Blacksod Lighthouse
Blacksod Lighthouse

Blacksod Lighthouse Offers Guided Tours

Blacksod Lighthouse in County Mayo, responsible for changing the course of World War II, is now offering guided tours.
Blacksod Harbour with the lighthouse in the distance. Photo: Christian McLeod Photography for Tourism Ireland.

The 30-minute guided tours are available Monday through Friday and also on the weekends.

Tours must be pre-booked.

How Blacksod Lighthouse Changed the Course of History

Located on the southern end of the Mullet Peninsula near Erris, this two-story square building played a pivotal role at the end of the war.

That was when lightkeepers Ted and Maureen Sweeney sent out a weather report by telephone just after 2 a.m. on June 3, 1944, that was shared with the British government as part of an agreement between neutral Ireland and Great Britain.

The report warned of a “Force 6 wind and a rapidly falling barometer” at Blacksod.

This was crucial given that the planned Allied invasion of Normandy was dependent solely on the weather.

Once U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower received the weather report from the British, he decided to delay the invasion, likely saving thousands of lives, ensuring a victory against Germany, and changing the course of history and of the world.
The clear waters of the Mullet Peninsula in Co. Mayo. Photo courtesy of Gareth Wray Photography.

As a result of this, the events of D-Day that were originally scheduled for June 5th, 1944, were changed to the following day, June 6th.

The History of the Lighthouse

When you take a guided tour of the lighthouse, you'll no doubt learn much more about this fascinating turn of events.

The 39-foot (12-meter) lighthouse, located at Blacksod Pier, was built in 1864 by Bryan Carey, a merchant from the nearby town of Belmullet.

The shape of the building, which has always remained unpainted, is unusual for a lighthouse.

The only section of it that is painted white is the conical lantern at the top.

The keeper of Blacksod Lighthouse is also responsible for another lighthouse called Blackrock Lighthouse.

Blackrock Lighthouse

That lighthouse is located on a high pyramid-shaped rock known as Blackrock Island, 12 miles west of Blacksod Bay.
Blackrock Lighthouse on a rocky outcrop of an island off the coast of Co. Mayo. Photo: By MikaLaureque – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Inspections and maintenance visits are made by helicopter via a helipad on the island.

This is the only way of getting to the structure. An old keeper's house that was recently restored is used by maintenance crew who need to spend more time at the lighthouse.

The 82-meter (269 feet) Blackrock Lighthouse is one of Ireland’s remotest lighthouses and the most westerly off the Mayo coast.

Several incidents and accidents are associated with it, including the loss of a lightkeeper in 1937 and damage to the lighthouse as a result of a German bomber attack in 1940 intended for a nearby ship.

Blacksod Bay’s Connection with the Spanish Armada

The area is also synonymous with another international tragedy, that of the ill-fated Spanish Armada.

On Sept. 17, 1588, the captain of La Rata attempted to find shelter in Blacksod Bay from the North Atlantic’s swells, but the continuing bad weather pushed the ship out into the open sea again.

On Sept. 21, it eventually ran aground near Fahy Point in Tullaghan Bay.

Seeking refuge in nearby Doona Castle (also known locally as Fahy Castle), the captain and his men stripped the ship of its cannons, stores, and valuables and set it on fire.

They then fortified the castle waiting for the English to attack.


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Came across some #drone footage that I took while in #MayoCounty #Ireland when I was there with my brother last month. Doona is a small town in Mayo where my grandmother was born in the late 19th century before she emigrated to the United States. In these clips I show the Fahy Castle ruin that is near by. You can see more of my trip at which are little more than expanded Snapchat stories. I decided to put more of my video work up on #Instagram in 2017 and blend it in with more photo work that I have planned. #Travel #Bay #Ocean #BlueSkies #Green #Castle #Ruin #FahyCastle #azphotographer #azvideographer #phantom3 #motion #phototovideo #premierepro #aftereffects

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A few days later, two other ships from the Spanish Armada sailed into Blacksod Bay more successfully.

They included close to 700 men, along with guns and ammunition.

Before setting off for Spain, the crews took over Sir Edmund Barrett’s Castle in Doolough and several other castles belonging to him in the area.

What’s to See in the Area Around Blacksod Bay

The Iniskea Islands

During the summer months, from May through September, you can take a boat trip to the nearby Inishkea South Island courtesy of Belmullet Boat Charters, with a guided tour included.

a beach with mountains in the background Blacksod Lighthouse
A view of the Inishkea Islands off the coast of County Mayo, a Wild Atlantic Way Discovery Point. Photo: Shane Young for Tourism Ireland.

The island and its neighbor, Inishkea North, have been deserted since the 1930s following a tragic fishing accident when 10 local men drowned.

Named after the barnacle geese that migrate to the islands from Greenland each winter, visitors can spend up to four hours on the island.

You'll find the remains of beehive huts used by monks between the 6th and 10th centuries, abandoned old cottages now filled with sand, and the peace and quiet of this unknown yet strikingly beautiful place.

Discover more in the video below, courtesy of Blue Flag Media.

Saint Deirbhle’s Heritage Centre

The center, located in Belmullet about 3 km (2 miles) away is dedicated to St. Deirbhile (pronounced “Dervla”) who came to the area in the 6th century from her native County Meath.

According to legend, she was escaping an admirer when she fled to the West of Ireland.
The heritage center is dedicated to Saint Deirbhle. Photo: By Oliver Dixon, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The center contains items related to local folklore, archaeology, and history. It is presented in both Irish and English.

Some of the items include a creel, which is a big square basket made from sally rods and is typically attached to a donkey’s back to carry things such as turf, seaweed, and potatoes, in addition to old cooking utensils, a quilt, and more.

Other notable attractions in the area associated with Saint Deirbhle include St. Deirbhle’s Church, pictured below.

the ruins of a stone building Blacksod Lighthouse
The ruined Saint Deirbhle's Church in Co. Mayo. Photo: Andreas F. Borchert, CC BY-SA 4.0,

According to local legend, if you can squeeze yourself through the west window of the ruined 12th-century church three times, you'll never die from drowning!

Another attraction associated with the saint is St. Deirbhle’s Blessed Well, a place of pilgrimage for many who believe that the water within the well will cure eye problems.

Interestingly, the legend associated with this belief is that when Deirbhle arrived in Mayo, her admirer followed her. To make herself less attractive, she gouged out her eyes, only to get her sight back again after dipping her face in the well.

Deirbhle's Twist, Ireland's Stonehenge

This series of sculptures, often compared to the famous Stonehenge in England, was created by artist Michael Bulfin.

It is the last part of a sculpture trail that was created for Mayo 5,000, a year-long cultural celebration of County Mayo that took place in 1993.

a group of standing stones Blacksod Lighthouse
Deirbhle's Twist in Blacksod. Photo: Peter McCabe for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

Known as “Deirbhle's Twist,” the stone circle is made from local granite stones in the form of a twist, with 22 stepping stones leading up to it.

The striking sculptures overlook Blacksod Bay.

Read More: Traveling in Co. Mayo on a Budget

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