Surmounted by its famous lighthouse, the Fastnet Rock is one of the most iconic maritime landmarks in the world. Moreover, a journey there from Baltimore takes you past some of the finest scenery of Carbery’s Hundred Isles. Apart from its significance to shipping, the rock has other claims to fame, including being the turning point of the celebrated Fastnet ocean race and lending its name to one of the sea areas in the BBC shipping forecast. In times past it was nicknamed the 'Teardrop of Ireland' by virtue of being the last piece of home soil that Irish emigrants passed as they sailed for America. In a more frivolous vein, it is the setting for a celebrated poem, ‘A Dirty Night on the Fastnet Rock’, by the 12-year-old William Pakenham Walsh, future Bishop of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin.
The present lighthouse, the second on the site, is the tallest and widest anywhere in Ireland or Britain and recognised as one of the most elegant in the world. The loom of the light can be seen in the night sky over much of West Cork. Several operators from Baltimore and Cape Clear offer boat trips around the Fastnet. Without actually landing on the rock, you can pass close by the foot of the 54 m (177 ft) high tower of Cornish granite, gaze up at the revolving lantern and gain a sense of the colossal feat of engineering needed to place it there. There is also a good chance of seeing whales, dolphins or other marine life en route. The waters around the rock are exceptionally rich in life, too, and a paradise for sea anglers and divers.