There’s always been something quite romantic about the idea of staying in a lighthouse and now you have an abundance to choose from in Ireland.
Last May, the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) transformed 12 of Ireland’s greatest working lighthouses into overnight accommodation as part of a new tourism initiative called The Great Lighthouses of Ireland.
Last May, a line of lighthouses, extending from St John’s Point in Co. Donegal to Wicklow Head, Co. Wicklow, opened their doors to visitors, becoming perfect overnight stopovers for anybody whose ever wished to live by the sea or dreamed of spending time in a lighthouse. Just make sure you're not afraid of heights, some of them are perched in very high cliffs!
Not only will you now have the chance to sleep in a lighthouse, but tourists will be introduced to the history and heritage of Irish lighthouses, meet with the people who maintained them, and discover more about Ireland’s coastline through their explorations of the lighthouses’ environment. Gerard Butler, an assistant lighthouse-keeper currently based in Galley Head, Co. Cork told the Irish Times, “Each of these 12 lights has about 160 to 200 years of history behind it”.
An information center and guided tour will also be made available at each of the lighthouses and several former and current assistant lighthouse keepers have been trained to act as guides during your stay. Although the lighthouses have been automated for several decades now, assistants are based on site in case of technical difficulties (which actually sounds quite exciting).
The lighthouses are not to lose their main purpose, however. The safe-navigation of ships will still be the primary operation of the lighthouses in question but the decision to open the still active and working navigation aids to overnight visitors comes as the CIL looks for a means to generate further revenue for their upkeep and maintenance. Visitors staying at any of the sites will in some way be helping to ensure they stay open following cuts in funding to the CIL earlier this year.
The CIL, a cross-border organization, runs 70 lighthouses along the 4,846 miles of Irish coastline. Previously, any shipping dues paid by marine transport companies that made use of the lighthouses or other navigation aids were placed in a fund overseen by the British Department of Transport in London. The CIL could make use of this fund to maintain lighthouses in the Republic of Ireland as well as in the North.
Since the beginning of 2015, however, CIL has been required to establish their own means of funding lighthouses in the Republic and this new initiative aims to make 19,000 bed nights available to visitors in the hope of raising some of this revenue.
According to CIL chief executive Yvonne Shields, the new initiative is the perfect way to complement your journey along the Wild Atlantic Way She told the Irish Times, “Every night from July, some 70 people will be able to stay in a lighthouse on this coastline.”
When the project was launched by Paschal Donohue, Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, he also believed that a stay in a lighthouse could do nothing but add to the massive success of the Wild Atlantic Way and its new eastern counterpart, Ireland’s Ancient East.
If you're interested in resting your heads in one of Ireland's most fascinating and historical buildings, the lighthouses involved in the project are: Galley Head, Co. Cork, St John’s Point and Fanad Head, Co. Donegal; Rathlin West and Blackhead in Co. Antrim; St John’s Point, Co. Down; Wicklow Head, Co. Wicklow; Hook, Co. Wexford; Ballycotton and Galley Head, Co. Cork; Valentia Island, Co. Kerry; and Loop Head, Co. Clare.
Is staying in a lighthouse your dream? Are there any other building types you’d love to stay in? Let us know in the comments section below.
*Originally published May 2015.