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Stay in a Lighthouse on the Wild Atlantic Way



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Standing resolute against the elements on remote and romantic outcrops, Ireland’s famous lighthouses have been beckoning ships at sea for centuries. With stories of sunken treasure, captivating wildlife, pirate queens and a number of them offering unforgettable overnight stays, it’s no wonder so many of them have been named Great Lighthouses of Ireland.

Below are seven of the Wild Atlantic Way’s exceptional lighthouses. While so far only four offer overnight accommodation, each offers the coastal experience of a lifetime.

 
 

1. FANAD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY DONEGAL

Starting in County Donegal’s evocative Northern Headlands, at 39m tall Fanad Head Lighthouse braves the crashing Atlantic waves from its perch on the western shore of the Fanad Peninsula. Gleaming white and showcasing incredible panoramas of Tory Island, Lough Swilly and more, who could resist playing lightkeeper by staying in one of Fanad’s three pretty self-catering cottages?

Whether staying over or not, be sure to take a tour up the magnificent lighthouse tower - a fixture on the Donegal landscape since 1817. But windswept seascapes aren’t all that Fanad offers; along with picturesque drives, great golf and plenty of water activities, there’s history in these waters too. The construction of the lighthouse was proposed after the wreck of the HMS Saldanha occurred here in 1812, while further south along the peninsula, Rathmullan Pier is the very location the Flight of the Earls took place in the 17th century. And there’s even treasure afoot; 22 gold bars are said to lie deep in Fanad’s waters after the SS Laurentic sank and lost its precious cargo in 1917. Who knew one headland could hold such history? 

 
 
The 14m tower of St John's Point Lighthouse, County Donegal
 

2. ST JOHN’S POINT LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY DONEGAL

Another Donegal treasure lies on one of Ireland’s longest peninsulas; the majestic St John’s Point Lighthouse has been a guiding light for Donegal Bay, Killybegs Harbour and Rotten Island since 1833. Nestled on a striking stretch of coastline, its pristine white tower stands 14m tall and on a stay in one of its two lightkeepers’ cottages, you can drink in views of Inishmurray Island and Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag.

Streedagh Strand, on which 24 of the Spanish Armada’s ships were wrecked, is also nearby and worth an exploration. Boasting some renowned diving spots, why not dive in and see what lies beneath these idyllic waters? Or try to nab the catch of the day with your pick of sea fishing and angling operators.

 
 
Cyclists explore Clare Island
 

3. CLARE ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY MAYO

To the County Mayo corner of the Bay Coast next, where you’ll find a veritable island paradise. Perched on mesmeric Clare Island, Clare Island Lighthouse is truly one-of-a-kind. Not only can visitors roam its charming Blue Flag beach and spot beautiful birdlife, the opportunity to stay in this lighthouse is pretty irresistible. B&B accommodation at the two-towered, 19th-century lighthouse provides an experience where guests can indulge in a sumptuous six-course dinner served in the lighthouse’s exquisite library.

Day tripping to the island itself? It simply begs to be explored. Take a guided tour of the lighthouse before roaming the unique landscape to discover nesting seabirds, winding mountain paths, and an array of unspoilt scenic spots. The island was even owned by the family of legendary pirate queen Grace O’Malley in the Middle Ages, so it’s safe to say you’ll be in fine company.

 
 
Loop Head lighthouse offers an unforgettable place to stay
 

4. LOOP HEAD LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY CLARE

On the County Clare edge of the captivating Cliff Coast you’ll find Loop Head Lighthouse. Incredibly, a light has been guiding ships from the same spot on Loop Head Peninsula since 1670, making it one of the world's most famous lighthouses and a rather historic place to stay. Experience a slice of maritime life in the delightfully quaint lightkeeper's cottage and enjoy everything from bird watching at the breathtaking Bridges of Ross and glimpsing dolphins in Carrigaholt to cycling the stunning peninsula. 

And that’s before you’ve toured the lighthouse’s interactive exhibition or embraced unrivalled views atop the tower’s windswept balcony. 

 
 
Rugged and remote stands Valentia Island Lighthouse
 

While you can’t stay in the following three lighthouses, they’re certainly worth a look as they encompass sensational scenery in seriously striking corners of counties Kerry and Cork.


5. VALENTIA ISLAND LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY KERRY

With a vantage point over some of the most exceptional County Kerry sights on the Wild Atlantic Way, nestled in the Southern Peninsulas, a trip to Valentia Island Lighthouse is a serene slice of island life.

With a guided tour of the lighthouse tower and balcony you’ll encounter astonishing panoramas over UNESCO World Heritage Site Skellig Michael and the remote, wave-thrashed Blasket Islands. For more information on the utterly unique Skellig Michael, a trip to the nearby visitor centre is a must. The rocky island is so otherworldly that some of the recent Star Wars films were even shot there.

For a small island, Valentia certainly makes its historical mark. It was from Valentia Harbour in 1866 that the world's first transatlantic cable was laid, stretching an incredible 1,686 nautical miles to Newfoundland. Discover more about this engineering feat at the home of the Valentia Cable Station's first supervisor, James Graves. And after all that sightseeing, don't forget to embrace the ocean views from the beautifully rugged discovery points of Geokaun Mountain and Bray Head.

 
 
Spot sealife from Mizen's suspension bridge
 

6. MIZEN SIGNAL STATION/FASTNET LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY CORK

High on a clifftop in County Cork’s stretch of the Southern Peninsulas and on Ireland’s most southwesterly point - Mizen Head, stands Mizen Head Signal Station.

Facing the sea from this wind-beaten point since 1906, the station’s fascinating visitor centre details everything from local geology and seafaring history to Italian inventor Marconi’s time spent in Cork. After taking on the 99 steps to the signal station’s suspension bridge, take a breather and see if you can spot some sealife or even the propeller of the wrecked 19th-century ship SS Irada. The bridge is also a particularly good point from which to spot basking sharks, seals and humpback whales. Remarkably, the remains of Wolfe Tone’s ship L’Impatience can also be seen in Mizen Head’s waters, so keep your eyes peeled.

Just beyond Mizen Head on Fastnet Rock sits Fastnet Lighthouse. With its impressive granite tower standing firm against the elements since the 19th century, Fastnet is also known as Ireland’s Teardrop, since it was the last trace of Ireland visible on the horizon to departing emigrants bound for America. 

 
 
Kayakers around Kinsale's Old Head
 

 7. OLD HEAD OF KINSALE LIGHTHOUSE, COUNTY CORK

Down on the sandy shores of County Cork’s Haven Coast awaits world-class golf, gastronomic gems, a Wild Atlantic Way Signature Point and, of course, an eye-catching lighthouse in beautiful Kinsale

The Old Head of Kinsale lighthouse is hard to miss with its dramatic black and white markings and its position on a spectacular headland that juts three kilometres out into the Atlantic. While you can’t visit the lighthouse itself, one of the best places to admire it from is on a cruise or kayak in these crystalline waters. Out on the water you can also spot historic sites like Charles Fort and James Fort, both 17th-century strongholds. Back on dry land, take one of the town’s many walking tours to learn about the likes of the famous Battle of Kinsale and the Lusitania’s tragic sinking close to the Old Head of Kinsale in 1915. Make time to visit the recently restored 200-year-old Old Head Signal Tower, which boasts wonderful views and some artifacts from the Lusitania itself. 



Feeling inspired to start your own coastal adventure? Find out more about the Great Lighthouses of Ireland here or plan your trip to one of these gorgeous getaways using the Trip Planner.