Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio – Howth, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Howth, Ireland

Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio

A former fortified tower now houses a collection of classic communications equipment. 

A mere half-hour train ride from Dublin lies the charming fishing village of Howth. There among the pleasant pubs, romantic ruins, and breathtaking bluffs, a curious explorer may find a 19th-century stone tower looming over the harbor. This is Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio.

The museum is the brainchild of Pat Herbert, who moved his collection of vintage radios, record players, and televisions into the tower in 2003. Known as “Martello” towers, these squat forts featured thick, rounded walls and heavy artillery that could rotate a full 360 degrees, perfect for coastal defense. The British built this particular tower in 1805 to help detect potential invasions from Napoleonic forces. Alas, the little corporal was exiled to Elba in 1814, and the invention of high-powered rifle artillery eventually made such towers obsolete for military use.

That’s not to say it didn’t serve any further historical purpose. In 1903, early radio pioneer Lee De Forest sent the first successful wireless transmissions between Howth and Holyhead. Two years later, Guglielmo Marconi tested his own system, sending wireless telegraph transmissions to an offshore ship, the HMTS Monarch.

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Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Sunday.

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