Point of Ayre Lighthouse is three miles north of the village of Bride. It marks the northernmost tip of the Isle of Man.
It was one of the first lighthouses to be built in the Isle of Man for the Northern Lighthouse Board.
Four miles of coastline called the Ayres stretch between Rue Point and Point of Ayre. The name is derived from the Norse Eyre, meaning bank of sand or gravel, or gravelly beach.
To the left of the main entrance is the former Principal Keeper’s cottage, a single storey detached building. Next to this, a two-storey building, the formerAssistant Keepers’ apartments, stands adjacent to the tower.
In July 1815 a Bill was passed to build a lighthouse at the Point of Ayre. At this time, neither the Northern Lighthouse Board nor Trinity House had rights to build lighthouses on the Island, and it was not until 1854 that an Act gave the Commissioners of Northern Lighthouses the power to erect lights or beacons on the Island.
Work commenced building the lighthouse in late 1815 but was delayed initially due to the coastline’s high erosion rate, which forced the authorities to reconsider its initial specifications and location.
The lighthouse was finally completed in 1818, and a light first exhibited on 1st February 1819. It is now the oldest operational light on the Island.
The original apparatus consisted of 2-foot parabolic reflectors with Argand lamps, powered by paraffin vapour. The tower displayed a red and white alternate flash every minute, rotated by a clockwork mechanism which needed winding up every 90 minutes.
The red prisms of the optic were removed in 1992 and replaced with clear glass. Blackout panels added around the lens changed the characteristic to four white flashes every twenty seconds.
124 steps lead to the top of the 105ft (32m) high tower to the first-order optic. Underneath is the original clockwork mechanism visible through the glass casing.
Beyond the red and white tower is the old engine room which is no longer in use. To the left, a smaller building housed rows of batteries, the diesel generators and computer equipment that link directly to the NLB headquarters in Edinburgh.
Point of Ayre Lighthouse was automated in 1993.
Outside on the heathland, a pathway through the heather and gorse leads to the old foghorn. Originally one horn was used. The second was added later.
Compressed air was piped to the storage tanks from Kelvin diesel engines, giving a signal of three 2.5 second blasts every 90 seconds. The foghorn could be heard up to 26 miles away.
The trumpets now sit proudly and silently on their concrete base. They were discontinued in 1982 when an electric fog signal emitter was added to the tower, a tiny device in comparison to the original structure. The fog signal was discontinued in August 2005.
Beyond the fog horn, the path continues down to the shingle beach to the lower light, affectionately known by the keepers as Winkie.
The octagonal tower, 33 feet (10 metres) high, was constructed in 1890 years after the lighthouse due to the shingle build up.
Winkie was initially located further inland, approximately 754ft (230m) seaward and northeast of the main Lighthouse. However, due to the rapidly shifting shingle it was later moved another 754ft (230m).
The tower was also extended in height. As a result, the light has two doors. The upper half, the original light, is painted red, the plaque above its door stating that it was built in 1889 by James Dove & Co of Edinburgh; the lower half, painted white, was built in 1950.
Winkie had an elevation of 33ft (10m) above high water spring tides, with a range of 8 nautical miles, and flashes white every 3 seconds.
Following a review of navigation aids, Winkie was decommissioned on 7th April 2010 and sold privately, with an asking price of £10,000.
On clear evenings the lighthouses of Mull of Galloway and St Bees can be seen flashing in the distance.