Home » Attractions, Destinations » The Longships and the Lighthouse


Just one and a quarter miles away from Land’s End, the westernmost point of England, there is a rocky outcrop that spells danger and death to ships and sailors. It’s called the Longships, and the number of shipwrecks there has made it into an excellent diving location, as there’s plenty to see, but that’s of little comfort to the people on board the boats. The lighthouse has become a popular sight amongst those on cottage holidays in Cornwall.

In 1795 a lighthouse was built on the island, its purpose, as with all lighthouses, to warn ships away from the rocky outcrop. It was an excellent plan, and saved many lives. The only problem with it was that the highest point of the rocks, where the lighthouse was built, was only forty feet above sea level. The lighthouse itself was another forty feet, and because the Atlantic isn’t the calmest of waters, eighty foot waves weren’t such a rare occurrence that this didn’t cause problems. In high seas, the lighthouse wasn’t visible, and its light didn’t shine out to warn ships of the danger nearby. This was hardly ideal.

Because of the dangers of high seas to both this light house and the ships that couldn’t see it, Trinity House ordered another built in 1869. Trinity House are the public, non-departmental body that oversees the building and maintenance of lighthouses, lightvessels and buoys. They also, since their use become standard, ensure that maritime radio and satellite communication systems are operating. They do all of this in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, but not Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man.

This new tower was first lit in 1873, but that didn’t stop the S.S. Bluejacket being wrecked on the rocks right by the light house on a clear night, nearly taking the light house with it. Luckily, the lighthouse remained, and has so up until the present day, though it became unmanned in 1988.

As was mentioned above, the Longships are a very interesting place for diving. This is partly because the number of shipwrecks there, from both before and after the building of the lighthouse, has made it a historically interesting place. It’s also because the rocks themselves are filled with gullies and canyons, and absolutely teem with marine life.

Many places, especially houses or cottages on the nearby Cornish coast, use Longships in their name, recognising the fact that looking out to see the rocks has become something of an attraction for tourists. It’s not uncommon to see Cornish Holiday Cottages like “Longships View” around the coastline.

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