Be a Coastal Keeper at Irish Landmark Trust Lighthouses
The Irish Landmark Trust has been saving some of Ireland’s most iconic buildings and making them accessible to the wider community for over two decades.
An all-island charity working to save, share and sustain our unique built heritage, did you know that six of our Great Lighthouses looked after by the Irish Landmark Trust?
From St John’s Point, Co. Down’s unmistakable bands of yellow and black, to its Co. Donegal namesake positioned on one of Ireland’s longest peninsulas; Loop Head’s dolphin-friendly waters, Blackhead’s cliff-edge position over Belfast Lough, Galley Head’s 53m above sea level vantage point, and of course, Wicklow Head Lighthouse’s unforgettable 109 steps – these one-of-a-kind properties treat guests to truly unique stays.
Be a #CoastalKeeper
As lightkeepers kept a good light for mariners over the centuries, Great Lighthouses of Ireland and Irish Lights firmly believe that now it’s our turn to tend to our coastal environment and be true guardians for it as we travel, explore and enjoy it.
As we welcome visitors to our lighthouse sites/attractions over the summer, we encourage everyone to embrace the stunning beauty of the lighthouses and explore the vibrant nearby villages, towns and communities brimming with local businesses and attractions too.
With sustainability and caring for nature in mind, we encourage visitors to think about the little steps we can make to respect our planet; whether that’s hopping on a bike, bringing a reusable coffee cup, taking litter home with you or leaving wildflowers untouched – there are so many ways to explore these areas with a #CoastalKeeper mindset.
With each Irish Landmark Trust lighthouse’s guest book providing a list of local makers, crafters, artisan suppliers and local businesses to frequent during your stay, there are so many ways to be an advocate for these coastal environments and a patron of their thriving communities.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can explore the local area around these six lighthouses!
Wicklow Head Lighthouse, Co. Wicklow | History, art, coastal walks & organic delights
While staying at this 1781 property, after you’ve soaked up the Irish Sea views from three angles be sure to take the fascinating Wicklow Town Heritage Trail. A free guided tour with a local historian, you’ll delve into the chapters of history from the landing of St. Patrick in 432 to the end of the Civil War in 1923. This free tour takes place on Saturdays throughout the summer.
Or take another intriguing trail and walk in the footsteps of Wicklow son and 19th-century master mariner, Captain Robert Halpin on the self-guided Halpin Trail.
A visit to An Tairseach | Dominican Farm and Ecology Centre is a must for organic food lovers. The Dominican Sisters practise sustainable living, environmental education, and Earth spirituality in their An Tairseach Ecology Centre, located on 70 acres of land in Wicklow Town. The centre features an on-site working biodynamic farm and farm shop – open Tuesday-Saturday throughout the year and stocked with a tasty variety of organic vegetables, meat and whole foods. The general public is welcome on the first Saturday of each month to enjoy a guided tour of the centre, farm and surrounding area, departing from the farm shop at 11am.
Love collecting some art while you’re on your travels? Kilmantin Arts is Wicklow's only community art gallery. Located on Bridge Street in the heart of Wicklow Town, it’s the ideal place to browse, be inspired and pick up an original piece of local art to remember your lighthouse trip by.
And of course, time spent in Wicklow Town wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Wicklow Gaol. Take an unforgettable journey through an original prison building, telling the stories of the men, women and children imprisoned here under British rule over two centuries of turbulent history.
While staying at the lighthouse be sure to embrace the salty coastal air via the Glen Beach Cliff Walk. A waymarked walk, it begins at Glen Beach on the outskirts of Wicklow Town and continues south to Lime-Kiln Bay and on towards the Lighthouse Road before doubling back again in a loop, totalling about 4km. This rewarding route treats walkers to spectacular stretches of idyllic Wicklow coastline.
Galley Head Lighthouse, Co. Cork | Beach fun, mouth-watering menus & whale watching too
A gleaming white lighthouse that sits at the southernmost point of a picturesque headland known as Dundeady Island, a stay at Galley Head Lighthouse means you’re ideally placed for a visit to the charming market town of Clonakilty – home of the famous black pudding!
Voted one of the world’s top 100 sustainable destinations, Clonakilty is the perfect place to explore while maintaining that all-important #CoastalKeeper approach to tourism, travel and leaving no trace. Home to, among many beautiful Blue Flag Beaches, Inchydoney – regularly voted Best Beach in Ireland – be sure to test your balancing skills with some surfing on its shores or enjoy dolphin and whale watching with a local tour operator. Mesmerising humpback whales are just some of the majestic creatures that visit these West Cork waters.
If you’re in the serious business of seriously enjoying your food, check out the Clonakilty Black Pudding Visitor Centre and discover why this 19th-century recipe never fails to entice. Or indulge your appetite at Camus Farm Field Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant situated on a family-run heritage farm. A field-to-table experience, much of the produce served is grown or reared on the farm, as sustainable as dining can get!
Loop Head Lighthouse, Co. Clare | Seaside towns, coastal trails & 19th-century ingenuity
If you’re staying at lovely Loop Head Lighthouse, there’s tonnes to explore in the area. Cyclists, drivers, and even some hardy walkers will love the 50-90km Loop Head Heritage Trail. A four to five-hour route, it starts from Kilkee Town and follows the Loop Head Peninsula coastline. Expect breath-taking views and stunning seascapes, as well as archaeological sites, rich maritime and military history, religious heritage and local folklore too.
In Kilbaha, a visit to the Church of the Little Ark demonstrates some nifty 19th-century ingenuity. Despite Catholic Emancipation, the Protestant landlords of Loop Head at that time refused permission for the building of a Catholic Church on their land. To sidestep this refusal, in 1852 Father Michael Meehan commissioned a local carpenter to build a wooden box on wheels. With the box housing an altar inside, it could be rolled onto the beach at low tide as the sea shore was considered no man’s land, and thus a mobile altar was born. Today, the box or Little Ark, is housed in a small annex in the church at Kilbaha. It’s open to visitors daily unless a service is taking place.
Brimming with geological marvels, Blue Flag beaches, exceptional restaurants and friendly locals, the Victorian seaside haven of Kilkee is Loop Head’s main town. Built around a horseshoe bay with a kilometre of golden shoreline, don’t miss the chance to have a dip in the Pollock Holes (also known as Duggerna Reef). It comprises a number of beautiful natural swimming pools that enjoy shelter from the mighty Atlantic.
And if you’d like to get close to the Atlantic while miraculously staying on dry land, a trip to the Bridges of Ross is a must. Set on the western side of the natural harbour of Ross Bay and 8km west of Carrigaholt, the Bridges of Ross have historically referred to a trio of incredible ocean-carved arches. Although only one 'bridge' has survived the centuries, you’ll love standing atop this grassy outcrop and surveying the ocean’s majesty.
True to Great Lighthouses of Ireland’s mission to encourage us all to be #CoastalKeepers, you’ll find lots of advice for taking a sustainable holiday in the Clare area, right here.
More charming spots near Loop Head to visit:
- Kilkee Farmer's Market – every Saturday from 12-2pm, selling home-grown vegetables, fresh eggs and plants. The same market takes place in Kilrush every Thursday, 10am-12pm.
- The Flying Alpaca pet farm and eco-farm, Kilkee – meet the whole alpaca family and spend some time with them!
- The Kilbaha Gallery – stunning art, sculptures and prints.
St John’s Point Lighthouses, Co. Donegal & Co. Down | Coastal charms & local crafts
While staying up at this charming Donegal harbour light, be sure to venture down to the practically pink sands of Coral Beach for a dose of that salty air. And for all you scuba aficionados? Thanks to its great diving sites which boast a sheer face down to 30m and showcase an abundance of fish-life, the headland of St John’s Point is renowned among scuba divers as Europe's answer to the Great Barrier Reef.
In nearby Dunkineely, the Cyndi Graham Handweaving Studio is the place to visit for authentic handmade textiles. Visit Cyndi’s workshop to see her crafting in action or browse her beautiful collection of scarves, hats, waistcoats, bags and shawls.
Over on the other side of Ulster, St John’s Point, Co. Down is the ideal base for walking, discovering the likes of Strangford Lough, an area of outstanding natural beauty, or the early Christian church in nearby Killough. On a stay here you can try your hand at catching crabs on the coastline beside the lighthouse and even treat yourself to farm fresh eggs from the lighthouse’s neighbour!
More charming spots near St John's Point, Donegal:
- Learn more about lauded Donegal tweed in Ardara at Triona Donegal Tweed Visitors Centre or pick up an item of two at Molloy & Sons.
- Sliabh Liag Distillers – Tour the Ardara Whiskey Distillery.
- Discover the 'secret waterfall' in Largy, near Killybegs.
- Donegal Craft Village, Donegal Town – a centre for contemporary arts and crafts, jewellery-making and glass-blowing to name but a few.
- Very popular with divers, the waters off the lighthouse are said to be incredible for diving.
- The Glencolmcille Folk Village Museum recreates Donegal's historic cottage dwellings, with history spanning 300+ years.
More charming spots near St John's Point, Down:
- Scopers, Dundrum – a take-away restaurant with a difference, it’s run by award-winning chef Paul Cunningham and focuses on sustainable, local produce.
- Duffy's, Killough – a local independent shop stocked with all the very best local produce.
- Soak Seaweed Baths, Newcastle, boasts locally-harvested seaweed.
- Local artisan markets once a month in Downpatrick (first Saturday of the month) and Newcastle (second Saturday of the month).
Blackhead Lighthouse, Co. Antrim | Sealife, natural havens & handcrafted fun
Just 30 minutes from Belfast and on the Causeway Coastal Route, Blackhead Lighthouse, Co. Antrim, is the perfect location to discover the best of Northern Ireland from.
Take the dramatic Gobbins Cliff Path to explore sea caves and coves and cross the remarkable metal bridge that juts out of the rock face, high above the thrashing waves. And if the weather allows, you might even see the coast of Scotland! Keen-eyed wildlife lovers might also spy the seals, dolphins and porpoises that hunt in these waters.
Or stroll the Blackhead Lighthouse Path, at approximately 2.4km it takes you to the pretty seaside village of Whitehead and back to the lighthouse again.
Nearby Beach Road Nature Reserve, once a limestone quarry, is today a biodiversity haven and home to a variety of birds, insects and plants. Its wildflower meadow showcases a rich mix of flora and fauna while a pair of breeding peregrines, who occupy a ledge on the quarry face about halfway up the cliff, might also be spotted as they nest from April to July.
Looking for a souvenir of your visit? Look no further than the delightful Lighthouse Yarns, a self-styled “emporium of woolly loveliness” in Whitehead. This charming spot has also been nominated best local independent yarn shop in Ireland. With handcrafted art and giftware by local makers in stock, and classes and workshops held in knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving and felting, there’s plenty to entice you into this treasure trove.
More charming spots near Blackhead to visit: