With Waterford Harbour to the west, Slade Bay to the east, and the Irish Sea to the south, Hook Peninsula is the southern most point of County Wexford. Like a sentry guarding passage, Hook Lighthouse stands 100 feet high, with walls of remarkable thickness. The lighthouse is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the world and has been a fixture on the peninsula for over 800 years. Legend states that the monks who founded a monastery on the headland were the first light keepers, having established the first beacon in the fifth century. Waterford Harbour is the mouth of ‘three incomparable sisters commonly called the three famous rivers of Barrow, Nore and Suir, whose lovely embracements makes the harbour deep and spatious, safe for navigation which plentifully enricheth the several parths of this nation by traffic and commerce, with shipping both foreign and domestic’ and has played an important part in the trade and shipping economic history of the region.
Sharing the peninsula with the lighthouse is a Big House known as Loftus Hall, a ‘gaunt 3 storey mansion… near the tip of the Hook Head, and must have been one of the most wind-swept noblemen’s seats in the British Isles.' It was built in 1350 by the Redmond family and was bought by the Loftus family in 1650. In 1666, Henry Loftus had oversight of Hook Lighthouse through a lease, preventing it from being transferred by Queen Anne to the Revenue Commissioners. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, repairs were made to the lighthouse and ‘a new, but still coal burning lantern was installed on top of the tower to replace the old beacon light.’ Henry’s son, Nicholas Loftus, was known as ‘The Extinguisher’ and threatened to close the lighthouse in 1728 unless he was given more money by the authorities. Controversy surrounds Loftus Hall, and it is considered the most haunted house in all of Ireland. Legend has it, that while the Loftus family was away on business in the 1780s, the Tottenham family were trusted to watch over the mansion, and they brought along their daughter Anne. One stormy night, a sailor’s boat wrecked along the shore, and he arrived at the mansion seeking shelter. According to Mrs. Roche of Gobbinstown, Co. Wexford ‘a fine looking, well-dressed man came in, and the people asked him to play [cards]. So he sat down and began to play… One night when they were playing a game a card fell on the ground, and when the men looked for it they saw that the strange man had a cloven foot. It was the devil. They sent for two priests and they made the Devil go out through the roof and as he was going out, he burned a hole in the roof. That hole is there still there… [and] the girl went mad.’ Anne Tottenham, who was in love with the man, was locked away in the Tapestry room where she eventually died years later. The Loftus family lived in the house until 1917, when it was sold to the Sisters of Providence and became a convent, and subsequently sold to the Quigley family who ran guided tours of the property.
The Loftus family handed over the lighthouse in 1810, to an organization known as the Commissioners of Irish Lights. Over the years, the Hook Lighthouse beacon was upgraded from coal to whale oil, and from gas lights to electricity. In March of 1996, the Commissioners decided to retire the lighthouse keepers and control the beacon remotely.