We love to stay at remote and evocative lighthouses when we visit the UK and Ireland. Cliffside locations by the sea, extensive coastal walking paths, beautifully appointed rooms, and fully functional kitchens are the perks that keep us coming back again and again. We’ve listed seven of our favorite lighthouses below, as well as this link to a few recipes and even a shopping list so you can easily cook some easy, traditional recipes after shopping at local farm markets.
1. Start Point Lighthouse, Devon, England
This is one of our favorite lighthouses, since it has a beautiful, large deck that looks out over the sea. Start Point is fairly remote. The nearest town is a few miles away, and to get there you’ll need to drive on small roads surrounded by hedgerows. The nearest store is about 30 minutes away, even though it’s not actually that far — it’s just that you need to drive slowly on these tiny roads. That said, there is nothing more romantic and restful than burrowing away in a lighthouse for a few days, walking the cliff paths, and watching the boats go by. In either direction on the coastal path you can walk to a nice pub. To the west about 4 miles in West Prawle is the Pigs Nose Inn, and to the east about 3 miles is the more upscale Cricket Inn in Beesands. We stopped in at a few local farm stores, stocked up on local cider, cheese, bread, sausages, tea, milk and scones and spent a few days here, walking each day to lunches at pubs, then having dinner at night at the lighthouse.
2. Pendeen Lighthouse, Cornwall, England
This stunning lighthouse is located two miles from the tiny Cornish town of St. Just. There is a long driveway that leads to the lighthouse; this is walkable so you can park your car and then walk into town. There are four cottages here; both times we’ve stayed here we stayed in the cottage called “Argus”. There is quite a bit of space in the cottage – a full kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, a living room, and a foyer. The cottages are always immaculate, well appointed, and the company that rents them out, Rural Retreats, supplies a welcome basket with lots of local goodies. Cornwall is full of standing stones, quoits and stone circles, and many are easily visitable from Pendeen, either by walking or driving. St. Just has a few pubs, a couple of takeaway food options, and a small grocery store. The lighthouse itself is still in operation; the rental company provides earplugs so guests can protect themselves from the foghorns, which go off in inclement weather. We were expecting insanely loud, boomy blasts; we were surprised to find that you can barely hear the horn in the house, though I imagine that it would be quite a shock if you were standing next to the horns when they went off, so you might want to wear earplugs outside.
3. Loop Head Lighthouse, County Clare, Ireland
This lighthouse is open to visits from the public, and during the high season it can be very, very crowded out here during the day. We were there for a few days in the off season (March) and we saw less than 10 people in five days.–we actually saw more rabbits than people. There is a lighthouse keeper who lives on site.
The cabin for rent is has two floors, a couple of bedrooms, a living room, and a sit-in kitchen. The kitchen is fully equipped, but it’s not set up to cook anything very complicated. The nearest store is in Kilbaha, a few miles away, and it’s just a tiny little store with a very few items.
At the end of the path, on the cliff’s edge, there is a loveseat-size indentation in the grass. We found this a perfect, if somewhat scary, place to sit for hours while drinking hot coffee and tea, and watch pods of dolphins, flocks of gulls, and rainbows. It was incredible. Be very careful—this ‘loveseat’ is literally on the edge of a cliff that is about 300ft high, there are no safety rails or anything like that. Falling here would be quite easy so use your judgement.
4. Cromer Lighthouse, East Anglia, England
A pictureque octagonal lighthouse, the Cromer light is perched not on a cliff’s edge, but atop a high sweeping meadow near the sea. The bedroom is located underneath the lighthouse itself, so the bedroom is octagonal shaped (and from the bed, at night you can see the light sweepting across the cliffs).
From the cottage you can walk five minutes to the Coastal Path, and from there follow a hundred or more boardwalk-style steps through the woods to the beach and the North Sea below. There will be few if any people down there with you, especially at dusk, when you can enjoy the evening colors in the sky cut occasionally by the light from the lighthouse.
The coastal path itself offers a short but beautiful walk into the town of Cromer itself. We don’t recommend visiting Cromer town during summer season, as it is a crowded and almost tacky tourist attraction (but if you *do* plan to be here in the summer season, Cromer Lighthouse would be the place to stay). In the off-season, you’ll have the lighthouse, town, and coastal paths nearly all to yourself, as we did when we visited in March. We like to visit local farm markets (like Walsingham’s) and stock up on local produce, cheese, meat and fish, then spend our evenings enjoying the stunning location and scenery.
5. Wicklow Head, County Wicklow, Ireland
This lighthouse is truly unique–you rent the entire lighthouse, not just a keeper’s cabin. Entering the lighthouse, there is a foyer on the ground floor. As you climb the circular stairs you reach a bedroom, then the bathroom, then a second bedroom, then a living room, and finally, 109 steps later at the top, the kitchen. There are windows all over the lighthouse, all boasting incredible views, many with bays covered in thick pillows so you can sit there with a book and a cup of tea and take in the view. The sounds in the lighthouse during storms are fascinating and terrifying—windows banging, whistling winds, creaking windows—it’s quite an event.
The coastal paths are incredible here. There is a path between Wicklow Lighthouse (the one you rent) and the old lighthouse, no longer in use. Further down the path, close to the sea, is the new lighthouse that is in use today. The surrounding countryside is gorgeous. Following the coastal path from the lighthouse in towards Wicklow, there are some coves where you may be lucky to find some seals. We sat and watched for a few hours when we found some seals mating, it was fascinating to watch. Wicklow has some very cute stores and bars; it’s easily walkable and a fun place to spend some time; it’s also a good place to do some shopping as there are stores that have local crafts and chocolates.
6. Nash Point Lighthouse, Wales
This lighthouse is quite remote. and offers two lighthouse keeper’s cottages to rent. The nearest town is just a couple of miles away, as is the excellent pub The Plow and Harrow in Monknash, which has repeatedly won awards for both its food and its ciders. The lighthouse is just 20 minutes away from the market town of Cowbridge, which boasts the most independent boutiques of any town in Wales. The rooms inside the lighthouse are spacious and beautifully appointed, perfect for cozying up on cold nights and enjoying the solitude and the sound of the crashing waves. The lighthouse is close to quite a few castles, like the ones at Raglan, Caerphilly and Chepstow; and also close to many farm shops selling local cheese, cider, meat and produce, like the ones at Chepstow, Tintern and Penarth.
7. Galley Head Lighthouse, County Cork, Ireland
Galley Head is a self-catering apartment; unlike those other great locations, this one is regularly visited by its keeper, Gerald Butler, a third-generation lightkeeper. Gerald arrived not long after we did, and we were lucky enough to get a tour of the light tower itself. (This is not a part of the deal; but if Gerald has time and inclination, and you are nice and flexible, you may get an impromptu tour.) The history of these lights is amazing, and we learned a lot. My biggest takeaway: Every lighthouse on the Irish coast has its own specific pattern of light flashes, to identify itself to sailors using the lights for navigation. Gerald has written a memoir, “The Lightkeeper”, chronicling his life growing up on Galley Head and in other lighthouses all over Ireland. If you decide to stay here, let your lodging contact know that you’d like to meet Gerald and buy his book, which is really a fun read with a lot of interesting anecdotes.
Gerald told us that some renters use the lighthouse as a base to explore all of southwest Ireland. We can’t stress enough what a bad idea this is. The lighthouse is a once-in-a-lifetime type of location, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of hours here to watch boats, look for rainbows, take long walks, watch the sunrise and the sunset, and enjoy lunches and dinners at your private picnic table. They have plenty of board games here (including a British version of Trivial Pursuit) and at night you can play games while stoking a peat fire. The roads here are narrow and so you must drive slowly; if you plan to drive far away each day you’ll be kicking yourself as you see the lighthouse in your rear view mirror every time you leave.