The oldest existing lighthouse is at Roches Point at the entrance to Cork Harbour. The British authorities came to appreciate the potential of Cork Harbour when it became the assembly place for British convoys supplying troops in North America during the American War of Independence. First, they built a gun battery at Roches Point to secure the harbour. This is still extant. But later they realised they needed a navigation light. On 4th June 1817, a light was lit for the first time on Mr Roche’s tower, which was leased for the purpose. However, the tower proved too low, so it was replaced with the present purpose-built lighthouse in 1835. Later a signal tower was built nearby by the St George’s Steam Packet Company, and another was built by Lloyds of London. One of the earliest Royal Navy radio masts and signalling stations was built at Roches Point in 1907. The lighthouse, stands on a low, but rocky point which provides a wonderful view of the approaches to Cork Harbour, and a view into the harbour with the three forts protecting it. Later a coastguard station and pilot houses were built to accompany the lighthouse.
Ballycotton Lighthouse, perched on its island, is the emblem of Ballycotton village. It was built because of an accident! In January 1847 the SS Sirius, the ship to steam across the Atlantic from east to west, went aground off Ballycotton. At the time a lighthouse was being built on Capel Island, off Knockadoon Head. The loss of the Sirius made the authorities realise they had picked the wrong site for the lighthouse, so they capped the unfinished Capel Island lighthouse and began working on Ballycotton Island. They had to ‘top’ the very steep island like a boiled egg to get a flat surface on which to build. The work was completed by 1851 when the light was first lit. The island has no spring, so life for the keepers and their families must have been challenging until the families were moved to Ballycotton in 1896. Before this the children had to row to Ballycotton to attend school, sometimes they couldn’t row home after school! Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours run trips to the island in the summer, with a guided tour giving the history of the lighthouse.
Youghal Lighthouse was built in 1850 to guide shipping into the port of Youghal. For centuries Youghal was one of the most important ports in the south of Ireland. However, the Victorian lighthouse lays claim to a tradition that the first beacon tower was erected on the site in 1190 and Franciscan nuns kept the light for mariners from the 13th century. No trace of this earlier beacon exists today. The lighthouse is perched on a cliff beside the road from Cork, Cobh and Midleton. It stands almost at the point where the older medieval town of Youghal meets the modern seaside resort that developed with the coming of the railway in 1860.