Taking a nice 45 minute stroll along the White Cliffs of Dover you will come upon the South Foreland Lighthouse. This is not you everyday lighthouse. A beacon has shone onto the English Channel from this spot since at least 1730. While the technology has changed drastically along the way, the South Foreland Lighthouse has been a pioneer of the lighthouse industry since the beginning.
South Foreland Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the world to use an electric light. When you consider the amount of time and manpower it must have taken before this, it is a truly remarkable achievement. The National Trust took over the property and you can now take guided tours of this fascinating piece of maritime history.
The lighthouse was mainly used to guide ships in the English Channel away from the treacherous Goodwin Sands. This sandbank off the coast of south-east England was the cause of over 2000 shipwrecks throughout history. (You can still take diving trips to the Goodwin Sands and explore the remains of these shipwrecks, something I would absolutely love to do.) The guiding lights of the South Foreland Lighthouse likely saved thousands of lives, and protected future victims from the peril of the sand trap in the sea.
Another interesting fact, which I learned on my informative run through the property, was that the South Foreland Lighthouse was the location of the first successfully sent international wireless transmission. In 1899, Guglielmo Marconi the pioneer of wireless telegraphy, sent a message from the South Foreland Lighthouse in England to Wimereux, France. While the transmission only covered 28 miles, it was seen as a historic achievement for wireless technology. South Foreland is in the process of raising money to exhibit the historical radio experiments which took place on-site for future visitors.
I immensely enjoyed walking the catwalk of the lighthouse. The view on a beautiful day is just spectacular. Walking around you can enjoy a panoramic view of both the English Channel and the surrounding coastal landscape.
The South Foreland Lighthouse went out of service in 1988. For the Queen’s Jubilee last year, the beacon shone once again to commemorate the occasion. It was the first time in more than 20 years that the light had shone, and was seen from 40 miles away.
I highly recommend purchasing a National Trust membership (I wasn’t paid to say that) which enables you to get into hundreds of incredible properties like this one for a low annual fee. It saves a lot of money if you are constantly exploring like me!