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A visit to South Stack Lighthouse is a must-do activity in Anglesey. It’s one of the island’s few working lighthouses and the only one that’s open to the public to go inside.

I recently visited myself and put together this helpful guide to explain how to visit and to share some things I wish I’d known before setting off myself.

Where to Park?

The main car park for South Stack Lighthouse is at the South Stack RSPB Visitor Centre. The cost of parking is £2 for 1 hour or £5 for all day. The pay and display machines accept both cash and card (UK bank cards only). Parking charges only apply from 15th March to 31st October.

If you continue driving past the main car park, there are two additional car parks closer to South Stack. The first is another paid car park at the same rate as the main car park, the second is free of charge although it can only hold a handful of cars. It’s worth a try as not many people venture past the main car park.


How To Visit South Stack Lighthouse

Here are my step-by-step instructions for visiting South Stack lighthouse.

1. Buy Your Ticket From South Stack RSPB

Buy your ticket from the ticket office which is located outside the South Stack RSPB Visitor Centre. The ticket office accepts both cash and card (prices below).

2. Make the 400 Steps Decent Down to the Island

Once you have the ticket, walk up the hill to the right of the ticket office towards the lighthouse. You can also drive this section as there is some parking available at the top (see parking section above).

Head through the small gateway shown below. A sign on the gateway will indicate if the lighthouse is open or closed but if you’ve been able to buy tickets then it should still be open.

Once through the gateway, you’ll need to descend just over 400 steps, there are benches along the way if you need a rest. This is also the best spot to get some photos of the lighthouse against the backdrop of the sea.

3. Cross the Bridge Onto Ynys Lawd

The lighthouse is located on a small island called Ynys Lawd. You’ll need to cross the bridge to reach it.

This current bridge was only built in 1998, before this it was a suspension bridge, you will see the huge chains from the original bridge lying on the floor after you cross over – try picking one up and see how heavy it is!

Once you reach the island, you’ll need to show the ticket you purchased earlier. It’s also possible to buy your ticket here if paying in cash.

4. Enjoy Your Visit To South Stack Lighthouse

You’ve arrived! From here, there are helpful staff members who will tell you exactly what’s going on and answer any questions you have.

If there aren’t many visitors, they may send you straight up to the lighthouse. But if they are very busy, you may be directed to enjoy the exhibits in the small museum before going up.

At the top of the lighthouse, you’ll receive a short talk from a very knowledgeable member of staff who will give you a brief history of the lighthouse and show you how it works today.


Essential Visitor Information

Opening Times

South Stack Lighthouse is open to visitors from 1pm to 4pm on Fridays and 10am to 4pm every other day. The last entry time to the island on which it sits is 3.20pm. You can not visit the island outside of these times as the bridge will be closed.

The ticket kiosk is open 12.30pm to 3pm on Fridays and 9.30am to 3pm every other day.

Prices

Here are the prices for South Stack Lighthouse:

Entry Fee
Adults£7.50
Children (6-16)£3.50
Concessions£6.00
Family£18.50

These were correct at the time of writing, if they have changed, please let us know by filling in our contact form.


Things To Know When Visiting South Stack

Can You Take Dogs to South Stack Lighthouse?

No, dogs are forbidden on the island at South Stack Lighthouse. However, if the dog is accompanied by more than one person, they do allow split visits where one person can wait on the bridge with the dog and then you can swap. You can do this until 2pm.

Is South Stack Lighthouse Suitable For Children?

Yes, children can visit South Stack Lighthouse, however, they cannot be taken up the tower. You must be 1.1m tall in order to go up the tower, this is because it’s very steep and at some points, it’s like climbing a ladder.

Can You Stay at South Stack Lighthouse?

No, it’s not possible to stay at South Stack Lighthouse. The facilities are very limited with the main lighthouse itself and a small museum.

Are There Toilets at South Stack?

No, there are no toilets at South Stack Lighthouse. The closest toilets are at the RSPB visitor centre where you purchase your ticket so be sure to go before you visit.

Can You Go Up South Stack Lighthouse?

Yes, you can go up South Stack Lighthouse. This is included with your entry ticket. As there is a limited amount of space at the top, visitors are sent up in groups so you may need to wait for a while, especially during peak times or at weekends.

How Many Steps Are There at South Stack Lighthouse?

There are 406 steps down to Ynys Lawd where South Stack Lighthouse is located. Once inside the lighthouse, there are 108 steps to the top. These get very steep towards the top where it’s almost like climbing a ladder.

Hint: when coming back down, it’s easier to go backwards at first.


Is South Stack Lighthouse Still Functional?

Yes, South Stack Lighthouse is still working today. It is owned and operated by Trinity House who are the General Lighthouse Authority for England and Wales, operating over 600 different navigational aids such as lighthouses, beacons, radio, and a GPS service.

The lighthouse is automated and turned on permanently, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It rotates so that it appears to flash once every 10 seconds in any given direction.


South Stack Lighthouse History

Today, South Stack Lighthouse is still an operational lighthouse that’s fully automated using an electric lightbulb. But it hasn’t always been as simple. Here’s a brief history of South Stack Lighthouse:

Oil Lamp – The lighthouse was first built in 1809 with construction taking just 9 months. It was fitted with Argan oil lamps and reflectors.

Rotational System – In 1873, the lighting system was updated with Fresnel lenses, where the lens rotates around the light, this is the same type of system that’s used in lighthouses today. As a result, the lenses rotated around the light every six minutes, resulting in one flash per minute. The lights were also upgraded to a paraffin lamp.

Diesel Engine – In 1938, the lighthouse was converted to electric. The living area at the lighthouse was converted into an engine room with a diesel engine that powered both the light and the newly installed fog signal. The old engines are now part of the exhibition at the lighthouse.

Electric – Since 1970, there has been mains electricity on the island which has powered the light. From 1984, the lighthouse was fully automatic and no longer needed to be manned by a lighthouse keeper.

The engines are still on display at South Stack misuem in the base of the lighthouse

Facts About Southstack Lighthouse

When you visit the lighthouse, you’ll be inundated with facts about its history in th museum found in the base of the lighthouse as well as on the lighthouse tour.

But if you want to whet your appetite, here are 6 interesting facts about South Stack lighthouse and the island on which it sits:

1. Permission to build the lighthouse was declined for over 140 years

The idea of a lighthouse was first envisioned way back in 1665 when a petition was presented to King Charles II. However, he declined and it wasn’t until 1809 that a lighthouse was finally built.

2. It was Anglesey’s very first lighthouse

A royal charter granted by Henry VIII eventually paved the way for the lighthouse to be built. In 1514, he tasked Trinity House with preserving safety on the Thames shipping lane and eventually broadened this to the whole of the UK with South Stack being their first project on Anglesey.

The official name for Trinity House was a bit of a mouthful, it was:

‘The Master, Wardens and Assistants of the Guild, Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond, in the County of Kent’.

You can see why they went with Trinity House instead.

3. It took just 9 months and £12,000 to build.

Once commissioned, it took just 9 months to build. Most of the stone used for the construction came from Ynys Lawd itself, the island where the lighthouse sits.

The total cost back then was 312,000. According to the Bank of England inflation calculator, that’s the equivalent of £677,000 in today’s money1 (source: Bank of England).

4. The lighthouse operates with a single 150W halogen bulb.

This is very similar to the bulbs you would have in your home today. The lighthouse is on 24 hours a day, there is a backup bulb that will pop up if the main bulb stops working.

The rocks around South Stack are home to a huge colony of sea birds

5. The lighthouse is paid for by a special lighthouse tax on ships

South Stack and other lighthouses in Wales are not paid for by the public but by a user-pays tax on ships called ‘Light Dues’. This is an annual rate paid by every ship that calls at a port in the UK and is based on the size of the vessel.

The rate is set by the government and paid directly to the General Lighthouse Authority, Trinity House, who manage hundreds of lighthouses and navigational aids across the country2 (source: UK Government).

6. As well as a lighthouse, Ynys Lawd is also home to puffins

The island of Ynys Lawd and the surrounding cliffs has very diverse rocks, plants, and wildlife. Anglesey’s county flower, the spotted rock rose, grows here and it’s also one of the popular breeding spots in Anglesey for auks such as puffins, razorbills, and guillemots.

The rocks themselves are a striking geological formation that are around 570 million years old making them some of the oldest in the UK.


Is South Stack Haunted?

Yes, according to legend, South Stack Lighthouse is haunted. It appeared in Season 9 of ‘Most Haunted’ with Yvette Fielding3 (source: IMDB) and also earned a AA rating in the Haunted Britain book4 (source: BBC).

The stories say that the ghost haunting the lighthouse is keeper Jack Jones who died on 25th October 1853. It was a particularly stormy night and a gust of wind caused a piece of rock to break off the cliff and hit him on the head.

He died two weeks later from his injuries and apparently his ghost can still be heard seeking refuge at the lighthouse at night.


Walks Near Southstack Lighthouse

South Stack Lighthouse is found right on the Anglesey Coastal Path, so if you want to have a short (or long) walk after your visit, there are two great options:

Visit Twr Elin (Elin’s Tower) – Head right as you exit the lighthouse, this will take you back the way you came towards the car park. You’ll eventually see a sign on your right for Twr Elin. You’ll be surprised to find out that this was originally just a summer home for a well-off family. It’s been used during the wars as a coastal observation point and is now an information centre for the RSPB.

Walk to Breakwater Country Park – Alternatively, head left as you exit the lighthouse for a short walk to Holyhead Breakwater Country Park as shown below.


Other Lighthouses on Anglesey Worth Visiting

If you still haven’t got your lighthouse fix, there are plenty of other lighthouses on Anglesey worth checking out.

You should definitely begin with Tŵr Mawr lighthouse on Ynys Llanddwyn which was my personal favourite. This would be followed by Trwyn Du Lighthouse at Penmon Point (also known as Penmon Lighthouse).

Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.