Shine a Light on Summer: May Bank Holiday Festival 2017
Irish lighthouses have for many centuries been the great beacons of our coastline, helping seafarers safely find their way. So what better way to celebrate their role in maritime life and their fascinating history than with the Great Lighthouses of Ireland’s second annual festival, Shine a Light on Summer.
Taking place on the May Bank Holiday weekend – Saturday 29th April to Monday 1st May 2017 – this family-friendly festival is being celebrated across six of the 12 Great Lighthouses of Ireland.
What’s it all about?
The ideal way to get everyone into the summer spirit, this fun festival lets you dive into captivating coastal experiences, meet the lighthouses’ expert storykeepers and guides, enjoy maritime, craft and technology demonstrations and even discover more about the world of shipwrecks that lies beneath the waves.
The six lighthouses taking part in the festival include three located along the Wild Atlantic Way – Fanad Head Lighthouse, Donegal, Valentia Island Lighthouse, Kerry and Loop Head Lighthouse, Clare – as well as Rathlin West Light on Northern Ireland’s Antrim coast, Ballycotton Lighthouse, Cork and Hook Lighthouse in Wexford, both situated along Ireland’s Ancient East.
Perched on the windswept eastern edge of County Donegal’s Fanad Peninsula, visitors can enjoy a lively weekend of events inspired by maritime life and the relationship between the lighthouse and the local community.
Experience enthralling storytelling by local historians, the lighthouse’s storykeepers and former lightkeeper Patsy McGinley, enjoy live music from local musicians or take a free tour of the tower and embrace the breathtaking view. Regularly cited as one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses, visitors can also capture the memories of the weekend spent on Fanad via a unique night-time lighthouse photography tour with acclaimed photographer Rita Wilson. The weekend will also see a Fanad Gaeltacht get together take place with plenty of comhrá, ceol agus damhsa giving a taste of the living culture of the area.
There’s also plenty of opportunity to learn something new with craft workshops for adults and children, talks on Fanad Head’s beautiful birdlife and seaweed cookery demonstrations and tastings too. With guided coastal walks to the lighthouse also on offer courtesy of Seán Mullan and Ralph Sheppard, you can learn all about Fanad’s coast and explore the area’s stunning scenery.
Standing firm on Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare for many centuries, this May Bank Holiday the iconic lighthouse will host two days of fantastic fun with family activities, lighthouse tours, a local food and craft showcase and the chance to learn all about the area’s marine heritage too.
Image by Stephen Power
In County Kerry there’s plenty happening in the Valentia area to celebrate the historic lighthouse at Cromwell Point. In Caherciveen Library enjoy a series of lectures on the lighthouse, a special book reading, as well as storytelling and talks given by former lightkeepers and historians of Valentia Island’s 17th-century fort.
Local marine biologist Lucy Hunt from Sea Synergy Marine Awareness & Activity Centre is bringing her Life Beneath the Lighthouse presentation to the lighthouse at 3pm on Sunday the 30th of April. Lucy will reveal the marine life lighthouse keepers and their families would have seen whilst living on the edge between land and ocean! This fantastic interactive show and tell presentation of Irish sea life is suitable for all ages.
Also on Sunday April 30th the lighthouse will host a family-friendly open day from 12noon to 5pm, enjoy traditional music in the dwelling house and a heritage talk on Cromwell Fort. Festival-goers can also learn all about the birth of modern communications – owing to the island’s transatlantic cable heritage, and hear plenty of stories about the area’s impressive International Dark-Sky Reserve status.
Image by Stephen Power
Across the whole weekend visitors can also get snap happy with landscape and lighthouse photography workshops given by award-winning photographer, author and teacher Stephen Power. Suitable for anyone over the age of 16, participants will need to bring a digital camera and a tripod if possible. These workshops are beginner and intermediate-appropriate with participants learning all the practicalities needed to photograph the iconic lighthouse and surrounding scenery.
After all that, you can enjoy some barbecue fun with local food on the menu at the lighthouse too.
One of only two black lighthouses in Ireland, County Cork’s Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours will be getting into the spirit of the festival by teaming up with the Ballycotton lifeboat crew on Sunday the 30th of April. The Lifeboat House will be open to inquisitive visitors and the crew will be shining a light on summer safety. Hear tales of shipwrecks and rescue missions, while Ballycotton’s ‘storykeeper’ Eddie Fitzgerald will divulge just what it was like living and working as a keeper on the island.
Don’t miss a tour of the idyllic bay courtesy of Ballycotton Lighthouse Tours or the chance to win a relaxing lighthouse trip too, with a competition on the day.
In beautiful County Wexford, Hook Lighthouse, the world’s oldest, intact working lighthouse, will be celebrating all things nautical.
On Saturday April 29th from 11am why not kick off the family fun and games by enrolling young mateys in Captain Hook’s very special Pirate School. Lawn games, fun adventures and mischief are also on the cards with the lively captain and Pirate Pat, while the truly daring can check out the brilliant bungee trampoline.
Be sure to take a guided tour of the ancient lighthouse and learn all about its rich history too, you can even meet St. Dubhán and the fifth century monks who first established the beacon at the Hook Peninsula.
Take another step back in time with historical re-enactments by Claoimh, who will demonstrate how Medieval life was lived and battles were fought, and don’t miss the chance to meet the greatest knight who ever lived – William Marshall. Visitors can also hear seafaring stories from the lightkeepers and their families, who for over 100 years were stationed at Hook and protected all at sea.
A wonderful craft market will also be on-site over the weekend, showcasing the wares of talented crafters from all across the Southeast region.
Visitors will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about safety at sea from members of the Irish Coast Guard across the whole weekend too.
In County Antrim our Northern Ireland partners (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) at Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will also be taking part in the festival fun.
Enjoy a host of lively events across the weekend, from face-painting to nautical knot-tying. With an ‘upside-down’ lighthouse to explore, the centre’s 125 resident seabirds to meet, not to mention the tens of thousands of visiting birds like kittiwakes and razorbills nesting around the cliffs too, an unforgettable trip is on the cards.
Family-friendly activities will be taking place at the centre from April 29th – 30th, 10am – 4pm.
With all this and more happening around the coast this summer, why not plan a trip to one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland? Find everything you need to know here.