Point of Ayre Lighthouse

Point of Ayre Lighthouse

Point of Ayre Lighthouse is three miles north of the village of Bride and marks the northernmost tip of the Isle of Man.

It was one of the first lighthouses to be built on 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 derives from the Norse Eyre, meaning bank of san, 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 former Assistant Keepers’ apartments, stands adjacent to the tower.

Point of Ayre

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 the rights to build lighthouses on the Island. 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 progress was delayed initially due to the coastline’s high erosion rate. This forced the authorities to reconsider its initial specifications and location.

The lighthouse was finally completed in 1818, and a light was first exhibited on 1st February 1819. It is now the oldest operational lighthouse on the Island.

The original apparatus consisted of 2-foot parabolic reflectors with Argand lamps using paraffin vapour. The tower displayed a red and white alternate flash every minute. The light was rotated by a clockwork mechanism which needed winding up every 90 minutes.

Point of Ayre optic

The red prisms of the optic were removed in 1992 and replaced with clear glass. Blackout panels added around the lens changed the character 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, diesel generators and computer equipment linking to the NLB headquarters.

Point of Ayre Lighthouse was automated in 1993.

Foghorn

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.

Point of Ayre Foghorn
The foghorn and Winkie
Photo: Patrick Tubby

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. This fog signal was discontinued in August 2005.

Winkie

Beyond the fog horn, the path continues down to the shingle beach to the lower light, affectionately named by the keepers as Winkie.

Winkie, Point of Ayre

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).

Winkie
Winkie prior to decommissioning

The tower was also extended in height. As a result, the light has two doors. The upper half, the original light, is painted red. A plaque above its door states 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.

Winkie
The now decommissioned Winkie

On clear evenings the lighthouses of Mull of Galloway and St Bees can be seen flashing in the distance.

Point of Ayre LighthouseEstablished: 1819 Discontinued: Engineer: Robert Stevenson Tower Height: 30 metres Light Character: Fl (4) W 20 s Range: 19 miles Fog Signal: Discontinued 2005 Elevation: 32 metres Automated:
WinkieEstablished: 1890 Discontinued: 2010 Engineer: David A Stevenson Tower Height: 10 metres Light Character: Range: Fog Signal: Elevation: Automated: