Great Lighthouses of Ireland Gathering 2023: Full Schedule

Great Lighthouses of Ireland Partners Gathering and Networking Event 

Sunday 8th, Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th October 2023

Maritime Belfast, Causeway Coast & Glens, Rathlin and Blackhead, Co Antrim

With overnight stays in lighthouses across the island on the rise, the key focus of our annual Great Lighthouses of Ireland networking event, this year hosted by a partnership led by Irish Lights, will be on ambitious collaboration to create inspiring and transformative visitor experiences.

Over three days, lighthouse, marine and tourism leaders will meet, starting in Belfast on Sunday 8th October and finishing at beautiful Blackhead Lighthouse on Tuesday 10th October. 

We will explore new opportunities for growth for lighthouse tourism, building on the encouraging 60% rise in overnight stays in lighthouses in 2022 and seizing on renewed public interest in the experiences our unique heritage locations have to offer. 

The programme and schedule below is designed to offer all the chance to connect and learn from each other and from tourism and business partners, as well as destination and community development. 

Feel free to post views and messages on social media and link to Great Lighthouses of Ireland, Irish Lights and partner sites. 

Event hashtag: #GLIGathering23

Facebook: @greatlighthousesofireland 

Twitter: @gtlighthouses 

Instagram: @greatlighthouses 

LinkedIn: Great Lighthouses of Ireland

Great Light Belfast at Christmas
Great Light Belfast

Event Programme 

Sunday 8th October 

Maritime Belfast, The Maritime Mile, Belfast’s Historic Waterfront and The Great Light


12.30 / 1pm 

We’ll begin on Sunday with a warm welcome and working lunch at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast.

At 1.45pm, Great Lighthouses of Ireland Chair Bobby Kerr will give the introduction and programme overview, followed by presentations to include: 

  • A Shared Vision and Ambition, Yvonne Shields O’ Connor, CEO, Irish Lights 
  • An Opportunity for Northern Ireland, Maria McAlister, Manager, Landscapes and Activities, Tourism NI 
  • Maritime Belfast – A Unique and Successful Maritime Heritage Destination, Kerrie Sweeney, CEO, Maritime Belfast

In the afternoon, enjoy a guided walk to Belfast’s Great Light along the Titanic Walkway to the HMS Caroline and Thompson Dock before reconvening at 4.15 in the Titanic Hotel meeting room for the Great Lighthouses of Ireland partners meeting. This will give you the chance to discuss and give feedback on the emerging GLI Strategy ahead of final sign-off next month. 

A 5.30pm departure for the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle will be followed in the evening with a Ballycastle Traditional Music Trail session at House of McDonnell, Ballycastle.

Monday 9th October 

Rathlin Island Experience 

Our ferry will depart for Rathlin courtesy of Kintra Boat Tours. Please be advised the programme may be subject to some adjustment based on weather conditions. 

Upon arrival at The Manor House Hotel, you’ll have the chance to mingle and connect at the meet and greet at 10.10am, before presentations and a panel discussion on the theme Lighthouses: A Beacon for Coastal Partnership, Collaboration and Wonder at 10.30am, to include:

  • Welcome by Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary, Department for Infrastructure 
  • A Community Partnership Building on Success, Eimear Ní Mhathúna, Fanad Lighthouse
  • The Lighthouses of Rathlin, Beacons on a Sustainable Island and Visitor Experience, Rathlin Development & Community Association 
  • Group discussion on future opportunities 


Learning Journey To Rathlin West Light, meet the RSPB team - Group 1

Visit Rathlin East Light with Rathlin Development & Community Association – Group 2 


Groups will reconvene for a light lunch at The Manor House Hotel


Visit Rathlin East Light with Rathlin Development & Community Association – Group 2 

Learning Journey to Rathlin West Light, meet the RSPB team – Group 1


We’ll regroup at The Manor House Hotel prior to ferry departure. Prior to departure, you may take time to visit the Boathouse Visitor Centre, which has a fascinating collection of island displays, photographs, images and articles.  


Ferry departure  


Gathering dinner at the Marine Hotel, Belfast

Tuesday 10th October  

Whitehead to Blackhead Lighthouse  – A Unique Coastal Experience 


Check out from the Marine Hotel and depart for Blackhead/Whitehead, a 90km journey of around 1.5hrs


Meet and greet at Whitehead Community Hall 


Panel presentations begin, to include:

  • Welcome from Deputy Mayor Alderman Stewart McDonald, Mid & East Antrim Borough Council  
  • Building a Community Cluster and Experiences, Jason Powell,  Mid & East Antrim Borough Council  
  • Staying at a Lighthouse – A Unique Value Proposition, Niamh Lunny, CEO, Irish Landmark Trust 
  • Shared Perspectives on Future Ambition and Plans, group discussion 


Whitehead to Blackhead coastal path tour, hosted by knowledgeable Whitehead community guides


Meet and greet at Blackhead Lighthouse with Irish Landmark Trust 

  • Lighthouse tower tour 
  • Video capture of participant reflections (bigO)


Light lunch on-site  


Participants depart 



Illuminating the Future at the Great Lighthouses of Ireland Gathering


Great Lighthouses of Ireland Gathering 2023: Full Schedule

Heritage & History

Step inside a Lighthouse for Heritage Week 2023