Mizen Head bridge reopens

THE iconic Mizen Head footbridge closed for more than a year for an historic revamp has re-opened to the public.

Following a €1.8m reconstruction project funded by Fáilte Ireland, the Commissioners of Irish Lights and Cork County Council, the bridge is an exact replica of the original structure which dates from 1909.

Ross O’Donovan, senior resident engineer on the project, said the footbridge was the first of its kind in the country, but in recent years its steel arches became corroded by sea salt.

“Throughout its 100-year life, the bridge has been subject to extreme weather and environmental conditions, which slowly took their toll and caused serious deterioration of the structure,” he said.

“In 2005, the bridge was deemed unsafe and a temporary footway was installed. In 2009 the contract for the construction of the new bridge was signed, it is built from reinforced concrete using stainless steel reinforcement and is an exact replica of what was there before it.”

Connecting the Cork mainland with Ireland’s most south-westerly lighthouse on Cloghane Island, the original bridge was constructed to provide access for the staff of the Commissioners of Irish Lights to the fog signal station at Mizen Head. It was an early example of the use of reinforced concrete as a material and in its day, the 52m (171ft) span was of record length for a reinforced concrete arch construction.

The original bridge designer was Noel Ridley and the contractor was Alfred Thorne of Westminster. The 1908 contract price was £1,272. Rope ladders were used to access the cliff face to construct the bridge foundations.

In more recent years, the bridge has become a popular tourist attraction, as it links the Mizen Visitors’ Centre with displays in the original lighthouse buildings on the island. The Mizen Head signal station has been open to the public since 1994, with up to 50,000 people visiting it annually.

Manager of the visitor centre Stephen O’Sullivan, said the reopening of the bridge offered visitors a really spectacular and unique experience.

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