The Irish Landmark Trust, together with the Commissioners of Irish Lights, has recently launched the All-Island Lighthouse trail, and work is currently underway to open all the lighthouses around the country to the public.
At present, there are four lighthouses with accommodation – offering visitors the unique opportunity to be 'keepers of the light' – while another three are open for informative tours and exhibits. There are six more in the development phase and the remaining properties are awaiting the final go-ahead.
Recently renovated, the first phase of the lighthouse trail includes:
This lighthouse has six octagonal rooms carefully constructed in the void that existed within the tower when it was first taken on by Irish Landmark. The arched windows are set into walls which are a metre thick, and offer stunning views out to the Irish Sea and the surrounding countryside.
With 109 steps from the front door to the kitchen, which is on the top floor, this property would not be suitable for anyone with mobility problems or small children.
One dog is allowed to accompany visitors and, sleeping up to four people, the property costs from €500 per weekend.
Galley Head Lightkeepers' Houses are perched on dramatic cliffs at about 130 feet above sea level, overlooking St George's Channel, close to Clonakilty village, Cork.
Visitors can enjoy a wide range of activities from dolphin and whale watching, surfing at Inchydoney Blue Flag Beach or a historical walking tour of the town. The property sleeps four and costs from €400 per weekend.
Loop Head lighthouse station in Co Clare is a major landmark on the northern shore of the Shannon River. Built on a cliff-top with 300 degree views of the sea down to Kerry Head and Dingle, and across to the Cliffs of Moher, the property is three miles from the nearest village, sleeps five people and costs from €320 per weekend.
Located on a headland 20 miles north of Belfast, visitors to Blackhead lighthouse can enjoy spectacular views over Belfast Lough and follow the popular coastal path which leads along in front of the lighthouse to the Victorian town of Whitehead.
This property sleeps seven people and costs from £290 per weekend. However, it is cliff-facing so children must be supervised at all times.
Situated on the most south-westerly tip of Ireland, Mizen Head lighthouse and signal station offers many attractions to the public. Although it doesn't have any facility for accommodation, there are all sorts of interactive and informative exhibits, including a Navigational Aids Simulator, the Fastnet Rescue Tide Clock, the Engine Room and the Keeper's Quarters in the former Irish Lights Signal Station.
Entrance costs €6 per adult and family discounts are available.
Valentia Island lighthouse at Cromwell Point opened to the public last summer. It is maintained by the Commissioners of Irish Lights and still operates as a harbour light to guide vessels from the sea and lead them through the northern entrance of Valentia Harbour, past Harbour Rock.
Entrance costs €5 per adult and family/group discounts are available.
Hook lighthouse in Wexford is about 800 years old and is the oldest intact operational lighthouse in the world. Although it doesn't offer accommodation, tours of the lighthouse tower are available all year round and visitors can climb the 115 steps to witness the spectacular view from the balcony. A gift-shop, cafe and exhibition area is also open to the public. Many festivals are held throughout the year and the former lighthouse keeper's houses now play host to the visitor facilities.
For more information, visit irishlandmark.com and cil.ie
CLIFFHANGER: The Lighthouse Trail has recently been launched. Left: Bull Rock; above: Inisheer