Old lookout building, South Stack

Part Tirwedd Holy IslandLink to Welsh translation

There is some conjecture about the origins of this prominent building overlooking South Stack lighthouse. It may well have been used as a coastguard lookout post with panoramic views over the Irish Sea – the perfect vantage point to watch for shipping in trouble.

Old photo of Holyhead Coast Watching ServicePhotos from around the time of the First World War show huts of similar size, and with the same type of roof, being used by the Coast Watching Service, under the command of Lieutenant Pearson of Soldiers Point, Holyhead. The upper photo, courtesy of Holyhead Maritime Museum, shows one of the huts used by the service, with Lieut Pearson on the right.

Later the building at South Stack was probably part of a Second World War military radar installation. Radar uses radio waves to ascertain the range, angle and speed of a moving object. Although still in its infancy in the early 1940s, its importance for the war effort cannot be underestimated.

At Holyhead Mountain, a Chain Home Low radar station was built in 1941 to detect German raiders in both the air and on the sea. Concrete pads that would have supported the mast legs can still be seen dotted about amid the heather. Working with other radar stations on Anglesey and across North Wales, the entire coastline could be monitored. The system served as an early warning detection system.

Aerial photo of South Stack in 1947In front of this lookout position is a large metal mounting plate – probably used for an aerial – and close by are remains an air raid shelter, which soldiers would have used had the radar station come under attack.

Holyhead Mountain was so important during the Second World War that it was out of bounds to the public. South Stack lighthouse was painted in a dark colour and the light switched off. The aerial photo, courtesy of the Welsh Government, shows South Stack from above the sea. The position of the lookout building is above and to the right of the lighthouse.

Conservation work on the old lookout building was undertaken in 2023 by the Ynys Cybi Landscape Partnership.

With thanks to Adrian Hughes, of the Home Front Museum, Llandudno, and Barry Hillier

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