A bit of history about the skerries light house..The skerries light house sits 12 nautical miles north of holyhead harbour and was erected in 1716 by a William trench who lost a son off the rocks. It was given a further facelift in 1759 with a limestone tower and was light with a coal brazier at the time. Further developments where made to extend it in 1778 where a top iron clad balcony was added by the then owner Morgan jones and it was given a oil burning latern, to which the latern was covered all around with glazed square panels covered by a cupola.
Trinity house took over operation of the lighthouse under an enabling act of 1836, but not without a fight from the original owners, who wanted to protect their investment from a low takeover price. Many changes where made to the build of the lighthouse and subsequent additions to upgrade its mirrors which where changed to a new type of lens. On the north facing doorway there stands still the Trinity House coat of arms, which now leads to the engine room.
The light shines at a height of 36 metres (118 ft) above the average high tide, with an intensity of 1,150,000 candles. It flashes twice every 10 seconds and can be seen 22 nmi (41 km; 25 mi) away. In 1903–4, a solid circular tower, about 3 metres (9.8 ft) in diameter, was added to the south-west side of the main tower to carry a sector light. This shines at an elevation of 26 metres (85 ft) above the sea. The light was automated in 1987 and is now controlled from Holyhead.
Nearby are dwellings having cobbled yards and entrance stairs, along with symmetrically sited privies, a garden, a stone bridge connecting two islets, and a unique stone well-head building. An axial corridor leads from the dwellings to the lighthouse tower’s base. The early date of the lighthouse keepers cottages makes the buildings of considerable interest. For a number of summers, they have been used by wardens working for the RSPB.
We took the rib one sunny after noon for a jolly from holyhead marina to see the Skerries lighthouse while the tides and weather where favourable. The rib had been purchased recently from the Yachtshop at Holyhead Marina and we had yet to give it a full blast to test its metal.
A colleague who’s a local A&E Doctor has recently been bitten by the maritime bug and had been keen to get some nautical adventures under his belt so off we went to scope things out. The Boat named Cadwalader is a 6.5m Rib plated with a 75hp Mercury 4 stroke for you engine minded people, and to its credit, it had a lot of go under the hammer. The set up of the aft console was a new one for me, and if I’m honest a bit tricky to manage in a swell as the steering wheels position can only be comfortably managed standing up- that said the boat was ship shape and we nipped out of the harbour past the end of the breakwater and headed north for a bit.
I do love seeing the Holyhead breakwater from the sea side, we spent many many a cold winter night fishing from its end in the deep of night freezing cold in the search to catch big opportunist cod passing by after a storm, Cod of 15-20ld have been know to frequent our breakwater for those hard enough to have the elements! My best was 15ld at the age of 14, almost as big as me. The breakwater has seen a big deterioration in its condition over the years and its a sad shame, through vandalism and strong winter storms its had a battering. However the breakwater (the longest in Europe) still stretches the 1.7mile out to sea protecting our non tidally affected harbour and provides great shelter for many craft seeking the calmer waters of an anchorage. It would be good to see this breakwater be given full recognition and protection for the amazing structure that it is. It holds personal significance to me also as my family where lighthouse keepers there, many a story was passed down through them to me regarding the breakwater, the skerries and many other lighthouses that had been under our family management.
Off we passed the lighthouse and gave a wave to the invisible keeper (a tradition I hold true to this day) and off across a 10 mile stretch of water that separates the skerries light house from holyhead harbour. The waters here run thick and fast and the running will pack a punch if your not expecting it. Tidal speeds can reach over 5 knots at full speed so get your tides correct if your heading out. In a Rib it possess little problem but in a yacht under sail it may do.. The waters where lumpy but not confused and we had the last of the tide pushing us up there.. All of a sudden we had all out power shortage, which isn’t ideal when your in the middle of the fairway of the main ferry. Turned out to be a loose connection which Dr Williams handled with much calmness and curiosity. Power back on after the Dr’s electrical skills , we powered up and got her on the plane.
The entrance to the Skerries Lagoon sits well behind the lighthouse to the North West. I wont detail the ways to enter here- but to look it up in the Almanac if you so choose to visit. It requires some timing correctly with tides if you are in a yacht so do your planning especially on spring tides. We entered the lagoon and tied up to the steps which lead upto the light house..(A video will posted of this on Instagram look up @whatsonnorthwales). We then headed up to the light house via the path. the light house has been maintained very well and thats a pleasure to see. The outbuildings have also, I guess by the RSPB who are stationed there for a few months a year monitoring the migrating Turns and other anthology. We took a tour around the light house and up onto the viewing gallery (I think this is not permitted) however we where careful and took care in our presence.
The views from the roof tops where fantastic and Carmel head could be seen of to the east, South stack light house to the west and holyhead break water to the south. To the north there was nothing but water that separated us and the Scottish Isles. We did a full lap and then headed to to see what the local seals where doing in the coves below. The seal colonies here are vast and their population is thriving which is great to see. I once kayaked around the skerries after we moored up on a yacht in the lagoon.. The experience was interesting as the seals would follow you (being playful critters that they are) and pop up when you where least expecting it right infant or behind your kayak- a few expletives would be announced occasionally as they would give you such a fright with their stealth. They happily come within 2 meters of your kayak, and eyeball you with their big puppy dog eyes. There was a chap there just bedding down in one of the out buildings of the cottages near the lighthouse with his sleeping bag all rolled out and bivy blanket set up, who had paddled all the way from Treaddur bay solo earlier that day on his Sea Kayak..Fair play to these guys they must love the adventure it gives them..
After a lap of the lighthouse and a wander to the heli pad, we walked back down to the landing station where the davit still remains for unloading the ships and boats of yesteryear. We said good bye to the kayaker and I cordially asked him how and where he was going next, he said he may do a full lap around anglesey as his car was parked in the Menai bridge! We hopped aboard and untied the vessel and we were off back out of the lagoon to holyhead. Not long spent there but enough to take in the beautiful scenery and breathe the super fresh sea air in. We will return for a night camp in the summer..
Home on the rib was a pleasure at 25 knots and a tail swell and before you can sneeze your home. An enjoyable quick stint out there and back in two hours.. Go and check it out if you have a chance. There is a good marina chandlery (Yachtshop) and two slip ways to launch from at Holyhead harbour either at the Sailing club or at the Marina. More on those two another time.. have fun!