The Hook Head Lighthouse is 800 years old and is the oldest operational Lighthouse in the world. It is located down on the Hook Peninsula in the southeast corner of Ireland. At first thought, visiting Hook Head Lighthouse with a toddler may not sound like the most alluring activity; however, we found the experience totally enjoyable and Lighthouses are now one of our son’s favorite things! We visited the Lighthouse in November when my son was 2.5 years old and still on one nap. We found this excursion to be very manageable and once we were out there, we could have easily spent ½ a day exploring the grounds, Lighthouse and grabbing a bite to eat.
If you’d like to check out this extraordinary example of an ancient lighthouse, here are my Top 6 Tips for visiting Hook Head Lighthouse with a Toddler:
1. Hook Head Lighthouse is Out There
All Lighthouses are either at the edge of where the land meets the sea or are actually in the sea. The Hook Lighthouse is no different. It’s down in the southeast corner of Ireland, out on the Hook peninsula. The drive is not prohibitively far but plan accordingly: it’s about an hour from Wexford town, about an hour and 10 minutes from Waterford town, and two hours, 45 minutes from Dublin. Which leads me to my next tip.
2. Try to Plan Your Visit Around Naptime
If you plan on doing the guided tour (which I recommend) then I’d plan the tour time around naptime. We inadvertently showed up at 12:58 pm and frantically joined the 1 pm tour, as the next tour wasn’t until 2 pm. If we had had to wait until 2 pm for the next tour we would have skipped it. Baby Bear was due for a nap and it wouldn’t have been pleasant for anyone on the 2 pm tour. There are other areas to explore around the Lighthouse, but the guided tour will be the focal point of your visit.
3. Do the Guided Tour
The Lighthouse Itself
To my knowledge, this is the only way to explore the Lighthouse itself and I’d say that it’s worth it. Our tour guide was so knowledgeable and she clearly had a profound love for the Lighthouse that really came through in her presentation. Baby Bear did great. He really liked the spiral staircase and the small windows. He also enjoyed checking out the artifacts and replicas throughout the Lighthouse. There was also some really neat sensory stuff, cool lights and textures, and little passageways to explore. My son likes to explore and an old building like this was just up his alley!
Another thing that I liked about the tour was that the tour guide kept it moving. She did stop to explain the history and various parts of the Lighthouse; however, we never paused for too long in one place and my toddler never got too antsy.
At the end of the tour, you are rewarded with some great vistas from the top of the Lighthouse. For me, this was the highlight of the tour. You get a great view of the southern tip of the peninsula and beautiful views of the Irish Sea and countryside.
Tour Times & Pricing
The website states that tours are conducted every half hour and last about 30 minutes. Yet, when we were there in November they were running tours every hour and they lasted ~45 minutes. (The tour could take longer depending on how long you spend in/on the Lighthouse taking pictures).
As of the writing of this article admission for adults was €9, seniors, €8 and children 0-4 were free. There are also various package deals for families. Please see the Lighthouse’s ticketing page here, for the current pricing scheme. You will purchase your tickets in the Visitor’s Center.
A Note on Claustrophobia & Fear of Heights
I should say that if you or your child gets claustrophobic or if you are extremely afraid of heights, this may not be the tour for you. The stairwell up the Lighthouse is small and narrow. The Lighthouse is not extremely tall, however, the fencing at the top is only about 4 feet high. It’s definitely adequate, but if you have a fear of heights, it may not sit well with you.
4. Dine at the Café & Check Out the Gift Shop
Next, there is a Visitor’s Center which includes a cafe and a gift shop.
In the Visitor’s Center, you will find restrooms equipped with a changing table. Use the bathroom here as there is no restroom in the Lighthouse. If your toddler is potty training or cannot hold it then I’d suggest a pull-up for this excursion. It is not a quick trip from the top of the Lighthouse down to the Visitor’s Center.
The gift shop is small but sufficient. You will find typical gift shop items but also some cool general Irish history souvenirs as well. We got Baby Bear a little Lighthouse figurine and he LOVES it.
Finally, grab a bite to eat. It’s a small café but they had a surprisingly large menu. I really liked the café because they had vegetarian and vegan options, but also because they had good options for children.
For vegetarians and vegans, they had homemade scones, vegan butter, vegetable soup, baked potatoes, Moroccan sweet potato bake, spicy falafel salad, and chickpea curry.
For the kiddos, they had scones, soup, grilled cheese (called a toasted sandwich), pasta, chicken tenders, and french fries.
Here is the menu from the day we went.
5. Explore the Peninsula Itself and the Grounds Surrounding the Lighthouse
Very close to the parking lot is a small museum of sorts (when I say small, I mean smaaaaaallll), but it displays some neat little artifacts pertaining to the sea and maritime life.
There is also a field in front of the Lighthouse and a rocky landscape surrounding it. The day we went it was rainy and overcast, but we still explored the grounds and let Baby Bear run around in the field.
The Lighthouse is at the very end of the peninsula so you will be literally right next to the Irish Sea. There are lots of cool rocks and geological formations to walk around and look at. We walked around to the ‘back’ of the Lighthouse and were able to get some stunning panoramic shots. You do have to take caution not to get too close to the rocks as the sea is very rough and it can fill pockets in the rocks very quickly.
6. Bring Appropriate Gear
The Lighthouse is at the edge of Ireland, jutting out into the Irish Sea. Even on a nice day, the weather can change quickly and it can be windy and cold. I’d throw your wellies (rain boots) into the car and bring either a windbreaker in the summer or a heavier coat in the winter. I’d also put heavy socks on the kiddo and bring a hat and mittens, just in case. The Lighthouse is not heated so it can get pretty brisk on the tour.
I hope that this post encourages you to visit the Hook Head Lighthouse! I also hope that it has answered some questions and has provided you with some resources to plan your visit! If you have other questions, here is the official brochure for the Hook Head Lighthouse.
Have you been down to the Hook? If so, let me know what your favorite experience was and if you have any other tips for visiting Hook Head Lighthouse with a toddler!
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