Lighthouse Holidays

Staying in a lighthouse is a great way to unwind and relax! Often there are visitor centres and museums nearby. Sometimes you can find hidden clues to its history right on the doorstep. You just have to know where to look!

There is always so much to see and do! We like to research before heading off on our lighthouse holiday.

Start Point Lighthouse, Devon
Start Point Lighthouse, Devon

We love to visit lighthouses whenever we can, and enjoy staying in lighthouse cottages with friends.  Sometimes there may be several cottages available to rent. It’s a great way to share the experience, as well as the cost. 

Early lighthouses

The earliest navigation lights were fires, usually located on a clifftop or hill. Often churches would guide mariners back to port safely.  Initially, these lighthouses were privately owned. However, in 1514 a Royal Charter founded the Corporation of Trinity House to regulate the use of navigation aids.

Lighthouse Keepers

The primary role of a lighthouse keeper was never to keep a lookout for ships in distress, although it was a role they often undertook. Their main task was to make sure that the light continued to shine, no matter what. 

Many Lighthouse Keepers have written accounts of their lives. There are a number of interesting books about their way of life.

Automation of lighthouses

From the 1970s onwards the lighthouse authorities of Great Britain commenced a programme to automate all lighthouses under their jurisdiction.  Fair Isle South Lighthouse was the lighthouse to be automated in Scotland, in March 1998. I attended the ceremony for the last of all the UK manned lighthouses. This was held at North Foreland LIghthouse in Kent, on 26th November 1998.

The lighthouse keepers have gone, and with it the human element, save the occasional visit by the Attendant or maintenance engineers. 

As a result of automation, the cost of running a lighthouse has been reduced significantly. Whilst the initial expenditure of the automation process was high, within a few years most of this has been recouped.  Advances in technology and the use of renewable resources, such as wind and solar power, have further helped to reduce running costs. 

The keepers may have gone, but we will be forever indebted to those keepers who helped to keep our mariners safe.  May they be remembered, and may we keep this part of our maritime heritage alive.

Lighthouse authorities

There are three main lighthouse authorities in the UK. The lighthouses of England, Wales and the Channel Islands are administered by Trinity House. The lights of Scotland and the Isle of Man are operated by the Northern Lighthouse Board, and the lights of Ireland are looked after by the Commissioners of Irish Lights.    

Many other lighthouses are operated by local port authorities. Happisburgh Lighthouse in Norfolk is the UK’s only independently operated working lighthouse, saved from closure by the local community in 1990.

Lighthouse cottages

Since automation many cottages that were once home to keepers and their families have now been converted into holiday accommodation.  This means that the properties are still being maintained and looked after.

Lighthouses today

Technology has moved on.  Long gone are the days when keepers had to light the paraffin vapour burner, trim the wick, spending lonely hours on watch throughout the night.  Even the lamps behind the beautiful optics have shrunk, and in some cases the optics have been removed altogether. Many have now been replaced by modern LED lights. But that light still does a job.  Satellite technology may be the way forward, and your GPS will tell you where it thinks you are.  A lighthouse tells you exactly where you are! 

Having sailed myself, I know the reassurance of that bright flashing light warning you from danger. It’s also strangely welcoming and reassuring.

I hope you find your lighthouse stay enjoyable.  Explore the area, find out about its history, and I hope you will want to come back for more!

Have fun, and help to keep the light shining brightly!

Joy Tubby at Buchan Ness Lighthouse looking out to sea