INISHEER SIGNAL TOWER
Inisheer (or Inis Oírr in Irish) is the smallest and most eastern of the three Aran Islands, located off the coast of County Galway in Ireland. The island is known for its natural beauty, cultural heritage and friendly inhabitants. But it also has a fascinating history that can be seen in its many historic buildings and monuments. One of these is the Inisheer Signal Tower, a stone structure that stands on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
A signal tower is a type of fortification that was built by the British government along the coast of Ireland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The purpose of these towers was to provide an early warning system in case of a French invasion, which was a constant threat during the Napoleonic Wars. The towers were equipped with flags, lanterns and telescopes that could communicate with each other and with nearby military stations. The signals could convey information about the location, direction and size of enemy ships, as well as other messages.
The Inisheer Signal Tower was built in 1799, as part of a network of 81 towers that stretched from Dublin to Malin Head in Donegal. The tower on Inisheer was the 67th in the series, and it was connected to the towers on Inishmore (the largest Aran Island) and Golam Island (a small island south of Inishmore). The tower on Inisheer was strategically located to cover the entrance to Galway Bay, as well as the South Sound between Inisheer and Inishmaan (the middle Aran Island).
The tower was constructed by local labourers under the supervision of British engineers. It was made of limestone blocks that were quarried on the island. The tower had two floors and a flat roof, where a flagstaff and a lantern were mounted. The ground floor had a fireplace and a window, while the upper floor had two windows and a door that led to the roof. The tower was surrounded by a low wall that formed a courtyard, where a guardhouse and a storehouse were located.
The Inisheer Signal Tower was operational until 1812, when it was replaced by a lighthouse on the same site. The lighthouse was built by George Halpin, a famous Irish engineer who designed many lighthouses around Ireland. The lighthouse had a fixed white light that was visible for 14 miles. It was powered by oil lamps and reflectors, and it had a keeper who lived in a cottage nearby.
The lighthouse on Inisheer was active until 1857, when it was decommissioned because it was too low and it did not cover the North Sound between Inisheer and Inishmore. A new lighthouse was built on Inisheer at a higher elevation, and it is still working today.
The old signal tower and lighthouse on Inisheer were abandoned and fell into ruin. They were partially restored in 1997 by Duchas, the Irish heritage service, with the help of local volunteers. Today, they are protected as national monuments and they are accessible to visitors who want to enjoy the panoramic views and learn more about the history of the island.
The signal tower is open to the public all year round, and there is no admission fee. There is an information board at the site that explains its history and significance. The signal tower is one of the most scenic spots on Inisheer, offering stunning views of the ocean, the cliffs, the other Aran Islands and the mainland. It is also a great place to watch the sunset or to observe the stars at night. The signal tower is a reminder of the rich and turbulent history of Inisheer, and a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of its people.
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