The Lighthouse Directory has been compiled to help you find lighthouses, lightvessels, museums and other lighthouse-related places of interest in the UK. You may wish to visit some of these on your lighthouse holiday.
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How many times have you been on holiday and returned home, only to find that you missed seeing something that you didn’t know about? This has happened to me on a number of occasions, so I thought I would share some of my findings with you.
The directory lists major lighthouses and many decommissioned lights. It also lists lightvessels, fog signal stations, lighthouse shore stations, lighthouse service vessels, museums and other related points of interest.
I have tried to make the list as comprehensive as possible, but the list is not exhaustive and does not include every single lighthouse.
Isle of Man
More regions and information will follow soon
How to use the Lighthouse Directory
There are a number of ways you can use the Lighthouse Directory. Because there are so many different places to visit, the directory is split into different regions.
Use the search box at the top of the page to find a category (eg lighthouses, lightvessels, fog signals etc.) If you’re not sure and want to look for everything, leave it blank. If you’re looking for a specific place, type it in and see if it comes up!
If you know which region you are looking for, select that too, otherwise simply hit the search icon to retrieve your list.
Alternatively from the home page, you can select categories below the search box and filter your search from there. You will also be able to view them on a map.
Some of the lights are offshore. These may be visible from the land, or by boat.
Whilst many of these lighthouses are accessible, most are not open to the public, and there may not be public access directly to the lighthouse. Please check before visiting, and do be considerate, and park in designated areas, especially if they are located on private roads.
You may also have to walk, and there may be steps and steep cliff edges, so do take care, especially if visiting with small children.
Some of these places provide holiday accommodation, and some are private residences, so please respect their privacy. Many operational lighthouses have a policy regarding the use of drones, so please check what you can and can’t do with regard to photography.
The majority of lighthouses in the UK come under the jurisdiction of three General Lighthouse Authorities: Trinity House look after lighthouses and lightvessels in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. The Northern Lighthouse Board are responsible for lighthouses within Scotland and the Isle of Man. The Irish Lighthouses are looked after by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.
In addition, there are a number of local harbour authorities and independent Trusts who are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their local lights.
Some lighthouses are open to the public, and these are listed in the Lighthouse Directory. For a full list of lighthouses in the UK to visit, another good resource is the Association of Lighthouse Keepers’ places to visit page.
If you need a list of every lighthouse in the UK, including all of the minor lights, I recommend The British Lighthouse Trail by Sarah Kerr, which is a really useful guide!
Lighthouse shore stations
Where possible, the keepers and their families would live together at the lighthouse. However, in more remote locations this was not possible, and the families would be housed in purpose-built accommodation. Many more of these were built in Scotland than in England and Wales.
Most of these former shore stations are now private residences, so do please respect the privacy of the occupants.
There are still some working lightvessels. Some of these may be difficult to see from land, but you may be able to see them by boat or ferry.
There are many former lightvessels around the country, especially in England. Some have been converted into museums or restaurants, and some you can stay in.
Most of the UK’s fog signals are now silent. Some of the fog signals at Trinity House lighthouses in England and Wales are still operational. However, the lighthouses of Scotland and the Isle of Man were silenced in 2005.
Lighthouse service vessels
The lighthouse authorities use a number of working vessels around the country to service their lighthouses, buoys and lightvessels. You may be able to see some of these on your travels, depending on where they are. Some now even provide luxury holiday accommodation.
In the interests of simplicity, these service vessels are listed at their home depot. For example, the Trinity House vessels are based at their depot in Harwich, and the Northern Lighthouse Board vessels out of Oban depot.
I find the Marine Traffic website and app a useful tool for helping to track where the lighthouse service vessels are.
There are many fascinating museums that have wonderful exhibits and displays about the local history of lighthouses, lightvessels, the keepers, their families and the engineers. Some have dedicated archives, which can be very helpful for researching particular lighthouses.
Over the years, with automation and modernisation taking place, some of the original optics have been removed from the lighthouses. Some can still be found in situ at the lighthouse. Others have been relocated and moved to museums.
Not all of these optics are local to the relevant lighthouse, for example, you’ll find several Scottish optics in London. Where possible these are on display, but others have been placed in storage.
The optics are listed where they are accessible in the Lighthouse Directory.
Many lighthouses are offshore – some accessible for day visits, others are more remote, and so will require an overnight stay or more.
For more information about getting to the islands, check out the relevant regions in the Lighthouse Directory.
Stay in a lighthouse
Check out Lighthouse Accommodation Britain and Worldwide – the ultimate guide to staying in lighthouses, lightvessels and related unique places throughout the world.