Black Head Lighthouse, County Antrim

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Black Head Lighthouse

County Antrim

The Blackhead Lighthouse - geograph - 1885914 - by - Albert-Bridge.jpg
Blackhead in 2010
Grid reference: J48769343
Location: 54°46’1"N, 5°41’21"W
Height: 52 feet
Light: Fl W 3s.
Intensity: 400W
Focal height: 148 feet
Range: 27 nautical miles
Admiralty No.: A6028
Built 1902
Architect: William Douglass
Owned by: Commissioners of Irish Lights

Black Head Lighthouse is a lighthouse built at the turn of the 20th century standing in Black Head, near Whitehead in County Antrim. It marks the very northern end of Belfast Lough where it opens out into the North Channel that separates Ulster and Galloway.[1]

This is an active lighthouse, managed by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, in whose records it is named as the Blackhead Antrim Lighthouse to distinguish it from the more modern Blackhead Lighthouse in County Clare.[1] It is a listed building.[2]


The first application for a lighthouse at Black Head was made by the Belfast Harbour Board in 1893. It was refused by the Commissioners of Irish Lights on the basis that the light would only benefit shipping entering Belfast and should not be financed by the general Mercantile Marine Fund. A second request was made in early 1898, this time supported by Lloyds and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce as well as the Harbour Board, it was also refused. Further representations were made that year, including discussions in the House of Commons, until the Board of Trade and Trinity House agreed to make available funding to cover the estimated cost of £10,025 for the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal. [3][4]

The contract to construct the light was awarded to William Campbell and Sons in 1899 with work starting the same year. Designed by William Douglass engineer-in-chief to the CIL, the lighthouse was completed in 1902. Situated at the top of a steep cliff to guide ships into Belfast Lough and the port of Belfast, it complements the Mew Island Lighthouse on the southern side of the lough entrance, which was also designed by Douglass.[3][4][5]

Clifftop location of the lighthouse

The lighthouse consists of an octagonal stone tower 52 feet high, with lantern and gallery painted white. The main two-storey keeper's house is built close by and linked to the tower by an enclosed walkway. There is also an adjacent detached superintendent’s house. The lighthouse was electrified in 1965 and became automatic in 1975. The fog signal was suppressed in 1972.[1]

With a focal height of 148 feet above the sea, the light from the first order Fresnel lens with its 400W bulb can be seen for 27 nautical miles, with a characteristic of a single white flash every 3 seconds.[1]

Blackhead is one of the dozen lighthouses that make up the "Great Lighthouses of Ireland", a tourism initiative designed to promote the use of certain lighthouses for holiday accommodation. The keepers' houses at the lighthouse were refurbished by the Irish Landmark Trust, and are now offered as holiday accommodation. They retain the original whistle pipes that were used to call the off-duty keepers to their watch duties.[1][4]

Coastal path

The lighthouse is accessible by a narrow road about two and a half miles north-east of Whitehead, and also by a coastal path from the town. The path was developed by Berkeley Deane Wise, to help attract tourists to the town, and loops around the headland requiring bridges and two tunnels. It was the precursor to the more dramatic Gobbins Path, a few miles further north along the coast.[3][6]

Listed buildings

The entire lighthouse complex including the tower and keeper’s houses is protected as a Category B+ listed building.[2]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Black Head Lighthouse, County Antrim)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Black Head (Antrim) Lighthouse - Commissioners of Irish Lights
  2. 2.0 2.1 Blackhead Lighthouse - Department of Environment
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The Tourism Development Potential of Blackhead Path Feasibility Study Report - Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Blackhead Lightkeeper’s HouseIrish Landmark Trust
  5. William Douglass: Douglas History
  6. Davenport, Fionn: 'Ireland' (Lonely Planet) ISBN 978-1-74104-696-0, pages 673–
Lighthouses of the Commissioners of Irish Lights

County Donegal:  InishowenInishtrahullFanadDunreeBuncranaTory IslandArranmoreBallagh RocksRathlin O'BirneRotten IslandSt John's   County AntrimBlack HeadChaine MemorialThe MaidensRathlin EastRue PointRathlin West   County DownGreen IslandVidal BankHaulbowlineSt John's PointAngus RockDonaghadeeMew Island   County LouthDundalk   County DublinMuglinsPoolbegKish BankBailyHowth HeadRockabill   County WicklowWicklow Head   County WexfordDuncannonHook HeadTuskar Rock   County WaterfordMine HeadBallinacourty PointDunmore East   County CorkBull RockArdnakinnaCastletownRoancarrigSheep's HeadMizen HeadCrookhavenCopper PointFastnet RockBaltimore BeaconGalley HeadOld Head of KinsaleCharles FortRoches PointBallycottonYoughal   County KerryLittle Samphire IslandInishtearaghtCromwell PointValentia RearValentia FrontSkelligs   County ClareBlackheadLoop HeadKilcredaun HeadCorlis Point FrontCorlis Point RearScattery Island   County GalwaySlyne HeadCashla BayEeraghStraw IslandInisheer   County MayoBroadhavenEagle IslandBlacksodBlacksod BayAchillbegInishgort County SligoBlackrockLower Rosses PointMetal ManOyster Island