For centuries the Portuguese coast was known by foreign vessels, especially the British, as the "black coast" because there was no lighting system to help navigation. In the late eighteenth century, the Marquis of Pombal built a network of lighthouses to make it safer, including the one on Cabo Espichel, one of oldest in Portugal, built in 1790.
Over two hundred years later, the Lighthouse is still in operation and additionally represents a true symbol of Cabo Espichel. Open to the public once a week, on the initiative of the Portuguese Navy, it is a way of telling the story of the place and attesting to our relationship with the sea.
Admiring the landscape from the 32 meter high tower is, in itself, a unique experience that is worth the 135 stone and 15 iron steps that you need to climb to get there, but along the route there is much more to discover.
At an altitude of 168 meters above sea level, the Lighthouse of Cabo Espichel has a luminous range of 26 miles, approximately 48 kilometers, and produces a white light that every 12 seconds emits three flashes. The optical apparatus smaller than the original, also comprises air/sea panels which emit light not only to the horizon, but also to the sky.
In the tower one can still see the equipment that operated by means of a vapourized oil burner, which in 1883 replaced the Argand lamps, fueled by oil, and the old watch system, which in case of failure of the engines, is ready for action .
In the late nineteenth century it received its first sound signal, a mechanically operated bell that later, with the arrival of electricity, was replaced by an air siren which, although deactivated, can still be seen on site. The equipment became fully autonomous in 1989.
Despite all the existing electronic aid to navigation, the light of the lighthouse is still precious to those at sea. The Sesimbra fishermen are guided not only by the light but by the building itself. With the visual and sound technological advances that have occurred over the decades, the routine of the lighthouse keepers has also changed. However, just as the light of the lighthouse, their presence is also indispensable, not only in case of malfunction but also to care for its upkeep.
Since 2011, along with 29 other buildings owned by the Navy, the lighthouse of Cabo Espichel has been open to the public once a week for tours, which explain the mission of the lighthouses and the work of lighthouse keepers, revealing to the public a very valuable cultural and historical heritage.