The Lighthouses of Ushant

A consequence of the rough seas, which regularly batter the coastline around the island of Ouessant, is that it is home to a disproportionately large number of lighthouses.

There are two lighthouses located on the island itself––Phare du Stiff and Phare du Créac’h––three lighthouses offshore––Phare de la Jument, Phare de Kéréon and Phare de Nividic––not forgetting the smaller Phare de Men Korn, which is usually classified as a beacon.

Phare du Stiff is the oldest of the lighthouses, having been built by the famous French military engineer and architect Vauban in 1695.  It stands close to the radar tower at Stiff Point, on one of the highest points of the island, overlooking the Iroise Sea.

Phare du Créac’h is the most powerful lighthouse in Europe, the light from which is reputedly visible from a distance of 30 miles.  The building stands like a tall, straight, black-and-white stick of rock, and also houses a museum devoted to lighthouses, beacons and buoys: the Musée des Phares et Balises.

Phare de la Jument is perhaps most famous for an incident, which happened on 21 December 1989.  French photographer Jean Guichard was circling the lighthouse in a helicopter during stormy weather, and captured an iconic photograph of lighthouse keeper Théodore Malgorn standing at the door of the lighthouse waiting to be rescued, as an enormous wave engulfs the entire scene all around him.

Phare de Nividic is the most westerly of the lighthouses around Ouessant and is recognisable by the spider’s web construction of a helicopter pad, which sits at its summit.

Phare de Kéréon sits on Men Tensel Rock in a strait of water known as the Fromveur, which separates Ouessant from its neighbouring island, Molène.

While, Phare de Men Korn, or Tourelle de Men Korn as it is sometimes known, lies in the sea to the east of Ushant.

Perhaps even more iconic than the lighthouses themselves, are the strange structures, which stand at the edge of the sea at Pointe de Pern, in the far western corner of Ushant.  It is an area of large, wave-smoothed rocks, and white frothing seas.  Amidst this wild landscape, the structures rise up from the waters like ancient sea monsters; a small dragon-like head atop a long neck, reminiscent of the prow of a Viking longboat.

In reality, they are all that remain of an old cable car system, which once ran between Ouessant and the Phare de Nividic.  Close to these tall pylons, a small ruined building was once the base station for the cable cars, but the entire construction was dismantled in 1945.

I sit on the rocks and gaze out over the shattered landscape, a beautifully evocative mix of nature and human construction, until a chill mist begins to roll in from the sea and I decide it is time to return to my bicycle, and make the journey back to my lodgings in Lampaul.

© E. C. Glendenny

E. C. Glendenny can’t resist a tall structure.

If you want to read more, E. C. Glendenny also gets high on The Leaning Tower of Pisa; Cologne Cathedral; the Tour Saint-Jacques in Paris; and the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo in Venice.

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