Famous Irish Lighthouses and Where to Find Them

Famous Irish Lighthouses

Updated On: May 02, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

All around Ireland, you will find some of the most unique and captivating lighthouses. Each lighthouse has an unforgettable history and stories to uncover. A perfect trip idea for visiting Ireland is taking a road trip around the country and exploring or even staying in some of these most famous Irish lighthouses.

In this guide, ConnollyCove will discuss some remarkable Irish lighthouses you must visit and what makes them so special and worthy of checking out on your next trip to the emerald island.

Here’s a small glimpse at some of the most famous Irish Lighthouses

The Hook of the Irish Sea

First, let’s begin with Ireland’s oldest operating Lighthouse and the second oldest in the world, Hook Lighthouse, located on the stunning Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. Hook Lighthouse is unique in every way, from its standout black-and-white stripes that draw you into its marvellous 800 years of history to uncover. It was even voted as one of Ireland’s favourite attractions, so you know a visit here will not disappoint.

As of last year, the current lighthouse has been standing tall for 846 years. It was first built by Knight Willam Marshal around the 5th century. This Irish lighthouse allows people to experience one of the most interesting examples of medieval architecture in Ireland.

In 2011, the lighthouse was opened as a tourist attraction, and the old keeper’s house was transformed into a visitor’s centre while remaining a fully operational lighthouse. Through guided tours, people can experience Hook lighthouse up close and personal, as they are taken on a memorable trip back in time. 

During a tour, you will uncover some incredible stories from life inside this lighthouse, life as a lightkeeper, and landing about the top-class technology that helps keep people safe while at sea today. 

It would help if you also stepped onto the lighthouse’s four-storey-high balcony to be truly captivated by the gorgeous sea views of Ireland’s Ancient East.

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Hook lighthouse – Ireland (lighthouse with the sun rising and grasslands)

 A Light for Famous Vessels

Next, located on the edge of Belfast Lough in County Antrim, is Blackhead Lighthouse, ideally situated for enjoying the stunning Northern Irish coastline. This Irish lighthouse was first built in 1902 and safely guided ships and vessels.

During Belfast’s golden shipping age, the Blackhead Lighthouse was essential in guiding many famous ships to and from the city, including the historic Titanic RMS. Blackhead Lighthouse offers a fantastic example of Northern Ireland’s maritime heritage, and for history buffs, it is sure to be a worthwhile visit.

Those wishing for an unforgettable experience in Ireland can stay at the Blackhead lightkeeper’s house next to the lighthouse. It is an experience like no other to soak up all that heritage and breathtaking views that come with staying in an Irish lighthouse. Each lightkeeper house includes fascinating fragments of lighthouse paraphernalia, such as a whistle pipe to wake the keepers up for their next watch. 

Staying here will leave you inspired within an unforgettable setting where you can wake up to the sunrise and watch the beautiful sunset every evening.

A Donegal Gem

In Donegal, along its magnificent Wild Atlantic Way, lies a very popular Irish lighthouse known as Fanad Head. This lighthouse stands tall between Lough Swilly and Mulroy Bay and has even been voted one of the world’s most beautiful lighthouses. We can understand why; it’s simply stunning and stops you in your tracks once you see it, along with the incredible scenery that surrounds Fanad Head lighthouse. 

Even the journey to reach the lighthouse isn’t short of spectacular, with views of the Inishowen Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean. All this makes it easy to understand why it was voted one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world, and you will only truly understand why when you check it out for yourself.

Fanad Head lighthouse was first built in 1812 after the devastating shipwreck of HMS Saldanha, which identified the need for a lighthouse within the area to prevent further incidents. from  

Being around for so long comes with an intriguing history, which you can dive further into through a guided tour of the lighthouse. Guided tours are a must-experience to get an amazing insight into the rich and colourful history that lies here.

Fanad head will not disappoint when you visit, and you will want to ensure you have your camera to capture the unforgettable beauty. 

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Fanad Head Lighthouse – Donegal (lighthouse close to the tip of the cliff with ranging sea waves beneath)

World’s Most Powerful Lighthouse

County Cork is home to a few famous Irish lighthouses, but one, in particular, is Galley Head, which was first built during the late 18th century. During its construction, Galley Head was once considered the most powerful lighthouse in the world. Since then, it has become an iconic landmark in Ireland. During both World Wars, this Irish lighthouse helped guide many British and German ships along the ocean, and its intense light could have been seen in clear weather for as far as 30km.

The stunning white lighthouse sits high above the fierce Atlantic Ocean on the pretty headland of Dundeady Island, near the charming town of Clonakilty. 

Through the Irish Landmark Trust, they have helped to transform two of its lightkeepers’ houses into the perfect accommodation for guests, offering a place to stay in Ireland with a difference. The place offers the ideal location to enjoy a range of outdoor pursuits, and the area is often popular for dolphin and whale watching.

The Iconic Atlantic Lighthouse 

The Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast is one of Ireland’s most famous parts. It has unmatched scenery, and here you’ll discover the spectacular Loop Head lighthouse. Loop Head is located on the top of the peninsula in West Clare, where land meets the sea. It will quickly draw you in, and you’ll want to learn more about what lies inside this magnificent lighthouse. 

Since the late 1600s, there has always been a lighthouse on Loop Head. It originally was a coal-burning brazier attached to the lighthouse cottage, where the lightkeeper would stay. Over time, the lighthouse has been changed and improved a few times. The first tower lighthouse was built in 1802 and then again replaced with a newer version in 1854.  

Today, through the lightkeeper’s cottage, visitors can dive into the history of the place with its interactive exhibits or take part in a lively guided tour that takes you to the lighthouse tower and will fill you up on remarkable stories from the past before ending the tour on the lighthouse balcony for mesmerising views as far as the famous Blasket Islands. 

If one visit isn’t enough, treat yourself to a lovely stay at the lightkeeper’s cottage. It offers comfortable self-catering accommodation and is embedded with lots of character from the maritime past.

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Loop Head lighthouse (lighthouse with two buildings behind it)

Ireland’s Only Upside Down Lighthouse

Lighthouses in Ireland come in different shapes and sizes, each unique. One that stands out against the rest is Rathlin West Light. What makes this Irish lighthouse so unique? Well, it only happens to be upside down. Not very often do you hear of an upside-down lighthouse, which makes it special and different.

This lighthouse is located on Rathlin Island, in County Antrim, and visitors can only access it by boat. We promise it is worth checking out; even the sea experience getting over is exciting as the area is home to one of the largest sea colonies in the UK. 

Just this year(2019), Rathlin West Light marked 100 years of safely guiding boats at sea and has become a popular attraction in Northern Ireland on its only inhabited offshore island. Its signature red signal shines 23 miles out to sea from its quirky lighthouse built onto the edge of a cliff. 

Prior to 2016, there was no access to the lighthouse, but now it has been transformed to provide an exciting visitor experience. Here, you can uncover the lighthouse’s history, see unique wildlife, and surround yourself with the area’s unspoilt beauty. It is truly a one-of-a-kind lighthouse in Ireland that will leave you impressed in every way.

Antrim’s Great Light

Located in Belfast, the Great Light is another unique lighthouse worth adding to your list of things to see when visiting Northern Ireland’s capital city. It is one of the world’s largest and rarest lighthouse optics. It’s not your typical lighthouse, but that’s why it’s unique and intriguing. It’s something you most likely have never seen before. 

The Great Light is around 130 years old. At seven metres tall and ten tonnes in weight, it’s a unique heritage object that perfectly fits in with Belfast’s unforgettable maritime past. It could never be replaced, providing a rare maritime artefact in the heart of the city. 

It has also produced one of the most incredible light beams ever to shine, ensuring it lives up to its iconic name. The Antrim Great Light adds an exciting part to the Belfast Titanic Walkway, where history is never forgotten, and the incredible light will not fail to impress lighthouse fanatics or history buffs.

St. John’s Point

To finish our guide to some of Ireland’s most incredible lighthouses, we must mention St. John’s Point in Killough, County Down. It’s captivating with its striking black and orange striped colours, making it stand out in the lovely County Down scenery. 

This is another lighthouse where people can visit and stay and dive deeper into its heritage and history, which has been created since the 1800s when the lighthouse was first built.  

Escape your boring routine and live life as a lightkeeper (even if it is just pretend) in the idyllic location of St. John’s Point. There are two lighthouse keeper cottages to stay in, Ketch and Sloop, both brimming with character and comfortability for a unique stay in Ireland.

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St. John’s Point – County Down (yellow and black coloured lighthouse with four buildings behind it)

A Lighthouse Experience Like No Other

These are just a few of the 70 unique lighthouses around Ireland, each offering tales to tell that will intrigue anyone interested. Why not plan the ultimate road to explore all these fantastic lighthouses, stopping at each destination to uncover the surrounding areas? It’s truly a one-of-a-kind way to experience the emerald Ireland, and you’re sure to be filled with lots of beauty and heritage along the way.

Do you have a favourite lighthouse in Ireland or even around the world? Share with us in the comments; we would love to know!

One comment on “Famous Irish Lighthouses and Where to Find Them

  1. While on bus tour in Ireland, tour guide mentioned offshore lighthouse that was lit by nuns getting to it nightly in rowboat. I believe in the Wexford area. Do you have any info on this?

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