Wednesday 18 July 2018

200-year-old lighthouse with luxury rooms attracts visitors from UK to US

Irish lights

Fanad Lighthouse Co. Donegal. Photo: Brian McDaid
Fanad Lighthouse Co. Donegal. Photo: Brian McDaid
Eimear Ní Mhathúna at Fanad Lighthouse. Photo: Brian McDaid

Greg Harkin

It's been hidden away from public eyes for 199 years, but one of Ireland's most famous lighthouses has just opened its doors for the first time - and you can stay there.

Three lighthouse keepers' cottages at Fanad Head have been given a five-star upgrade and have already attracted bookings from Europe and America.

Generations of tourists and locals had been turned away at the gates of the lighthouse in north Donegal.

But under a new tourism initiative Ireland's greatest lighthouses are being opened up to the public.

Kildare native Eimear Ní Mhathúna has given up her role as executive director of the Belfast Irish language centre Cultúrlann to become the manager of Ireland's latest tourist attraction, set in the Fanad gaeltacht.

"My mother was from here and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the position advertised," she says.

"I always thought I'd retire to Fanad one day, so I'm here very early and my children absolutely love it."

The Commissioner of Irish Lights, Tourism Ireland and Donegal County Council hope the opening of the Fanad lighthouse by a local community group will help re-energise the peninsula.

"We have bookings already from across Ireland, Italy, America, Germany, Belgium, Holland and the UK," says Eimear.

"People are attracted to lighthouses but could never gain access.

"Here in Fanad people can get right inside, see the visitor centre or stay overnight in a lighthouse with a lovely turf fire. It is quite special."

James Waldron, (41), originally from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, has been running the nearby Lighthouse Tavern for the past three years.

"The lighthouse opening is bringing loads more visitors to the area. It's brilliant for us and the local community. We're already planning an extension," he says.

Fanad is one of 12 lighthouses around the country which form part of a new tourist trail.

Irish Independent

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