Port Patrick

Lighthouses on the Southwest Coast of Scotland

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Holy Isle near Arran
Flag of Scotland
© Compiled by:
Bob Schrage
page updated: 01-03-2021
Ailsa Craig
Cairn Point
Cloch Point
Holy Island
Lady Isle
Little Cumbrea
Little Ross
Mull of Galloway
Mull of Kintyre
Toward Point


Place of the lighthouse

Lying just over 21 miles from the coast of Northern Ireland, there are many historic links between the village of Portpatrick and the Emerald isle, not least its name taken from a legend which had the Patron Saint of Ireland crossing the 21-mile channel in a single stride! The port, formerly named Portmontgomery, was initially used by small sailing vessels to and from the Irish port of Donaghadee. There were regular ferries to Donaghadee by 1616. Between 1770, when the first proper harbour was built by John Smeaton and 1830, the harbour served as the main route for mail, passengers and cattle to Ireland, being at the end of the military road built in 1765 from Dumfries. Smeaton, the leading civil engineer of his day, was appointed to make further improvements. He constructed breakwaters that turned the sandy bay into an enclosed harbour. The North and South piers were added in 1821 by John Rennie. You can still see where the tramway lay to the quarry for the harbour's stonework at the southern end of Portpatrick. Unfortunately, storms made short work of the North pier in 1839, but the South pier remains. The railway came to Portpatrick in 1862, shortly before the cross-channel steamer services moved to nearby Stranraer, leaving the 9-mile branch line between Stranraer and Portpatrick, with a spur to the harbour itself, struggling to survive. It eventually closed in 1950. The calm inner basin, now home to the port's lifeboat, which was constructed between 1861 and 1863, was too late to prevent the government switching the mail service to boats that plied the seas between Stranraer and Larne in 1862. The harbour fell into disuse shortly afterwards and, in 1871, the lighthouse was dismantled and re-erected in Colombo, Sri Lanka. However, fishing became an important feature of harbour life and, during the 1950s, the "ring netters" of the Clyde fleet would land huge catches of herring from around the Isle of Man and the North Channel. Today, the harbour still retains a small fleet of fishing boats and remains a popular destination for pleasure craft. It also featured in the 1954 Dirk Bogarde film Hunted with the talented child actor, Jon Whiteley. associated engineer John Smeaton John Rennie snr Sir John Rennie date 1773 - 1778, 1821 - 1839 era Georgian | category Harbour | reference NW997541 ICE reference number HEW 1276 Portpatrick Harbour lies on the stormy west coast of Scotland, on an ancient trade route with Donaghadee. Originally an exposed sandy bay, with just a simple landing stage, Portpatrick was nevertheless important as one end of the shortest sea passage to Ireland. In 1770, John Smeaton proposed two breakwaters to enclose and protect the bay. However, efforts to construct the northern breakwater on a rocky outcrop known as M'Cooks Craig failed as a result of the destructive powers of the sea, and were abandoned in 1801. The southern breakwater was built for the Post Office, to service mail packet vessels, and was completed in 1778. It had a main section 82m long, aligned south east to north west, constructed with sloping external courses of stone. A 53m long flank section branched off near the tip of the main pier, in a north easterly direction. The flank pier was founded mostly on sand using the pierres perdues method, and had a rounded pier head where the external masonry was interlocked with dovetails, 'Eddystone fashion'. A lighthouse was added in 1779. The main south pier was protected by a revetment of stone blocks in 1782, at Smeaton’s recommendation, as a defence against winter storms. By 1797, harbour works had cost some £15,000. As Thomas Telford remarked in 1802, Portpatrick remained “destitute of the advantages requisite for a perfect harbour”. Further improvements were needed, and in 1818 John Rennie Senior expanded Smeaton’s ideas, designing a deeper harbour bounded by two massive piers each with lighthouses. The estimated scheme cost was £120,000 and work began in 1821. The new south breakwater and lighthouse were completed by 1836, under John Rennie the younger, as his father had died in 1821. In 1839, a storm undermined the pier head, endangering the lighthouse and causing £13,800 worth of damage. Total costs then exceeded £170,000, so work on the unfinished north breakwater and lighthouse was stopped and never resumed. In 1849, the Irish mail service was transferred to the port of Stranraer. The railway arrived at Portpatrick in August 1862, but despite the excavation of an inner basin to the north of the harbour to accommodate Irish packet traffic, the mail service did not return to its former level. The ferry service between Larne and Stranraer began in 1862, and the official ferry terminus was relocated from Portpatrick to Stranraer in 1868. The harbour fell into disuse and was abandoned after 1873. In 1871, the lighthouse was dismantled and re-erected in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Portpatrick Harbour is now owned and managed privately. Its ruined breakwaters provide a safe haven for fishing and pleasure boats. Resident engineer (1773-5): John Gwyn Resident engineer (1775-8): James Kyle


Light character in short - - FlW 20s

Engineer: Thomas Smith (1752-1915)

Lat, Lon: 54°50.533' N, 05°07.164' W

Established: 1790
Character: Flashing White every 20 s.
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*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

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