If you know me on Twitter, you'll know my name's 'Goleudy'. I often wonder how many people mispronounce it in their minds; completely unaware that it's the Welsh word for 'lighthouse'! Yep - I love lighthouses. I can even remember the very moment I fell in love with them.
It was a stormy night in 1999 and I was tucked up at home, full of flu and feeling generally miserable. Flicking through the TV channels, I came across a film called 'Losing Chase'. There was a woman in a blue dress going loopy atop a red brick lighthouse in the middle of a storm similar to the one that was raging outside my living room window. I even remember the lines spoken:
"A slow, steady decline and then BAM! One triumphant stand at Gayhead Lighthouse in the middle of a spectacular nor'easter. I sure picked one hell of a storm."
To be honest, the rest of the film was pretty crap and not worth recalling...but I remembered the lighthouse.
Ever since then, I've been fascinated by those tall buildings that warn ships of danger and guide them to safety. There's just something beautifully enduring about them; something that endears me to them and makes my heart smile every time I see one.
With Coyote, I've been lucky enough to see and photograph lighthouses in Wales, England, Ireland and Scotland - and no matter how many I see, I never get bored with them. Hell - I'm even a member of the Association of Lighthouse Keepers! Yes, I'm a nerd...and I wear my enamel pin-badge with pride ;)
Being a lighthouse geek, I'm bound to have a few favourites. Like petrolheads and their cars, some lighthouses hold special places in my heart and shine brighter than the rest. All lighthouses are wonderful (apart from the Whiteford Point Lighthouse on Gower. That one scares me.) but there are six in particular that mean a lot to me.
So, without further twaddle, I'd like to introduce you to my top six! Flashy flashy...
TRWYN DU LIGHTHOUSE, ANGLESEY
Built in 1838 at a cost of £11,589, Trwyn Du is a beautiful old lady who stands proudly between Dinmor Point and Puffin Island, Anglesey. On a quiet day, you can hear the fog bell that hangs from the railing sounding every thirty seconds.
LOOP HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY CLARE
The current tower was built in 1854 on the site of previous structures dating back to 1670. Loop Head Lighthouse stands at the tip of the Loop Head Peninsula where the Shannon River meets the Atlantic Ocean - and Coyote took me to see it on my 31st birthday. I have very happy memories of standing on top of the cliffs on a stunningly gorgeous day, looking out to the horizon. 'Next stop, America!' he smiled. (We actually went back to Galway and got a McDonald's, but I'm not fussy ;)
STRUMBLE HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, PEMBROKESHIRE
Standing alone on Ynys Meicel (St. Michael's Island), Strumble Head Lighthouse is separated from the mainland by a very narrow gap through which the sea boils and froths in stormy weather. Built in 1908, this lighthouse is the youngest of the six - but isn't lacking in charm. She packs a punch, too: Her 1,000,000 candela light can be seen 26 nautical miles away.
POINT OF AYR LIGHTHOUSE, FLINTSHIRE
Built in 1776 but inactive since 1883 when a lightship took over her duties, Point of Ayr lighthouse stands forlornly on Talacre Beach. The lighthouse once displayed two lights: The main beam shone seaward to Llandudno and a secondary beam shone up the River Dee, towards the hamlet of Dawpool in Cheshire. The lighthouse was put up for sale in November 2011 - and bought in April last year for the fair sum of £90,000. I hope the new owners can restore this sad-looking lighthouse to her original glory!
SOUTH STACK LIGHTHOUSE, ANGLESEY
Separated from Holyhead Island by 30 metres of swirling sea, South Stack Lighthouse was built in 1809 at a cost of £12,000. She's a very elegant tower; but her beauty belies her dark story. On Tuesday the 25th October 1859, the most severe storm of the century occurred. Assistant Keeper Jack Jones had been making his way across the iron footbridge to join Principal Keeper, Henry Bowen, who was already on duty. A rock was swept from the cliffs by the strong wind, fell and struck Jones on the head. Covered in blood and senseless with concussion, he dragged himself up the gale-lashed path and feebly cried out for help. He lay, head in hands, unable to move any further. Bowen found him the next morning, groaning; his hair matted with blood. Jack Jones died three weeks later of a compound fracture of the skull.
ARDNAMURCHAN LIGHTHOUSE, WEST HIGHLANDS
Situated on the most westerly point of the British mainland, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse was built in 1849 using granite from the Isle of Mull. It was designed by Alan Stevenson - uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson - whose family designed most of Scotland's lighthouses over a period of 150 years. On the morning of 22nd January 1852, there was severe storm and lightning struck the tower causing broken panes and plaster to come off the walls. Fifty feet of boundary wall was knocked down and 40 feet of road was washed away by the heavy seas. The keepers boat was broken up although they had secured it 15 feet above the last known high water mark. It's rough out there! Almost as rough as the seemingly never-ending road we had to travel to reach it. And I won't even tell you what happened on the way back. Just think full bladders + pot holes - public toilets and you'll get the general idea. Worth it, though! As every single one of them is.