Galley Head, a windswept headland overlooking the Atlantic Ocean near Rosscarbery in County Cork, is a place of incredible natural beauty and rich historical significance. At its heart stands the iconic Galley Head Lighthouse, which has stood sentinel over the coast for over a century.
Built in 1875, the lighthouse is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the Victorian era. Standing at over 100 metres above the sea, it is one of the tallest lighthouses in Ireland, and along with its neighbours at Old Head of Kinsale and Fastnet, plays a vital role in guiding shipping along these treacherous coasts.
The light from Galley Head Lighthouse is a unique sight, as it arcs not only seaward, but also landward. This is said to be due to the influence of the Sultan of Turkey, who was visiting nearby Castle Freke in Rosscarbery and wished to see the light.
While the lighthouse is not open to the public except during Heritage Week each year in late August (12th-20th August in 2023), visitors can still experience the magic of Galley Head by staying in one of two beautifully restored lightkeeper’s cottages. These charming cottages offer a glimpse into the lives of the hardy souls who manned the lighthouse in years gone by, and provide a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
There are 2 parts of the lighthouse which are open to bookings to stay there, within the lighthouse itself. These start at €568 for 2 nights and nearby activities include “dolphin and whale watching, surfing at Inchydoney Blue Flag Beach or a historical walking tour of Clonakilty.”
You can check availability and book on the Irish Landmark Trust website.
If you’re driving, take the N71 from Cork City towards Rosscarbery, and then follow the signs for Galley Head. The journey should take around an hour and a half, depending on traffic.
If you prefer to take public transport, you can catch a bus from Cork City to Rosscarbery, and then either take a taxi or walk the remaining five miles to Galley Head. The journey is a little longer by public transport, but it’s a great way to take in the stunning scenery of West Cork along the way.