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Overnight stays in lighthouses across the island of Ireland have increased by 60 per cent since 2019, the Great Lighthouses of Ireland partnership says.

 As Afloat reported earlier, lighthouse tourism attracted 622,000 people last year.

 “Lighthouses have such a special and universal appeal and are located in some of our island’s most breathtaking coastal landscapes,”  Bobby Kerr, chair of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland, told a conference discussing further development of this type of coastal tourism.

 “Pre-Covid, the Great Lighthouses of Ireland delivered an estimated €16.8m economic benefit in under four years, and supported over 400 jobs,” Kerr noted at the gathering, which opened in Belfast on Sunday.

The three-day conference hosted by the partnership - which was initiated in 2015 by the Commissioners of Irish Lights -  involves sessions on Rathlin Island and Blackhead Lighthouse in Whitehead, Co Antrim.

  “Last year, overnight stays in lighthouses rose to an occupancy rate of 74% - that’s up from 46% in 2019 pre-Covid,” Kerr said.

Commissioners of Irish Lights chief executive Yvonne Shields O’Connor told the conference that lighthouse tourism is a  “ positive and sustainable way to preserve our maritime heritage”.

“It can provide income and jobs for coastal communities and increase visitor numbers to the island of Ireland,” she said.

 Irish Lights maintains some 340 general aids to navigation, including over 60 lighthouses right around the coast, with some of the keepers’ cottages now used for tourism.

Assistant keeper Gerald Butler at West Cork’s Galley Head says the sector is thriving as people are drawn to the tranquillity offered by lighthouse cottages.

Shields O’Connor cited Rathin Island off the Antrim coast as a good example of how lighthouse tourism works at local level.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) runs the island’s West Lighthouse and seabird sanctuary there, while the  Rathlin Development and Community Association are working on plans to repurpose the island’s East Lighthouse for visitors and the community.

Local ferry company Kintra Tours offers boat trips to view all three Rathlin lighthouses and spot puffins and dolphins en route.

Great Lighthouses of Ireland partners include Kintra Boat Tours, Maritime Belfast the Irish Landmark Trust, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds Northern Ireland RSPB, Forbairt Fhanada Teoranta (Fanad Community Group), Killybegs Sea Safari,  Ballycotton Sea Adventures, Cork County Council, Ionad Deirbhile, Hook Heritage limited, Valentia Island Development Company, Kerry County Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Clare Island Lighthouse, Cape Clear Ferries, Clare Co Council, and Kerry Aqua Terra Boat Adventure Tours  

Great Lighthouses of Ireland is also supported by Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland and Tourism Ireland.

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Lighthouse tourism in Ireland has significantly increased, with a 60% rise in overnight stays in such facilities throughout the country since 2019, according to the Great Lighthouses of Ireland tourism initiative. Last year, over 622,000 people visited lighthouses and lighthouse tourism experiences throughout the country.

The Great Lighthouses of Ireland partnership, established in 2015 and led by Irish Lights, is composed of public, private, and community sector partners, and aims to preserve maritime heritage throughout the country. The partnership will host a three-day conference in Belfast from October 8 to plan future growth for lighthouse tourism throughout the country.

Bobby Kerr, chairperson of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland partnership, said, “Lighthouses have such a special and universal appeal and are located in some of our island’s most breathtaking coastal landscapes. Growing lighthouse tourism has multiple benefits. It’s a positive and sustainable way to preserve our maritime heritage. It can provide income and jobs for coastal communities and increase visitor numbers to the island of Ireland.”

Blackhead Lighthouse in County Antrim Photo: Malcolm McGettiganBlackhead Lighthouse in County Antrim Photo: Malcolm McGettigan

The Great Lighthouses of Ireland partnership has estimated that it provided an economic benefit of €16.8m in under four years and supported over 400 jobs before the COVID-19 pandemic. Irish Lights CEO Yvonne Shields O’Connor stated that the partnership’s recovery is underway and that it is well-positioned for the future.

“We share a vision and collaborate as partners to create truly inspiring and transformative visitor experiences. It’s time now to be more ambitious about what we can achieve together,” said O’Connor.

The Titanic Light, Belfast, is part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland tourism initiativeThe Titanic Light, Belfast, is part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland tourism initiative

The conference, which is scheduled for October 8-10, will explore a number of lighthouse-related projects throughout Northern Ireland, with the goal of developing sustainable visitor experiences based on maritime heritage and culture throughout the region.

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Plans are being made to remove the Royal Sovereign lighthouse which was a familiar navigational mark for yachts off Britain’s east Sussex coast.

It is expected that it will take two years for marine contractors Herbosch-Kiere to complete the work, and the lantern tower may be retained in the local area for the community.

The lighthouse built at a cost of £1.5 million sterling was completed in 1971, and it replaced a lightship of the same name. The lightship had marked the Royal Sovereign shoal.

It was built in two parts on land, with a reinforced concrete supporting column placed in position first.

An upper deck/lantern with built-in accommodation for the keepers and a helicopter landing deck was added, and the column was raised to its full height.

The lighthouse was automated and converted to solar power in 1994.

Trinity House, responsible for lighthouses and navigational marks, announced in 2019 that the station was being decommissioned.

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Amateur radio enthusiasts from across Ireland's midwest gathered at Loop Head Lighthouse Experience on the Shannon Estuary in County Clare over the weekend to participate in the 26th annual International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW). The event, which saw the Limerick Clare Radio Amateur Club broadcast non-stop for 48 hours from the West Clare lighthouse, involved using Morse Code and Single Sideband Radio to contact lighthouses and lightships around the world.

The Limerick Clare Radio Amateur Club has had great success in previous years, having contacted fellow radio amateurs in countries such as Australia, Brazil, and the US Virgin Islands. During this year's broadcast, visitors to the lighthouse were able to listen in on communications with some of the 500 lighthouses and lightships in over 40 countries that were activated by amateur radio enthusiasts.

Loop Head Lighthouse is an ideal location for long-distance radio communication attempts due to its isolated location on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and the lack of radio interference in the general area. The Club operated two stations during the weekend, one of which was at the entrance to the Lighthouse so members of the public could listen to some of the transmissions.

Loop Head Lighthouse is one of 17 Great Lighthouses of Ireland and has become one of West Clare's most popular attractions since it first opened to visitors in 2011Loop Head Lighthouse is one of 17 Great Lighthouses of Ireland and has become one of West Clare's most popular attractions since it first opened to visitors in 2011

Joe Ryan, Secretary of the Limerick Clare Amateur Radio Club, expressed his gratitude to all the staff of Clare County Council and the Commissioners of Irish Lights for their help in planning the event and allowing them to use the grounds as part of the International Lighthouse and Lightships Weekend.

Loop Head Lighthouse Experience is one of 17 Great Lighthouses of Ireland and has become one of West Clare's most popular attractions since it first opened to visitors in 2011. The lighthouse also serves as one of two Signature Discovery Points in County Clare along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Overall, the event was a great success and brought together radio enthusiasts from all over the world to share their love of communication and lighthouses.

See here for more information on the International Lighthouse and Lightships Weekend

Published in Shannon Estuary

Red Stripe Press has published Ireland’s Guiding Lights: Celebrating Our Lighthouses by Dennis Horgan, Gerald Butler and Tim McCarthy, a book full of aerial photography and rich stories from one of Ireland’s most celebrated lighthouse historians.

Ireland has a rich maritime heritage, and lighthouses have played a significant part in our history.

These unique structures ring our coast, providing safe passage for all those who sail our coastal waters, from mammoth ocean-going tankers to leisure craft and fishing vessels. Despite the advances in GPS technology, our lighthouses provide a permanent guiding presence by day and night.

Aerial photographer Dennis Horgan has spent many hours in light aircraft flying around the entire island of Ireland, capturing stunning images of these coastal sentinels from a rarely seen perspective.

Alongside these images, former Irish Lights keeper and lighthouse historian Gerald Butler contributes some fascinating insights into these lights and the dedicated people who manned them.

With a foreword by the chairman of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, Ireland’s Guiding Lights will appeal to all who have an interest in our coastal lighthouses.

Ireland’s Guiding Lights is available now from all good bookshops, and for €24.99.

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Lee Maginnis notes the 200th anniversary of the great granite Haulbowline Lighthouse on the County Louth coast will be in 2024

Haulbowline Lighthouse, that feat of granite engineering sitting on a wave-washed rock in the mouth of Carlingford Lough. Northern Ireland on one side, the Republic of Ireland on the other. Not that the nesting Cormorants on the window ledges know or care.

There was another lighthouse on Cranfield Point; it became a victim of the erosion going on a lot longer than many care to admit. But the old light had already been replaced by the time it fell into the sea.

It had been in the wrong place. Invisible to ships in the West and not marking the dangerous rocks at the mouth of the lough. George Haplin designed and built Haulbowline in 1824.

That makes the remarkable Haulbowline nearly 200 years old. Remarkable. Sitting out there on a rock that can rarely be seen. Battered by the waves. Strong currents racing past the base.

The tower was white until 1946. Now it is back to its natural stone.

Many other features have long gone. It seems a pity to many that they were not retained. The metal ball hoisted and lowered to indicate the tide level. The half-tide lantern displayed on the seaward side, halfway up. The red turning light. Explosive fog signals...

On 17 March 1965, Haulbowline had the dubious honour of becoming the first Irish major offshore light to be fully automated and remotely monitored and controlled from shore. The dataphonic system installed sent pre-recorded voice messages ashore by telephone about the status of the light and equipment. This was the beginning of the end of the lighthouse keeper.

Haulbowline in the past. Photographer unknownHaulbowline in the past. Photographer unknown

The fog signal sounded, and the light flashed if visibility was poor, day or night, back then.

The light still flashes three times every ten seconds. Still from a height of 32 metres in a tower 34 metres tall. But it is an LED now, range down to 10 nautical miles.

The fog signal is gone. It is missed by many.

Generators are no longer heard humming; now, a solar panel charges the batteries that provide power during the night.

Thankfully Haulbowline is still there and is listed. It is active. A monument to the past, but still capable of stirring up a strong sense of adventure and mystery today as it guides ships and guards the mouth of Carlingford Lough.

Kiwi Lee Maginnis lives in the countryside of Northern Ireland likes the outdoors, wildlife and sport. He has a keen interest in the sea and the environment. 

Published in Lighthouses

The summer season sees Carlingford Lough Ferry kicking off with the launch of its passenger 'cruise' schedule.

As Dundalk Democrat writes, last week dates were released for their June Sunset cruises, which commences this Saturday June 12th and tickets are already being snapped up.

Carlingford Lough is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and is at its most beautiful as the sun sets over the Cooley Peninsula and the majestic Mourne Mountains.

These new sunset lough cruises are specifically designed to offer customers the opportunity to take a safe and socially distanced cruise on the iconic Carlingford Lough.

While onboard (Aisling Gabrielle), passengers will enjoy a fascinating audio tour, that will offer insights into the myths and legends of this majestic Lough, its formation as a glacial fjord, and its abundance of wildlife and bird life, in addition to live music and entertainment.

Carlingford Lough Ferry launched it’s passenger cruise service, ‘Carlingford Lough Cruises’ in 2019, and these passenger cruises on the Lough have since proved extremely popular with the number of cruises increasing annually.

This summer, they are extending their range of cruises once again and offering a host of new cruise experiences.

Their popular Lough & Lighthouse cruises return throughout July and August, with June featuring a new Sunset inner Lough cruise to start the summer season of cruises.

For more details on other themed cruises and prices click here.

Published in Ferry

Valentia Island Lighthouse has announced the launch of a new visitor experience, ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ and the re-opening for the 2021 season.

‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ will deliver a whole new experience to the visitors, a journey through time and history, featuring the bronze age standing stone, the 17th century well preserved Cromwellian fort, the Lightkeeper’s House with a 1920’s feel, and the Lighthouse Tower with fantastic 360-degree views of the area and across the Atlantic Ocean. The visitors will learn about how life was for people living on the edge of Europe and in particular what was like for a lightkeeper to live at the Lighthouse with his family. The rich history of the area is also presented at the Lighthouse from early Christianity until modern days. There is also a new Eco-room that displays information about marine life in the area and raises awareness about our seas. The new Interpretation project covers a vast spectrum of information and it is very appealing for visitors with different areas of interest.

The Lighthouse Project is managed by Valentia Island Development Company, a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island.

The Lighthouse Project is managed by a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island The Lighthouse Project is managed by a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island

Speaking about the new visitor experience, Lucian Horvat, Manager at Valentia Island Lighthouse said:

“Despite these unprecedented times, the Lighthouse Committee and Management were determined to deliver the project in time for the return of domestic tourism in line with Government guidelines. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Fáilte Ireland for their vital support and guidance, the South Kerry Development Partnership who have supported us since Valentia Island Lighthouse opened to the public in 2013, the Great Lighthouses of Ireland group, an initiative of Irish Lights, and Mirador Media who worked around the clock to implement our vision for the historical site at Valentia Island Lighthouse. ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ is a great example of collaboration between agencies, stakeholders and local community groups.”

The ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ visitor experience was developed through Fáilte Ireland’s ‘New Horizons on the Wild Atlantic Way’ Grants Scheme. Wild Atlantic Way Manager at Fáilte Ireland, Josephine O’Driscoll, said: “The Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Skelligs Coast, which was developed in consultation with local stakeholders, tourism businesses and the community, identified a number of development projects to bring local experiences along the Skellig Coast to life to help drive and sustain tourism in the area. Following the launch of the plan, we invested in a number of projects including €120,000 in the development of ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ at Valentia Island Lighthouse and it is fantastic to see the project come to fruition just in time for the summer season. Innovative visitor experiences such as this are hugely important in attracting visitors and encouraging them to stay longer in the area and will be critical as we look towards the recovery of the tourism sector.”

Brian Morgan – Director VIDC and Lighthouse Committee Chairperson said: “Best wishes to Lucian and our team on the re-opening of the Lighthouse for the season 2021. Tremendous work has been done to create a new experience at the lighthouse. The visitor will see for themselves what life must have been like for the lighthouse keeper and his family, to live in such an isolated place under harsh conditions. The new and improved visitor attraction is looking forward to welcoming even more visitors this year.”

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An abandoned lighthouse on the largest Aran island off Galway bay is for sale for over half a million euros.

As reports today, the lighthouse and ruined buildings command a view of the Atlantic from the island’s highest point.

The site owned by an Aran island resident on about five acres takes its name from and is close to one of Inis Mór’s ring forts, Dún Eochalla.

Dún Eochalla was constructed with an inner stone fort and outer rampart, as one of a series of ring forts on the island – the best known being Dun Aonghasa.

The lighthouse several fields away has been advertised with a guide price of 550,000 euro.

It was constructed from about 1810, using island limestone, and took eight years to build.

The structure rose to 144 metres above sea level, and was visible from counties Galway, Clare, Mayo, Limerick and Kerry

It was decommissioned in 1857, however, as its use as a navigational aid was too limited. There were complaints that its beam could not be seen by shipping in heavy fog.

The residential quarters, now also in ruin, were built for lightkeepers and their families, who used to be stationed at lighthouses from the mid 19th century.

Joe Greaney of Keane Mahony Smith auctioneers in Galway said the property had potential as a “recreation project” for an investor with sufficient funds. It was used for a time as a museum, he said.

Read more at here

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Young authors have contributed to a new book published by The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) which aims to benefit two charities.

The organisation’s Young Storykeepers’ Project has put together The Lighthouse Storybook, a collection of stories written by young children. 

The project was developed through the tourism and community partnership, Great Lighthouses of Ireland, and creative writing organisation Fighting Words and captured over 1250 stories by children between seven and 12 years old. 

All proceeds from the sale of The Lighthouse Storybook will directly support the work of Children in Hospital Ireland and the Northern Ireland Hospice, CIL says.

CIL chief executive Yvonne Shields O’Connor praised “this wonderful storybook, which is a selection from many original stories, poems and illustrations that were submitted by young writers aged 7–12 years from every corner of the island of Ireland and beyond” 

“For hundreds of years, lighthouses have kept seafarers safe, helping them find their way with a guiding light and safe journey,”she said, and it was fitting that sales of the book would “support wonderful organisations who help children navigate through their time in hospital.” 

Children in Hospital Ireland is a non-profit organisation committed to promoting and ensuring the welfare of all children in hospital, and Northern Ireland Hospice offers specialist respite, symptom management and end of life palliative care to children and adults each year across Northern Ireland.

Fighting Words was co-founded by Roddy Doyle and Seán Love in 2009 to help children and young people – along with adults who did not have this opportunity as children- to “discover and harness the power of their own imaginations and creative writing skills”.

People wishing to purchase the book can visit here

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