On the northwest tip of the Rhinns of Galloway, Corsewall Lighthouse quietly stands guard over the ferries traversing between Stranraer and Belfast. Deep-cut rock fissures bring waves battering up in spray on this jagged and dangerous coastline. Unique rock forms can be found here, and close to the lighthouse is the Iron Age fort of Dunskirkloch.
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The name Corsewall is thought to be derived from “place of the cross”, or “well of the cross”.
Application for a light to be exhibited on Corsill Point, as it was then known, was made to the Board of Trade at Clyde in 1814 by Kirkman Finley in response to the increase in shipping trade from Greenock, Glasgow and Liverpool. The Northern Lighthouse Board approved the application the following year.
Set in twenty acres of land, the 112ft lighthouse was engineered by Robert Stevenson. It is an unusual design, with a castellated collar about a third of the way up the tower which may indicate that originally the plan was for a shorter lighthouse.
A revolving light consisting of metal parabolic reflectors with Argand oil lamps was first lit in 1817. In 1892 a revolving optic was installed, changing the character to alternate red and white flashes every minute, its range being extended from 16 to 20 miles.
The optic sits on a roller bearing, and when installed in the late 1800s would originally have been rotated by a clockwork mechanism, with a weight descending down the centre of the tower. Now it is driven by an electric motor with a backup motor in case of failure. An emergency flashing lantern with a 250-300mm polycarbonate lens and 60-watt lamp controlled with an electronic flasher is installed outside on the gallery handrail.
The foghorn gave four blasts every 90 seconds but has since been discontinued. The old red trumpet which was previously used still stands in front of the lighthouse staring silently out to sea.
Shortly after the light was first shown, it is recorded that the revolving apparatus had stopped when the Principal Keeper fell asleep whilst on watch. He was suspended from duty and later sent to Bell Rock Lighthouse, demoted to Assistant Keeper.
Damage was sustained in November 1970 when a trial flight by Concorde broke several panes of glass in the lantern room as it made its flypast. It flew past many times after, but no further damage was recorded.
The lighthouse was automated in 1994, and the keepers’ accommodation was sold privately in 1995. The lighthouse hotel changed hands again in 2021.
The reception, bar, restaurant and six bedrooms are located in the main part of the hotel, which is the former keepers’ dwelling. For guests seeking further privacy, there are further suites located nearby.
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