The point marks the western limit (on southern side) of the Bristol Channel, beyond which the rolling seas are conceded to the Atlantic Ocean. This location was known to the Romans as the "promontory of Hercules", so they say.
Trinity House has a lighthouse on the tip of the peninsula. The Hartland Point Lighthouse was built in 1874 under the direction of Sir James Douglass. The lighthouse tower is Grade II-listed.
The tower is 59 feet tall and the lamp is 121 feet above mean sea level. The light can be seen up to 25 miles away from the coast. When opened, it was blessed by the Bishop of Exeter (Frederick Temple, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury).
The light was automated in 1984 and is now controlled from Trinity House Operations Centre at Harwich in Essex. Before automation, the lighthouse was built with accommodation for four keepers and their families. The keepers' dwellings have since been demolished to make room for a helipad to be constructed: this was necessary due to the precarious nature of the access road which is liable to frequent rock falls and landslips. Vehicular access is now very difficult and the gates tend to remain locked. The large concrete structures immediately to the south of the lighthouse provided the keepers with fresh water.
In its 2010 Aids to Navigation Review, Trinity House proposed to discontinue the Hartland Point Lighthouse Station on the grounds that Global Positioning Systems are superseding lighthouses as the most important navigation aids.
HM Coastguard maintains a small station on the top of the point near the lighthouse. This is now normally unmanned.
The path along the cliffs which has now been incorporated into the South West Coast Path was formerly an aid to the Coastguard who needed to be able to travel from station to station on foot while being able to keep an eye on the sea to spot for smugglers. The path stays close to the edge of the cliffs on its journey through Hartland Point and it is an ideal way to explore the point, its landmarks and the scenery.
The Ministry of Defence maintains a radar station on the point, controlled from nearby RAF Hartland Point. This is used for air traffic control of both military and civilian aircraft. The unusual white-dome-topped structure can be seen from distances of up to 10 miles from the point.
On 31 December 1982, the Panama-registered, Dutch-owned MS Johanna was driven aground on rocks less than 400 m from the lighthouse. The cargo ship was carrying wheat from the Netherlands up the Bristol Channel towards Cardiff. Four of the crew were rescued by a helicopter from RAF Chivenor. Three officers were taken off later in the day by the RNLI lifeboat from Clovelly. The decaying remains of the hull can still be seen.
| ("Wikimedia Commons" has material|
- Images of England — details from listed building database (91201) Hartland Point Lighthouse
- Hartland Point Lighthouse - Trinity House
- Hartland Point Lighthouse - Devon History Society
- Hartland lighthouse faces closure - North Devon Journal, 21 January 2010
- Subterranea Britannica - RAF Hartland Point ('HAT') R8 GCI ROTOR Radar Station
- "Hartland During Second World War". Hartland Society. http://www.hartlandforum.co.uk/hartsoc/ww2.htm. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- Map: 51.02194 -4.52528