Looking for somewhere to visit in Ireland’s sunny southeast? Then visiting the Hook Lighthouse, Wexford is something to add to your Ireland itinerary. Discover all there is to know about one of the best places to visit in Wexford and learn what we thought of it during our visit.
Whether you are travelling as a couple or are looking for family things to do in Wexford, the Hook Lighthouse (also called the Hook Head Lighthouse) is a must-visit for this part of the Emerald Isle.
The Hook Lighthouse is a great place to visit to get an introduction to Irish lighthouses, and their importance on an island surrounded by miles and miles of coastline.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the Hook Lighthouse, read about our visit to it, and discover why you should add the hook head lighthouse tour to your County Wexford itinerary.
- About the Hook Lighthouse, Ireland – Facts and history
- What to expect from your Hook Lighthouse visit
- Visiting Hook Lighthouse – Things you need to know
- Things to do near the Hook Lighthouse
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Hook Lighthouse, Ireland
About the Hook Lighthouse, Ireland – Facts and history
The Hook Lighthouse history
The Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest, intact, operational lighthouses in the world.
Prior to the building of the lighthouse, a wood brazier was located at the site as a warning to passing ships of the dangers of the coastline.
This brazier was believed to have been established by Saint Dubhan who kept it burning with his fellow monks from the nearby monastery after witnessing many shipwrecks on the rocks below.
The current Hook Lighthouse was built over 800 years ago after the Anglo-Normans landed in Ireland in 1169. The Norman leader, Richard de Clare (also known as Strongbow) was succeeded by his son-in-law, William Marshal, a man who was to play a pivotal role in Irish history.
William Marshal had been on crusades to the Holy Land as a knight and had seen the lighthouses of the Mediterranean including at Alexandria, Egpyt.
When establishing the port of New Ross in Wexford for trade and maritime transport, he knew that for its success, he would need to guide ships safely into the mouth of the Barrow and through the harbour of Waterford to New Ross.
So, he built a 30m high circular tower at the tip of the peninsula which would serve two purposes:
- A geographical reference by day
- A fire tower by night.
In order to keep the nightly fires burning, Marshal granted monks from the nearby Rinn Dubhan monastery the task of being guardians of the lighthouse, something they continued for several centuries.
The monks lived in the tower which served as both a monastery and lighthouse, evidence of which can be seen in the remains of the chapel at the east of the building.
In the late 17th century, the fire beacon was replaced with a lantern powered by coal. In the late 18th century, coal was replaced by oil, which was followed by gas in the late 19th century. Paraffin oil became the energy source in 1911 until that was finally replaced by electricity in 1972.
In 1996, Hook Lighthouse became automatically operated and the last lighthouse keeper manually turned on the light for the last time.
Today, the lighthouse is monitored remotely by the Lighthouse Department in Dun Laoghaire and is under the responsibility of the Commissioners of Irish Lights (inspectors of Irish lighthouses).
Hook Lighthouse facts
The Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world and is made from limestone. Standing for over 800 years, it was built on the site of a wood brazier as already mentioned and the current structure was completed in 1240.
The Hook Lighthouse stands 35 metres (115 feet) tall and has four stories.
The lighthouse was converted to electricity in 1972 and became fully automated in 1996.
Lighthousekeepers and their families lived on the site until 1977.
The Hook Lighthouse Visitor Centre where you can buy your tickets, visit the gift shop, and find the cafe, is one of the former lighthouse keeper residential buildings.
What to expect from your Hook Lighthouse visit
Our visit to the Hook Head Lighthouse, Ireland
Top of our list of places to visit in Wexford was the Hook Lighthouse. I have always loved seeing pictures of it, so when we planned our exploration of County Wexford, Hook Lighthouse was top of my list of must-visit places.
We booked our tour for 10 am on a Sunday at the end of August and we were in a lovely small group of 8. Two families and a couple. Perfect for interaction with our guide, Baldy John from Dublin (his words, not mine) who was hilarious.
John met us just outside the visitor centre and took us into the lighthouse. He gave us a thorough introduction to the lighthouse, its history (as above), and some interesting facts about the lighthouse and its former residents.
Our tour began in an observation room where you can see out to sea and find a map of all the operational lighthouses around the coast of Ireland.
John then led us into the tower itself. We ‘met’ St Dubhan in the first chamber, before beginning to climb the 115 steps to the top of the tower.
On the next level, John taught us about the man who built Hook Head Lighthouse, William Marshal. John introduced us to the changing beacons and fires over the course of the history of the lighthouse.
Finally, we reached the top and came out to a windy observation deck where John kindly took our family pictures. From up there we could see Loftus Hall. John told us two stories that are said to be the reason why it is considered the most haunted house in Ireland. He also told us the beautiful story of how he came to be a guide at Hook Lighthouse. If you have Baldy John from Dublin as your guide, ask him.
John also told us two more stories. The first was how the saying
by hook or by crook
originated from the area when Oliver Cromwell vowed to take Waterford by Hook on the Wexford side or by the village of Crook on the Waterford side.
The second story was about how each New Year’s Day, the mayor of New Ross shoots an arrow across the estuary towards Waterford to remind them of their authority over the lighthouse and waters it protects, a tradition that began in 1687 (ref).
After our visit, we went down to the rocks and rockpools in front of the lighthouse to see what we could see before returning to the lighthouse grounds for a cuppa while our son played in the pirate playground.
We had a great tour of the Hook Lighthouse with John and highly recommend you add it to your itinerary if you will be visiting County Wexford.
Highlights of the Hook Lighthouse tour
Here are some highlights from the tour of the Hook Head Lighthouse, Wexford that you can expect during your own visit:
- Enjoy a fully guided tour of the lighthouse
- Learn about the history of the Hook Lighthouse and the man who built the current structure
- Discover some interesting things about the different beacons and lights over the years
- Enjoy free time to explore the rocky outcrops below the lighthouse
- Let the kids run off some steam in the playground (if travelling as a family)
- Hear interesting stories from your guide, not only about the lighthouse but nearby points of interest, traditions, and their own personal stories
Visiting Hook Lighthouse – Things you need to know
Where is Hook Lighthouse located?
The Hook Lighthouse is located at the tip of the Hook Head Peninsula in the southern end of County Wexford. The Eircode for the lighthouse is Y34 KD93. If you are staying in New Ross, the journey is approximately 40 minutes, while from Wexford Town it is 50 minutes.
How to get to the Hook Lighthouse, Wexford
The Hook Lighthouse is located just over 2 and a half hours south of Dublin. To reach it from Dublin you first take the M50 southbound until you join the M11/N11. Continue on this road until just outside Wexford Town where you will turn off onto the R733. After 29km, you will turn off onto the R737 before taking the L4045 until you reach the lighthouse.
Hook Lighthouse opening hours
The Hook Lighthouse is open 7 days a week between 9.30 am and 5 pm (off-peak season)/6 pm (July and August). The length of the tour depends on the season and the number of visitors on each tour but they typically run for around 45 minutes. Note that the Hook Head Lighthouse closes on December 20th until Christmas Day and reopens on St Stephen’s Day (Dec 26) when it opens at 11 am.
Hook Lighthouse tickets
The Hook Lighthouse prices (at the time of writing in 2023) were as follows:
- Adult €10
- Concession €9
- Child (5-12) €6
- Children under 5 FREE
- Family Ticket (2Ad+1Ch under 12) €24
- Family Ticket (2Ad+2Ch under 12) €28
- Family Ticket (2Ad+3Ch under 12) €30
You can buy your ticket at the entrance of the gift shop or online. During busy summer months, it is advisable to book your tickets ahead of your visit to avoid disappointment.
Click here to book your tickets today.
Note that you cannot enter the lighthouse without joining a guided tour. You can see the lighthouse from the grounds and the rocks in front of it and enjoy a meal in the cafe without buying a ticket.
Information about the Hook Lighthouse tours
The Hook Lighthouse tour takes place throughout the day, on an hourly basis between 10 am and 5 pm. During off-peak times, tours begin at 10 am and the last tour starts at 4 pm. During peak times and the summer holidays, the last tour is at 6 pm.
You can book your tickets and tour time here.
Hook Lighthouse Cafe
Located in the former Principal Keepers cottage and attached conservatory, visitors can enjoy a coffee and snack, or even a meal, while enjoying views out to sea in the cafe at the Hook Lighthouse. There is both indoor and outdoor dining (suitable for summer).
The cafe is open at 9.30 and closes at 4.45 pm between September and June, and 5.45 pm in July and August. The cafe is open on the same days as the Lighthouse itself.
Click here to find out more.
Things to do near the Hook Lighthouse
The Hook Lighthouse is in a great location for combining it with some of the other great things to do in County Wexford.
Tintern Abbey is just over 20 minutes from Hook Lighthouse and is a great place to visit in County Wexford in combination with the lighthouse.
Founded by the same William Marshal who built the lighthouse, Tintern Abbey is the smaller twin of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire in South Wales (where we have also visited).
Tintern Abbey became a private residence after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century and was eventually handed over to the state. It is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about William Marshal and see another of the buildings he built in the county.
Another abbey in County Wexford to visit if you have been to Hook is Dunbrody Abbey (pictured below). Located about 25 minutes north of Hook Lighthouse, this ruined Abbey is a former 13th-century Cistercian Abbey that is a wonderful place to explore.
Across the road from the abbey itself, you’ll find tearooms, and a fabulous hedge maze to find your way out of. There is also the chance to play some pitch and putt around the edge of the maze. If you are visiting with kids they’ll love this!
The small village of Duncannon is the ideal spot for lunch after a morning visit to the Hook Lighthouse. Situated less than 20 minutes north of the lighthouse, there is a fort to visit, a beach, and it has some great places to eat. We ate in Roches Bar & Restaurant, and while we felt it was a little expensive, the food was lovely and tasty. The Strand is another recommended place to eat in Duncannon.
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about visiting the Hook Lighthouse on the Hook Head Peninsula in County Wexford including some interesting Hook Head Lighthouse facts and a summary of our visit there.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Hook Lighthouse, Ireland
You might also like to read:
- Best Things to Do in County Wexford
- Visiting the Dunbrody Famine Ship
- Best Things to Do in County Waterford
- Best Things to Do in County Tipperary