uklighthousetour

One crazy lady and a bizarre obsession = an ongoing tour of the best lighthouses the UK has to offer

Returning to Hoylake and off to the Skerries

Hoylake lighthouse

Hoylake lighthouse

Last weekend we were heading to Anglesey for a boat trip and decided to drop into Hoylake on the way. In one of my blog posts from last month, I mentioned that the good people at Bidston lighthouse had informed us that the building I had previously thought was the Hoylake lighthouse actually wasn’t. We were travelling with my sister as she was looking after our little boy while we went on the boat trip that afternoon. We found Valentia Road in Hoylake easily enough and my sister and I looked out each side of the car as it’s not always so easy to spot them when they’re among houses. My sister had the joy of spotting it first and we continued along the road to turn around. We decided to drive to the end of Stanley Road to show my sister the building I’d previously seen, which she was very impressed by. She recommended we do something similar with our little old house on the north coast of Scotland – if only I could! We drove back to Valentia Road and got some great pictures of the actual lighthouse, which is nicely framed by big trees when you see it from the road. It’s a stunning building. The light was last exhibited in 1886 and was one of two built in 1865. The lower lighthouse no longer remains, but actually was operational until later than the existing structure, finally being discontinued in 1908.

South Stack - it would have been rude not to visit

South Stack – it would have been rude not to visit

Finally satisfied that I’d seen the real lighthouse, we drove on to Anglesey. We had a brief stop at South Stack to see the lighthouse there, where my sister had a particularly amusing Marilyn Monroe-esque experience with the wind! We parked up at the marina in Holyhead and found a cafe for lunch before meeting the other island-baggers. I’d seen the Skerries before from Holyhead and been fascinated by its beautiful white lighthouse with the red stripe. Fortunately a friend of ours had managed to get hold of Rib Ride who run boat trips from Holyhead and they had agreed to take us out. The boat we went out in was actually formerly owner by Bear Grylls, who just keeps on popping up in my lighthouse endeavours (see my post from August). Bear is actually involved with the company and his boat is actually quite a comfortable set up with nice padded seats. Our pilot, Charles, was also a friendly chap and managed to quickly sort out an engine problem we experienced on the way out, so we made it there safely and Charles moored up alongside a ladder leading up to the island.

The Skerries lighthouse

The Skerries lighthouse

The Skerries is a stunning place, and I really believe that this is in large part due to the positioning of the lighthouse (though others may disagree). The way it has been built to sit on the highest point of the island is fascinating and every view you get of it from wandering around the main island is perfect. Right on time, the sun decided to come out as we arrived too, so we had great weather for exploring the island. We were also joined by the regular howling of the seals playing about in the natural cove, which offers respite to sailors on rougher days. Apparently, some refer to the Skerries as “the Scaries” due to challenges it presents when the sea is rough. The lighthouse on the Skerries has an interesting history and was originally built by the lease-holder of the island, with the light making its first appearance in 1717. Trinity House had previously objected to the lighthouse being built, but in 1834 they made clear the wishes to purchase the structure. For seven years they fought for ownership and, finally, in 1841 it was sold to them and became the last of the privately owned lighthouses to be bought by Trinity House. It was a wonderful place to visit and nice to be able to share it only with the seals (and some made island-baggers too)!

That trip marked the end of our lighthouse bagging trips (as far as I know) for now. Hopefully there will be more before the end of the year, but we’ll just have to wait and see. The more and more you visit the harder they become to get to. We have some great trips lined up for next year already though, which I’m very excited about ­čÖé

Leave a comment »

A brief lighthouse trip to Wales

The lighthouse on St Tudwals Island West

The lighthouse on St Tudwals Island West

A couple of weekends ago, Bob and I made a break for freedom, leaving our little man with his grandparents for the weekend. The purpose of this trip was to spend some time in Wales, particularly for┬áa boat trip out to get a closer look at the lighthouse on St Tudwals Island West off of the west coast. A hill-bagging friend of ours had arranged the trip with the owner of St Tudwals Island East who had kindly agreed to take us to his island. Due to it being August, the owner of the West Island (Bear Grylls) was staying on the island and, understandably,┬ávery much likes some privacy with his family. That meant it wasn’t possible for us to land, but Carl did take us on a spin around the West Island so I could get a good view of it. Carl, who co-owns the East Island, was telling us that he suspects the St Tudwals lighthouse may be discontinued shortly, which would mean that Bear Grylls would inherit a lighthouse. Lucky him! It’s an attractive little structure. We spent a short time on the East Island, enough time to wander up to island high point for Bob and to take a stroll around some of the coast there – with some nice views across to the lighthouse too. What amazed me most though was the small house that sits on the east side of the island. From the outside it doesn’t look like there’s much going on, but as soon as you step inside there are tables, decorations aplenty┬áand even an upper floor with a double mattress! It’s a great little island and the owner is full of some amusing stories. He described how he went about getting large stones airlifted onto the island for a stone circle he set up there about 10 years ago. It was a really enjoyable trip and the weather was absolutely perfect.

Llanddwyn Island lighthouse

Llanddwyn Island lighthouse

During my tour in 2012, I attempted to visit the lighthouse on Llanddywyn Island off of the south coast of Anglesey. Officially its not a tidal island, but many (and the name itself) would tell you otherwise and, when I visited before it was spring tide time so the tide was particularly high and access to the peninsula was not possible. This time we were able to time our visit perfectly so we arrived as the tide was retreating. From afar it didn’t look like there was much to it, but it’s actually a great place to explore, with paths leading out to the beacon at the very end. The old lighthouse there is really interesting in that the light was displayed from the base of the┬á structure, rather than the top. I think there is often confusion over which is the lighthouse out of the two as it would be easy to miss the old lamp room in the lighthouse if you’re looking for it at the top. There’s a lot of history surrounding the island (sorry, peninsula) and a great deal of information on display around the island relating to pilgrimages. After leaving the island, we noticed some wooden poles on display near the car park with various carvings on top and one of them was clearly a carving of the old lighthouse. As the weather was so good that weekend there were plenty of people around on the beach, but not so many taking the walk out to Llanddwyn Island, which made it much nicer.

Penmon Point at low tide

Penmon Point at low tide

We had a little time to spare that day before dinner, so Bob suggested going along to Penmon Point to see the black and white lighthouse there, which I’d visited on my tour in 2012. As we followed the coastal road north it was clear that the tide was quite far out, so we were hopeful that we would be able to walk out to the lighthouse for a proper “bag”. I was very amused when we arrived and Bob, excitedly, when dashing off towards the lighthouse. We managed to get right out to it and Bob, as usual, chose to climb up to the door using the very cleverly built footholds. It wasn’t too busy there either so we only had to share the lighthouse with a couple of other people. There’s nothing worse than crowds of people when you’re trying to get a good picture!

On the Sunday we headed home, but first we needed to get at least one lighthouse visit in, considering it was International Lighthouse-Lightship Weekend! I’d read online that both Leasowe and Bidston Hill lighthouses would be open to the public that day, so it was an opportunity not to be missed. We had a bit of time to kill before Bidston Hill opened, to we had a quick look at Leasowe and then drove along to Hoylake. When I’d been there in 2012, I’d seen the lighthouse (or what I thought was the lighthouse) so┬áthis was an opportunity for Bob to see it too. We had a quick stop there and then went on to Bidston Hill. It’s not one I had seen before, so┬áit was an added bonus for me to actually be able to get inside it too.

The Bidston Hill lighthouse

The Bidston Hill lighthouse

We arrived just in time for the first tour of the day, which was run by Stephen Pickles who is an active member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers. I had, in fact, received an email from Stephen shortly before that weekend asking if I would be interested in preparing a piece on my favourite lighthouse for their journal, Lamp (more on that later in the year). It was a really interesting tour and you could tell that Stephen is not only the owner of the lighthouse, but has a real fondness for its history┬átoo. There are some fascinating stories about how they would go about informing the port authorities at Liverpool that a boat was on its way in. There was a group of amateur radio guys halfway up the lighthouse, chatting away to others around the world as part of the Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend. We were fortunate enough to get into the lamp room at the top of the lighthouse, which boasts panoramic views of the surrounding area and out to sea. Sadly, there is a lot of damage to the panes of glass in the lamp room. They suspect someone has been shooting at them from outside and they are currently looking to replace the panes, which isn’t going to be cheap for them. Why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me. We had a chance to speak to Stephen and his wife for a while after the tour and got a stamp for my lighthouse passport. It was during our chat with them that we found out that the building we’d seen at Hoylake is actually a lighthouse folly and not the actual lighthouse. So, we will need to head back there again at some point.

When we left Bidston Hill, we did consider popping into Leasowe to have a look around, but we were running short on time for getting home that evening, so decided to give it a miss this time. We hope we will be back in the area when it’s open again some day soon. We’re nearing the end of our peak lighthouse-bagging season, but it’s not over yet. There will be at least one or two new ones in the next couple of weeks. More on this to follow soon! ­čÖé

3 Comments »