The History of Blackhead Lighthouse: A Watchtower Over Belfast Lough

Blackhead Lighthouse serves as more than just a guide for ships; it offers a glimpse into Northern Ireland’s maritime past. The idea for a lighthouse here came about in the late 1800s during Belfast’s shipbuilding heyday. Although the Belfast Harbour Board first suggested the lighthouse in 1893, it wasn’t until 1902 that construction on the Blackhead Lighthouse, created by William Douglass, the chief engineer for the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), was finished.

During Belfast’s “golden age of shipping,” numerous ships sailed through the dangerous waters of Belfast Lough. The Blackhead Lighthouse, along with its counterpart, Mew Island Lighthouse on the south side of the Lough entrance, was instrumental in guiding these vessels safely. It’s worth mentioning that the Blackhead Lighthouse would have helped steer the tragic RMS Titanic on its doomed maiden journey in 1912.

Last time I talked about Lizard Lighthouse. In this article, I will explore another exciting facts of lighthouses in the United Kingdom, explore the history and beauty of Blackhead Lighthouse.

Table of Contents

blackhead lighthouse, blackhead lighthouse northern ireland, Blackhead lighthouse antrim, Blackhead lighthouse antrim facts, blackhead lighthouse accommodation, lighthouse holiday, lighthouse booking, blackhead lighthouse map

The Technology Behind the Light: Illuminating the Path

The Blackhead Lighthouse showcases the brilliance of lighthouse design. With a towering height of 16 meters (52 feet) and an impressive focal height of 45 meters (148 feet) above sea level, it ensures its powerful light can be seen from a distance of 27 nautical miles. Initially, it utilized a groundbreaking first-order Fresnel lens to concentrate the light source for optimal visibility. Presently, a contemporary 400W bulb still guides ships on their way with its illuminating glow.

It is interesting to note that Blackhead Lighthouse, along with other lighthouses, used fog signals to help ships navigate in poor visibility. Blackhead Lighthouse specifically used an explosive fog signal until 1972, when it became outdated due to technological advancements.

The Keepers of the Light: Guardians of Belfast Lough

Throughout its history, the Blackhead Lighthouse served not only as a building but also as a residence. Lighthouse keepers played a crucial part in ensuring the lighthouse functioned smoothly. These committed individuals were in charge of maintaining the lens, keeping the light shining brightly, and monitoring the weather. They even had a special way of communicating, using a whistle pipe network to wake up the next watch during night time shifts.

The Blackhead Lighthouse complex has a fascinating aspect – the keeper’s house that is connected to the tower through an enclosed walkway. This clever design allowed the keepers to easily move between the two structures, even during harsh coastal weather conditions.

Nevertheless, when the lighthouse became automated in 1975, the need for a keeper ceased to exist.

Beyond the Lighthouse: Exploring the Blackhead Coastal Path

The Blackhead Lighthouse is more than just a historic site; it’s a doorway to beautiful nature. The Blackhead Coastal Path, a picturesque walking trail, meanders along the shore, providing stunning sights of the lighthouse, Belfast Lough, and the impressive cliffs. This refreshing stroll is ideal for nature lovers and photographers wanting to seize the spirit of the Northern Irish coast.

While access to the Blackhead Lighthouse itself may not be possible, there are numerous opportunities to discover the area around it. In close proximity, you will find the charming village of Whitehead, which boasts a range of pubs, cafes, and restaurants. These establishments offer a wonderful setting to unwind and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.

A Night at the Lighthouse: Rekindle the Keeper’s Experience

Experience something unique by staying at the Blackhead Lightkeeper’s Houses. These renovated homes provide comfortable accommodation with a historical feel. Wake up to the sound of waves and watch ships sail through the lough – a chance to step back in time to the life of a lighthouse keeper. Enjoy the perfect mix of comfort, history, and breathtaking coastal scenery.

Blackhead Lighthouse in Film and Popular Culture

The Blackhead Lighthouse’s unique shape and interesting past have sparked creativity outside of just guiding ships at sea. It has been featured in movies and influenced various forms of art.

  • Film Appearances: The Blackhead Lighthouse has been featured in a few movies, like the 1970 historical drama “No Surrender” and the 2011 Irish coming-of-age film “Grabbers.” Its unique appearance on the Northern Irish coast brings a sense of history and authenticity to these films.
  • Artistic Inspiration: Local artists draw inspiration from the lighthouse, incorporating its beauty into their paintings and photographs. Its iconic image is commonly seen on postcards, souvenirs, and local artwork, underscoring its importance as a regional landmark.

Blackhead Lighthouse’s Future: Safeguarding a Maritime Heritage

Despite being automated, the Blackhead Lighthouse is a crucial element of maritime safety in Northern Ireland. The Irish Lights Commissioners are dedicated to maintaining and operating the lighthouse for the future.

The Blackhead Lighthouse is not only important for practical reasons but also has great historical and cultural value. Ongoing preservation work is being done to ensure that this significant maritime landmark continues to stand for future generations. It serves as a reminder of the cleverness and commitment of those who safeguarded safe travel on the oceans for many years.


The Blackhead Lighthouse is a true testament to human ingenuity and its important role in keeping ships safe. It has a fascinating history, guiding ships in Belfast’s bustling shipping industry and now serving as an automated beacon. Although you can’t climb the lighthouse, the surrounding area offers so much to explore. Take a scenic walk, visit charming villages, or even stay in a lighthouse accommodation. Whether you love history, nature, or just want a unique travel experience, the Blackhead Lighthouse is a must-see when you’re in Northern Ireland. So, put on your walking shoes, discover the stunning coastline, and dive into the incredible history of this iconic landmark.



There aren't currently any boat tours specifically focused on the Blackhead Lighthouse. However, boat tours are available in Belfast Lough that offer scenic cruises and historical insights into the area.

The Blackhead Coastal Path provides a lovely walking route with scenic views. Whitehead village, close by, offers a selection of pubs, cafes, and restaurants. For a historical and cultural experience, Carrickfergus Castle, a well-preserved Norman castle, is a short drive away.

Read More

English Village

For nature enthusiasts, English villages offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities...

Visit Windsor Castle

For over 900 years, Windsor Castle has stood tall by the River Thames, brimming with history, grand...

Car Boot Sale in London

Every Saturday in London, this bustling market is a goldmine of second-hand goods. You’ll discover...

Castle in Northern Ireland

While Northern Ireland boasts many impressive castles, there isn't one universally known as the...

Best Football Stadium in UK: Reviewed

Learn about the Best Football Stadium in UK. UK is a home to some of the most historic and...