FX Excursions

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Where to Find Some of Ireland’s Best Lighthouses

by Aoife O’Riordan

Apr 23, 2024

Hook Lighthouse © Tourism Ireland

Daily

Surrounded by ocean on all sides, from the rocky Atlantic Ocean to the Irish Sea in the east and Celtic Sea in the south, Ireland’s beautiful coastlines also come with both historic and captivating lighthouses, many atop dramatic rocks and cliffs.

The Great Lighthouses of Ireland, of which there are 19, offer either accommodations or guided tours and interactive exhibits for some of the most memorable experiences you’ll find in the country. So, where can you find such places in Ireland?

Loop Head, Co. Clare

Once a coal-burning brazier on a platform in 1670 used to warn sailors about the Clare coast, Loop Head Lighthouse today features interactive exhibits in the lightkeeper’s cottage. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for 360-degree views. For the ultimate experience, stay in one of the lightkeepers’ cottages.

Donegal

Fanad Head © Tourism Ireland

Fanad Head, Co. Donegal

In northwest Ireland, this early 19th-century lighthouse stands on Fanad Peninsula between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay. The lighthouse has been voted one of the most beautiful in the world, and guided tours are available to learn about its history and the people who worked there. Look out for whales, dolphins and porpoises surfacing in the sea below. Overnight accommodations are available in the former lightkeepers’ cottages, as well.

Hook Lighthouse, Co. Wexford

Hook sits at the entrance to Waterford Harbour in Ireland’s Ancient East and is the oldest operating lighthouse in the world. The almost intact, medieval lighthouse invites visitors to explore its 800 years of history through daily tours. Private sunrise and sunset tours are also available.

Co. Down

St. John’s Lighthouse © Tourism Ireland

St. John’s Point, Co. Down

You won’t easily miss the yellow and black stripes of St. John’s lighthouse, the tallest on-shore lighthouse on the island’s coastline. Stay the night in one of two adjacent lightkeepers’ cottages and start the morning exploring the beautiful surroundings. Fun fact: The lighthouse is mentioned in Van Morrison’s song “Coney Island,” and playwright Brendan Behan helped his father paint it.

Blackhead Lighthouse, Co. Antrim

This lighthouse guided many famous ships into and out of Belfast Lough over the years, including the Titanic and her sister ships. Manned until 1975, the lighthouse now offers accommodations in three restored lightkeepers’ houses beside it.

Rathlin

Rathlin West Lighthouse © Tourism Ireland

Rathlin West Light, Co. Antrim

Also in Antrim, this quirky lighthouse is the “upside down” Rathlin West Light on Rathlin Island, located 25 minutes west by ferry from Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast. This lighthouse was built into the cliff face and rises above its beacon. While on the island, spot the many seabird colonies like puffins, fulmars, razorbills, kittiwakes and guillemots.

Other Great Lighthouses include Galley Head, Cork; Clare Island Lighthouse, Mayo; Killybegs Sea Safari, Donegal; Youghal Lighthouse, Cork; and Blacksod Lighthouse, Donegal.

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