Lighthouse Holidays: the ultimate guide

Pendeen lighthouse

Lighthouse holidays can be great fun!  Having stayed in and visited lots of lighthouses over many years, I can definitely recommend a lighthouse getaway.

Plan your next lighthouse adventure.

Most lighthouses are no longer manned, but you can find lighthouse holiday accommodation ranging from hostels to self-catering lighthouse keepers cottages, guest houses to hotels, lightvessels to fog signal stations and even in some cases stay in a lighthouse tower!

Even if you don’t stay in a lighthouse, you may be able to find somewhere nearby and be inspired to visit them.

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Stay in a lighthouse

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a lighthouse keeper or stay in a lighthouse?

If you’re looking for a unique or unusual holiday experience, and want to stay somewhere unusual, steeped in history, mystery and romance, then a lighthouse has to be up there on the bucket list.

Staying in a lighthouse is a unique way to unwind and relax, and sometimes you can find hidden clues to its history right on your doorstep – you just have to know where to look! 

I’ve stayed in a number of lighthouses, and got married in a lighthouse – we even stayed in a lighthouse cottage for our honeymoon!

And it’s not just lighthouses you can stay in…

Start Point Lighthouse, Devon

Lighthouse cottages

Since automation many cottages that were once home to keepers and their families are now set up as holiday properties, ranging from hotels and guest houses to self-catering accommodation.  This means that the properties are still being maintained and looked after, although many of the cottages are now much more luxurious than they would have been in the times of the lighthouse keepers!

Many of these cottages are attached to operational lighthouses, so it is not always possible to access the tower.  However, there are some decommissioned lighthouses where you can stay in the tower.

You can find a selection of Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages in England and Wales in the Lighthouse Directory and in Lighthouse Accommodation Britain and Worldwide.

Lightvessels

Where it would not be practical to erect a lighthouse, such as on a shifting sandbank, a lightvessel would often be established. With no means of self-propulsion, these lightvessels would be towed to their station to mark the danger to shipping.

Although a number of these lightvessels have been decommissioned, there are still some lightvessels in operation.  At the end of their working lives, many have been sold off privately, and have been turned into accommodation, museums, or even restaurants.

LV15 Tollesbury, Essex
LV15 Tollesbury

Lighthouse Service Tenders

Within the lighthouse service, lighthouses and aids to navigation are supported by a fleet of service vessels, which work to keep the lights operational.

Some working vessels offer packages for you to stay on board whilst watching the work taking place.  Other vessels which have been retired now provide luxury hotel accommodation.

If you’re in the right place at the right time, it’s sometimes possible to spot one of these ships in action. 

Fingal Edinburgh
Fingal, Edinburgh

Lighthouse Cruises

Another great way to visit lighthouses is by boat.  It is possible to plan cruises around lighthouses, as I have done on several occasions.  Even if the cruise is not specifically lighthouse-related, there are some stunning cruises, that will take you on amazing voyages past stunning lighthouses.

McArthurs Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse shore stations

Where lighthouse keepers worked offshore, for example in tower or rock lights, the families were often housed ashore in purpose built shore stations.

Many of these are now private residences, so please take care if you are visiting these, and respect the occupants’ privacy.  Some shore stations are now visitor centres, and others are available to stay in – see Lighthouse Accommodation for further information.

Fog Signals

Most fog signal stations are no longer operational, though some are!  Some former signal stations have been converted into holiday accommodation. It is possible to visit some fog signals at visitor centres, and even hear them working!

Whitby Fog Signal

Lighthouse Engineers

As well as the lighthouse keepers, we must not, of course, forget those involved in the design and construction of the lighthouses. There are a number of famous lighthouse engineers involved in the construction of notable lighthouses.  You can even stay in the residence of one of the famous Stevenson lighthouse engineers.

Things to consider when planning your lighthouse holiday

Research

First, you need to do your research – do you want to visit a particular region, or is there a particular lighthouse you would like to visit?

When to book

As soon as possible! These types of property are unusual, so can get booked up very quickly.  If you have specific dates in mind, then book as early as you can.  Think about booking off season, or even the following year, though bear in mind that not all attractions will be open if you’re staying out of season.

Many lighthouses are available all year round, but many are not, especially if they are located in more remote areas.

Operational lighthouses

Remember that many lighthouses in particular are still operational, and so access into the lighthouse tower itself may not be possible.  Some lighthouses are visitor centres, or may be open to the public on certain days, so do check.

Fog signals

Most fog signals around the UK are no longer operational.  Certainly in Scotland the fog signals are now silent.  However, some lighthouses do still have a fog signal. 

I have stayed in accommodation myself where earplugs have been provided, and yes, the fog signal may go off in the middle of the night!  It certainly adds to the atmosphere, and like the keepers, you do get used to it after a while.  But it’s worth noting that this may happen.

Access and mobility

Many lighthouse cottages may well be suitable for guests with limited mobility, especially if they are single storey accommodation.  However, other properties may not be so accessible, and may involve several floors, possibly a short walk (or even a boat trip) to get to the lighthouse, and some may also involve steps.

Do check before booking to find out what is and what isn’t possible for your needs.

Location

Some lighthouses are quite remote, so if you’re planning to visit places, bear this in mind.  If on the other hand you’re looking for a retreat, this could be the perfect place to curl up with a book or perhaps draw or write.

be staying off the beaten track, especially if you’re planning to walk or cycle.  But it’s also worth remembering that it may involve quite a distance to get to any other places you are planning to visit, and you have to return, so do take this into account when thinking about the best place to stay.

Facilities

Bear in mind that some places may also have poor mobile or WiFi signals, due to their remote location.

It’s worth checking what’s provided at the holiday accommodation if you’re self-catering.  Usually, but not always, bed linen and towels are provided, so do check.

Provisions

Because of the location, the nearest village may be a few miles away. It may be an idea to collect your groceries en route.

Sometimes you may not be able to drive all the way up to the Lighthouse, and if you’re staying offshore, then you’ll need to plan ahead for your groceries!

Sometimes you may receive a complimentary hamper to get you started with the basic necessities, but if not you will need to find out where the nearest shops are. 

It is always good to shop local whenever possible, but sometimes this isn’t available, and it could be worth checking to see if your groceries could be delivered – I have done this in the past when staying in a lighthouse cottage with no problem.  Some supermarkets will deliver, depending on the location, but do check the access arrangements in advance for the delivery driver.

Budget

Do you have a budget for your lighthouse getaway?  Are you looking for a luxury hotel, guest house, self catering cottage, or something more basic like camping or a hostel?  There are lots of different options available depending on your budget, and where you want to stay.

Often properties want a minimum number of nights’ stay.

Pets

Some locations will welcome your four-legged friends, but some do not, so do check in advance. 

Families and children

Many properties are suitable for children; most of the keepers’ cottages would have had had children growing up at the lighthouse.  However, do bear in mind that often the compound may be very near to cliff edges, and may not be fenced off outside the compound, so small children should be supervised at all times.

Getting there

For most lighthouse trips, a car is essential, though it is possible to walk or cycle in some places, and you may wish to leave your car behind.  You could take a bus for the day into one of the nearest towns or villages.

There are generally good airport connections around the UK, though you may need to hire a car once you get there.  Getting to Shetland for example, you can fly or take the overnight ferry.

Do book flights and ferries in advance, and if you’re planning a trip abroad, don’t forget to book your currency in advance as it’s usually cheaper.

Travel Insurance

If you’re planning a special trip, it’s worth taking out travel insurance in case anything happens.  If you travel frequently a yearly package may work out more cost effective.

More inspiration

Things to do on a lighthouse holiday

Whether you’re renting a cottage, or staying in a luxury hotel, whilst you may wish to stay nearby, or go for a walk, you can often find out more about the area. 

Other lighthouse trips

The Association of Lighthouse Keepers is definitely worth joining, if you, like me, love lighthouses.  You don’t have to be a lighthouse keeper to become a member, and there are events and trips that you can join in.

And there are lots of other resources that will help you get inspired.

Lighthouses to visit in the area

There are lots of lighthouses, lightships and related visitor attractions that you can visit. Please bear in mind that many of the lighthouses listed are not open to the public, and may be private property, so please do not trespass. 

Can I buy a lighthouse?

Lighthouses do come up for sale from time to time, so keep an eye out.  Also check out the Lighthouses for sale website, which is a great resource.

Whether you would like to buy a property to live in, or rent out, it’s worth keeping an eye out.  I’ll also keep you updated on my Facebook page.

Find out more

Lighthouse Accommodation Britain and Worldwide

Lighthouse Accommodation Britain and Worldwide by Joy Adcock Published 2019

Lighthouse Accommodation Britain and Worldwide is the comprehensive guide to staying in lighthouses and lightvessels. There are over 65 lighthouses, lightships and lighthouse ships in the UK and over 200 in the rest of the world!

This guide provides booking and contact details for each of these, with a brief history and photographs of each lighthouse in the UK offering holiday accommodation.

Available in paperback and Kindle versions.

How to order

You can order your paperback or ebook from Amazon, or you can purchase your paperback copy direct from Lighthouse Accommodation.

Paperback: 278 pages, black and white photos throughout. Kindle version has colour photos throughout.

Previous editions