Blackhead Antrim Lighthouse

Blackhead Antrim Lighthouse
Photo: Patrick Tubby

Blackhead Antrim Lighthouse is located on the northern entrance to Belfast Lough at the south end of Islandmagee.  Mew Island Lighthouse marks the entrance to the lough on the southern side. It is referred to as Blackhead Antrim Lighthouse to avoid confusion with Blackhead Lighthouse in county Clare.

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Application for a lighthouse at Blackhead was first made in 1893 by the Belfast Harbour Board.  However, this application was refused by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.  A second application was also refused in 1898. Following further discussion, the Board of Trade and Trinity House agreed to fund the construction of a lighthouse and fog signal.

Blackhead at night
Photo: Patrick Tubby

William Douglass designed the lighthouse, and work began on its construction in 1899.   The lighthouse was first lit on 1st April 1902.

The 52 feet high octagonal tower was originally painted red but later repainted white.  There are three cottages behind the tower for the keepers and their families. A covered walkway originally connected the two behind the tower, but this has since been closed up.

An explosive fog signal also came into operation when the lighthouse was established.  From September 1965 onwards, a flash of light accompanied the explosive fog signal.  The fog signal was decommissioned in February 1972.

Blackhead at Sunrise
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The lighthouse was automated on 31st July 1975 when the lighthouse keepers were withdrawn.

Until April 1992, Mew Island operated a radio beacon calibration service.  After that time, it was moved to Blackhead Lighthouse.  Technology has now moved on, so the radio beacon was decommissioned in February 1999.

Blackhead from cliffs
Photo: Patrick Tubby

The lighthouse is located close to the village of Whitehead. The Blackhead Coastal Path runs from the car park at Whitehead, looping round past the lighthouse and caves at the base.  One of the caves is known as McCartney’s Cave, because, in the early 1800s, a schoolteacher named Thomas McCartney used to live in one of the caves.

The Blackhead Coastal Path was developed for tourism and was the precursor to the Gobbins Coastal Path.  The Gobbins is located a few miles along the coast and is worth visiting.  It is a challenging walk and needs to be pre-booked.



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Established: 1902
Engineer: William Douglass
Tower Height: 16 metres
Light Character: Fl W 3 s
Light Range: 27 miles
Elevation: 45 metres
Automated: 31 July 1975