Tuesday 6 December 2016

Irish lighthouses are smiling, thanks to a series of stunning reboots

Travel Insider

Published 21/05/2016 | 02:30

Fancy staying in an Irish lighthouse? Or finding out what life was like warding ships off our rugged coast? Well, now you can.

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I thought the history of Irish lighthouses had been written.

Having spent centuries protecting ships from our jagged and rocky shores, all are now unmanned. That's how I figured they would stay - Instagram-friendly, if personality-free beacons quietly going about their business on our coast.

I was wrong.

Did you know you can stay overnight at several Irish lighthouse keepers' cottages, ranging from Loop Head in Co Clare to Blackhead in Antrim?

Did you know the Commissioners of Irish Lights have launched a new tourism initiative, Great Lighthouses of Ireland (greatlighthouses.com), showcasing 12 breathtaking lighthouses around the island with activities in each?

As long ago as the fifth century, the monks of Hook Head in Co Wexford (hookheritage.ie) lit fires to warn ships off the rocks. Last month, the lighthouse unveiled a hi-tech tour complete with hologram figures and access to the previously private Watchroom.

At the other end of the country, the Rathlin West Light has been restored, while Fanad Lighthouse (fanadlighthouse.com) has re-launched with guided tours and self-catering accommodation overlooking the ocean. Managed by local community group Forbairt Fhánada Teoranta, it's the only lighthouse in the Gaeltacht open to the public.

Fancy a look at what's in store? Check out the video of the 12 Great Lighthouses on the Wild Atlantic Way (above), along with a gallery of images here.

Like the Wild Atlantic Way, it's a clever re-imagination of Ireland's coastal heritage... that looks well whatever the weather.

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Wicklow Head Lighthouse has safeguarded the coastline since 1781... and now it's open as one of Ireland's most ruggedly romantic places to stay. Prices with the Irish Landmark Trust (irishlandmark.com) start from €641 for three nights, sleeping four people with free Wi-Fi - not always a given in heritage properties (one dog is allowed, too). Meanwhile, Radharc Thoraí, a restored cottage with views of Tory Island at Fanad Lighthouse, sleeps four from €454 for two nights, or €1,200 for a week.

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Clare Island Lighthouse. Photo: Michael Mc Loughlin/greatirishlighthouses.com

The Irish Landmark Trust (irishlandmark.com) offers several restored lighthouse keepers' cottages for stays at Galley Head, Co Cork, Loop Head, Co Clare and Blackhead, Co Antrim. Prices range from €405 for three nights in a house sleeping five (and most have open fires, too).

Elsewhere, Clare Island Lighthouse (clareislandlighthouse.com) is open for the season to October 1, with minimum stays of two nights including a six-course dinner on both and collection from Clare Island harbour from €355pp. It's not suitable for children under 16.

NB: All prices subject to availability.

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