The most spectacular lighthouse lodgings on the market in Ireland
Spectacular sea views come as standard
Published 01/07/2016 | 02:30
The solitary vocation of lighthouse keeping is in Gerald Butler's blood. Both his grandfathers were lightkeepers, and the day his mother Pauline gave birth to him and twin Edward in Castletownbere in 1950, their light-keeper father was on duty a few miles away at Roancarrigmore island.
The Corkman and his 14 siblings were raised in lighthouses or light-keeper's lodgings on rocky outcrops or cliff-side land stations, including Galley Head, a 19th-century lighthouse and Irish Landmark Trust building near Clonakilty, where Butler is now a part-time attendant keeper.
In 1969, the young Butler followed in his family's footsteps and joined the Commissioners of Irish Lights, which is responsible for the 66 operating lighthouses dotted around Ireland. He soon found himself carrying out month-long stints of relief duty on Roancarrigmore, the rugged, low-lying slate island that has been home to a lighthouse since the Famine era.
During his four-hour shifts at Roancarrig, Butler carried out the same tasks as his father had before him: taking note of the ships, boats and tankers entering and leaving Bantry Bay and winding up the lens on the weight-driven clockwork rotation machine so the vapourised paraffin-powered light would beam across the sea and guide seafarers on their passage in and out of the bay.
Butler was among the last to work there before the lighthouse was converted to electric power and automated in 1975. This week marks the end of another chapter at Roancarrigmore, because Irish Lights has put the 23-ft tower, light-keeper lodgings and the island itself on the market, seeking offers in excess of €130,000.
Because the lighthouses around the country are all unmanned, Irish Lights no longer needs many of them or their accompanying dwellings.
It's perhaps stating the obvious that the sea views will be as good as you can get.
"It was a lovely way of life," recalls Butler, who last year paid one last visit to Roancarrigmore.
"The biggest challenge was getting fresh drinking water. We used to catch rainwater, store it in the tank and throw a fistful of lime into the water to clean it, making sure no salt ever got near it.
"Whoever buys Roancarrig would have to take drinking water out with them."
The disused tower on Roancarrigmore is white with a black band underneath a red cast-iron balcony and is topped with cast-iron lantern. Any buyer will enjoy its 360-degree views.
This is the first time Irish Lights has put a lighthouse itself on the market, so a buyer will have a rare retreat on their hands, explains joint selling agent Gemma Lanigan from DNG Advisory, though they may require deep pockets to make it habitable as it has been vacant since the 1970s.
"If someone buys it for €130,000, they will still have to do a costly renovation," Lanigan says. "The logistics of that alone will be expensive - the buyer will have to commission a boat to bring out materials."
The light-keeper's house was designed to accommodate two to three keepers at any one time in separate living quarters. As a result, there are two living rooms and kitchens, and six small bedrooms upstairs. Outside is an internal courtyard with outhouses.
There are other challenges, too for the prospective buyer: there is no electricity or mobile phone coverage, and Irish Lights must be permitted access once in a while to maintain the light.
The island is accessible by a 30-minute boat from Castletownbere, but its helipad has been decommissioned.
Alternatively, house-hunters could opt instead for a lightkeeper's house that has come on the market in the eastern Cork town of Youghal.
The 1930s-built home sits alongside the lighthouse and overlooks Youghal Bay. But the purchase price of €225,000 doesn't include the lighthouse itself, which is in the hands of Cork County Council.
The 1,400 sq ft of accommodation at the cliff-side light-keeper's house is laid out over two storeys. There are four bedrooms upstairs and, on the ground floor, a separate dining room and sitting room with fireplaces, and a kitchen. A porch opens onto the rear garden, where there are three outhouses, and the front has a garden with panoramic sea views.
The house is a listed building and a major landmark at Youghal harbour, with a blue-flag beach on its doorstep. The property will probably appeal to commuters to Cork city centre, which is a 45-minute drive away, or as a holiday home.
If you fancy trying one out first for a short break, both the Landmark Trust and Great Lighthouses of Ireland lease towers and adjoining cottages all over the Irish coast. Perhaps the best known of those available to let is the GLI-owned Fanad Lighthouse at Fanad Head in Donegal, which faces into some of our wildest Atlantic weather. The three cottages let from €237 for the smallest off-peak for three days up to €1,200 for the largest one in peak season. You can rent a lighthouse tower from the Landmark Trust for three nights running from €664 mid-week to €841 at weekends in peak season.
The light-keeper's house at Youghal is open for viewing tomorrow, between 11:30am and 12pm. The joint agents are DNG Spillane, (021) 4812397 and DNG Advisory, (01) 4912600.
To discuss a viewing of Roancarrigmore, contact DNG Timothy O'Sullivan in Kenmare, (064) 6641566 and DNG Advisory, (01) 4912600.