The shores of the UK are littered with wrecks of ships that have sunk on our dangerous rocky coastline. Lighthouses are essential buildings that help sailors navigate these waters.

History of the lighthouse

The first lighthouses were beacons and fires on hillsides. The first recorded lighthouse was built in Alexandria in Egypt in the 3rd century BC.

Since then technology has improved. The first successful lighthouse projector was designed by William Hutchinson in 1763.

The first flashing lighthouse 'optic' was designed by the French physicist, Augustin Fresnel, in 1822.

Today, some lighthouses can project a beam that is visible from 28 miles out to sea.

Photograph of Orfordness Lighthouse

Orfordness Lighthouse
© Trinity House

Who maintains the lighthouses in England and Wales?

Trinity House looks after:

These include a mix of nearly 600 visual, audible, electronic, fixed and floating aids to navigation. There are a few examples:

Find out more

Visit the Trinity House website to find out more about lighthouses around the UK

Buoys at night

You recognise cardinal buoys and lateral
marks at night by their flashing lights

Illustration detailing the flashing lights of port can and starboard cone buoys at night

Illustration detailing the flashing lights of north, east, south and west cardinal buoys at night

Sailing boats at night

At night a sailing yacht should show:

Illustration showing the lights a sailing yacht should show at night

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