today one can see evidence of where the chapel was at that time.
"Climb the 115 steps & you will be rewarded by spectacular views"
The first floor you come to is a glass-enclosed almost circular viewing platform giving you stunning views of the surrounding area looking across to Dunmore East. Climbing to the next floor on your journey to the top you will meet characters from the past through hologram and video. The 5th-century monk St Dubhan “The Greatest Knight”, William Marshal and stories from lighthouse keeps who lived at Hook will give you an insight into the past history of this amazing place. Having explored the building and climbed the 115 steps you will be rewarded by the spectacular views from this height above sea level.
From the first beacon of light lit by monks to guide the Mariners safely on their journey, the lighthouse has had many changes to its lighting system from the first Fire to Coal, Oil (whale oil), Gas light, Paraffin Oil, (1911) Electricity (1972). In March 1996 Hook Lighthouse was switched to operate automatically and the last of the lighthouse keepers manually turned on the light for the last time before automation took over. Today it is monitored remotely by the Commissioners of Irish Lights in Dun Laoghaire.