What Is The Tallest Lighthouse In Wales [Unveiled]

Kieran Doodi

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The Smalls Lighthouse standing tall on a rocky outcrop in the sea, with a clear blue sky in the background.

Wales is renowned for its captivating coastlines and maritime history, and amongst its array of navigational aids, the Smalls Lighthouse stands out as the tallest. Located on The Smalls, a group of rocks approximately 20 miles west of the Marloes Peninsula in Pembrokeshire, Wales, the Smalls Lighthouse reaches a height of 41 meters (135 feet)​​. Erected in 1861, it replaced an earlier structure built in 1776 and holds the distinction of being the most remote lighthouse operated by Trinity House​​.

Table: Key Statistics of Smalls Lighthouse, Wales

Feature Detail
Location The Smalls, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Height 41 meters (135 feet)
First Lit 1861 (current structure)
Focal Height 36 meters (118 feet)
Operational Range 18 nautical miles (33 km; 21 mi)
Power Source Solar power
Operator Trinity House
Heritage Grade II listed building

This lighthouse not only serves as an essential navigational aid but also as a testament to historical resilience and technological evolution in lighthouse design.

The Role of Lighthouses in Welsh Coastal History

Lighthouses in Wales have long been integral to the safety and development of maritime activities. They have guided ships through treacherous waters, marking dangerous coastlines and providing safe passage.

The history of these lighthouses, including the Smalls Lighthouse, is intertwined with stories of innovation, tragedy, and endurance. The original Smalls Lighthouse, erected between 1775 and 1776, stood on nine oak pillars, a design chosen for its elasticity and reliability​​.

Overview of Lighthouses in Wales

Wales’ lighthouses, each unique in its design and history, dot the Welsh coastline, serving as historical landmarks and operational aids for navigation.

The Smalls Lighthouse, in particular, has a history marked by notable events such as the Smalls Lighthouse Tragedy in 1801, which led to a change in lighthouse policy regarding staffing​​, and the 1831 storm that severely damaged the structure​​.

These incidents highlight the challenging conditions faced by lighthouse keepers and the pivotal role these structures have played in maritime safety.

The next section will explore the architectural design and engineering feats of the Smalls Lighthouse, shedding light on the ingenuity and technical advancements that make it a significant landmark in Wales.

Architectural Wonders: Design of Wales’ Tallest Lighthouse

Engineering Behind the Height

The Smalls Lighthouse, with its impressive 41-meter height, showcases a remarkable feat of engineering. The current structure, designed by James Walker and completed in 1861 under the supervision of engineer James Douglass, replaced the original 1776 lighthouse​​.

Its tapered cylindrical tower, topped with a lantern and a helipad, stands robustly on the rugged rocks of The Smalls​​. The lighthouse’s design not only ensures its prominence over the waves but also its resilience against harsh maritime conditions.

Materials and Construction Techniques

Constructed with enduring materials, the Smalls Lighthouse epitomizes the advancement in lighthouse construction techniques of its time.

The choice of materials and the structural design were influenced by the need to withstand the extreme weather conditions experienced in its remote location.

The tower’s unpainted, basalt and dolerite structure is a testament to the careful consideration given to durability and functionality in its construction​​​​.

Location and Accessibility: A Guide to Visiting

Best Time to Visit

The Smalls Lighthouse, although remote, can be a fascinating destination for those interested in maritime history and rugged coastal scenery.

The best time to visit would depend on the weather conditions in Pembrokeshire, which are typically more favourable during the spring and summer months.

Access Routes and Local Transportation

Given its location 20 miles off the Pembrokeshire coast, visiting the Smalls Lighthouse requires a boat trip. There are tours available from nearby coastal towns that offer a closer look at this iconic structure.

However, due to its remote location and operational status, landing on the lighthouse itself is not usually possible for the public​​.

In the next section, we will delve into the cultural impact and significance of the Smalls Lighthouse in Welsh maritime history, exploring how it has shaped local lore and community life.

Cultural Impact and Significance in Welsh Maritime History

Lighthouses in Welsh Literature and Folklore

The Smalls Lighthouse has etched itself into Welsh culture, not only as a navigational landmark but also through its presence in literature and folklore.

The isolation and dramatic history of the lighthouse, such as the tragic story of the two keepers in the early 19th century, have inspired numerous tales and artistic representations.

These stories often reflect the hardships faced by lighthouse keepers and the lonely, yet crucial role of lighthouses in maritime safety.

The Lighthouse’s Role in Local Communities

For the communities along the Pembrokeshire coast, the Smalls Lighthouse has been a constant presence, a symbol of resilience against the formidable forces of nature.

Over the years, it has played a pivotal role in safeguarding mariners and fishing vessels, significantly contributing to the local economy and community well-being.

Comparative Analysis: Wales’ Tallest Lighthouse vs. Other Famous Lighthouses

Height Comparison with Other Notable Lighthouses in the UK

The Smalls Lighthouse, standing at 41 meters, is one of the tallest lighthouses in the UK. When compared to other famous lighthouses, such as the Eddystone Lighthouse in England or the Skerryvore Lighthouse in Scotland, it highlights the diversity in design and engineering approaches used across different regions and eras.

Unique Features and Records

The Smalls Lighthouse is notable for several unique features. It was the first lighthouse in the UK to be powered by wind and solar energy and to have a flushing toilet installed. In 1978, a helideck was added above the lantern, further modernizing the structure.

These advancements reflect the lighthouse’s ongoing adaptation to technological changes over time​​.

The next section will discuss the conservation efforts and future prospects of the Smalls Lighthouse, highlighting its significance as a historical monument and its role in contemporary maritime safety.

Conservation Efforts and Future Prospects

Preservation Initiatives

The Smalls Lighthouse, a Grade II listed building, is under the care of Trinity House, which is responsible for its maintenance and preservation.

Ongoing conservation efforts focus on maintaining the structural integrity and operational functionality of the lighthouse, ensuring it continues to serve as a vital navigational aid.

These efforts also aim to preserve the lighthouse’s historical significance for future generations.

Educational and Touristic Development

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the educational and touristic potential of lighthouses like the Smalls Lighthouse. While direct access is limited due to its remote location and operational status.

Initiatives to promote awareness and appreciation of its historical and cultural importance are underway. This includes virtual tours, educational programs, and inclusion in maritime heritage trails.

Photography and Art: Capturing the Majesty of Wales’ Tallest Lighthouse

Best Spots for Photography

For photography enthusiasts, the Smalls Lighthouse offers a breathtaking subject against the backdrop of the open sea. While the lighthouse itself is not accessible to the public, stunning views can be captured from boat tours or the Pembrokeshire coast, particularly during sunrise or sunset when the lighting accentuates its majestic presence.

Lighthouses in Welsh Art

The Smalls Lighthouse has inspired numerous artists, featuring in paintings, photographs, and literary works. Its solitary stance amidst the waves and its rich history make it a captivating subject for artistic interpretation, often symbolizing resilience, isolation, and the relationship between humanity and the sea.

The next section will explore visitor experiences and reviews, offering insights into what one can expect when visiting the area and viewing the Smalls Lighthouse.


Can the Smalls Lighthouse be seen from the mainland?

While visible from certain high points on a clear day, the best views are from boat tours.

Is there a visitor centre for the Smalls Lighthouse?

No, due to its remote location and operational status, there’s no visitor centre.

Are there any lighthouse-themed events in Wales?

Wales hosts various maritime events, occasionally featuring its lighthouses, especially during heritage days.

What safety measures should visitors consider when planning a boat tour?

Always check the weather forecast, wear appropriate clothing, and ensure the tour operator is reputable.

Has the Smalls Lighthouse ever been featured in films or documentaries?

The lighthouse’s unique history and location have made it a subject in various documentaries focusing on maritime history and engineering feats.



  • Kieran Doodi

    Meet Kieran Doodi, a dynamic force in the world of writing, research, and analysis. As a seasoned writer, Kieran's pen weaves compelling narratives, effortlessly translating complex ideas into engaging stories that captivate readers.

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