Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Tower of Refuge

Open: All Year: Daily
Price: FREE
Disabled: No Access
Location: Douglas
Parking: Douglas Promenade
Type: Historic Landmark


Sir William Hillary moved to the Isle of Man in 1808 and began to know the dangerous waters of the Irish Sea which surrounded Douglas Bay. In around 1824 he conceived the concept of a life boat service manned by a trained crew. The idea was new, but soon prompted the creation of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

It was not till Hillary took part in a rescue for a Steam Packet vessel and was washed overboard that he realised the coast was too far to swim to, yet a place was needed for sailors to wait for rescue. Soon after an idea Sir William Hillary had became a reality. Designed by John Welch the Tower of Refuge, as it came to be called, was completed in 1832. Situated upon Conister Rock in Douglas Bay a granite haven in the form of a small castle took its place as a lifesaver for sailors. Built at a cost of 254 of which almost half was paid by Hillary himself and the other by subscription. The tower was kept well stocked with fresh water and bread, ready to offered shelter from the weather and sea.

In 2008 the tower underwent extensive maintance work. The DOT had already installed a new landing platform early in the year and by summer the rest of the tower was scaffolded and being worked out. The exterior part of the tower was repointed and lighting installed. The tower is about 12.5 meters heigh and 52 meters around its circumference.


A top Conister Rock (A reef also known as St Mary's Isle.) at the far end of Douglas Bay.

By Vehicle:
Travel to Douglas and then along the sea front. The Tower of Refuge sits in Douglas Bay.

By Bus:
Plan your journey with our Bus and Rail Timetables.

By Railway:
By Electric Railway, take the trams heading to Douglas. Then walk along the Promenade till you reach the Sea Terminal. From there are the best views, unless the tide is very low where the beach is better.

By Steam Railway, take the train to Douglas and then walk down the Douglas Harbour to the Sea Terminal or beach.

Visiting the Tower of Refuge

It is possible to walk to the tower during low tide at certain times of the year. Visiting the rock is discouraged and can be very dangerous. The tide comes in very fast and people are soon stranded. Boat landings are possible but often difficult. Best way to see the tower is from a distance!

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For Those in Peril: The Life and Times of Sir William Hillary, Founder of the R.N.L.I.
Robert Kelly
Shearwater Press Ltd, Hardcover, 01 September, 1979
ISBN: 0904980278
List Price: £4.75
Used Price: £19.38
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Tower of Refuge

Tower of Refuge

Tower of Refuge

Tower of Refuge

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