This little square, block-built lookout post, known as the Camp, sits in a magnificent position looking out across the vast sweep of the Atlantic. It is one of 82 lookout posts positioned around the coast between 1933 and 1939 as part of the coastal defence system. Although Ireland was officially neutral in the Second World War, or Emergency, this part of the Atlantic saw a lot of traffic from above in the skies and below in the sea. The Coast Watching Service (CWS) was formally established in April 1939 and 82 look out posts were built around the coast, between five and 15 miles apart. Each one was numbered starting with number 1 in Ballyagan in County Louth and ending at number 82, Inishowen Head, Donegal. The Sheep's Head look out post was number 31.
The look out posts were part of a volunteer land-based force. Seven men, led by an NCO, were manned at each one. Most men were recruited locally. They usually worked in pairs, or in threes, and had a 8-12 hour shift. Their job was observational - they had to keep a close look out on all vessels in Irish waters and track all aircraft. One man was meant to remain inside, where there was a telephone, whilst the other had to patrol outside.
To begin with , the volunteers had to camp in bell tents but these rather bleak little buildings went up in 1939/40. They are made from pre-cast concrete blocks , with an area measuring around 13ft by 9ft. A large bay window looks out seaward. This had two central panels facing ahead, and two to the side, one to the left and one to the right. A rather modest fireplace was positioned in the centre of the rear wall with a door to the right hand. There may also have been a small bunker for storing turf, and a telegraph pole.
A rather lonely and bracing posting, conditions must have been damp, windy, smoky and uncomfortable. The men were equipped with binoculars, charts, a telescope and logbooks. Telephones were put in in 1940 - before that if there was any crucial information, someone had to cycle to the nearest Post Office, a fair distance and an invigorating ride in this case. The lookout posts played a vital role in intelligence and by 1943/44 there had been reported over 20,000 sightings of aircraft over Ireland.
Today this rather bleak little place has that unloved pissy smell of derelict buildings and is full of rubbish. It does have some interesting graffiti though. Jimi Hendrix is obviously much loved all over the place! The last time I visited was in December and I came with my sons. The wind hit us as soon as we got out of the car but we persevered up the mountain towards the ridge. We had just arrived at the Camp when the heavens opened - we sheltered in the little building, shivering and watching the horizontal hail pour through the glassless windows. A few minutes later the sun came out and we were treated to a spectacular rainbow.