A “new experience to take your breath away” – that’s the promise from Great Lighthouses of Ireland, an EU-funded tourism initiative that has been launched by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Paschal Donohoe TD, and the Commissioners of Irish Lights.Featuring 12 lighthouses in stunning coastal locations, Great Lighthouses of Ireland, will offer unforgettable experiences and create a deep appreciation of the role of lighthouses, past and present, and in the maritime and seafaring story of the island of Ireland.
The ‘Great Lighthouses of Ireland’ are: St John’s Point, Co Donegal; Fanad Head, Co Donegal; Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, Co Antrim; Black Head, Co Antrim; St John’s Point, Co Down; Wicklow Head, Co Wicklow; Hook, Co Wexford; Ballycotton, Co Cork, Galley Head, Co Cork; Valentia Island, Co Kerry; Loop Head, Co Clare; and Clare Island, Co Mayo.
Addressing an assembled audience of 200 people at the Irish Lights Head Office in Dun Laoghaire, the Minister said: “Our island’s maritime heritage is a source of pride to us all. This initiative allows us to celebrate and share this with our visitors and with each other. The Great Lighthouses of Ireland is a unique and exciting collaboration between many people and organisations, each with different and specialist skills, who have come together to create something exceptional.
“I am particularly pleased that this experience has been developed to build on the momentum of the Wild Atlantic Way and to contribute to our new destination brand, Ireland’s Ancient East. The blend of skills and expertise of public and private business, who are working together, north and south, has created a wonderful asset for coastal communities to build on, and adds considerably to what Ireland has to offer.”
With a range of services from accommodation to visitor centres and guided tours, visitors from home and abroad will have the chance to explore the distinct experiences offered by the 12 lighthouses, each reflecting its own history and heritage, nature and environment, people and place, with aspects to appeal to people of all ages and interests.
Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive, Commissioners of Irish Lights, said: “Irish Lights has been operating around the coast – north and south – for nearly 250 years. Advances in technology and automation mean that we no longer need as much of the old physical infrastructure at lighthouses to operate our aids to navigation today. So as part of a new strategy we are developing a range of new uses for our infrastructure and tourism is an obvious option for some of our lighthouses. This project celebrates and shares the history, tradition and heritage of our organisation, as well as sustaining it for the future.
“Through Great Lighthouses of Ireland, Irish Lights has brought together a group of people who are deeply rooted in our coastal communities and hugely committed to our lighthouse heritage. We are delighted to be working with them on this landmark project.”
The Great Lighthouses of Ireland project is supported by the European Union’s InterReg IVA cross-border programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUBP). Lorraine McCourt, Director of the SEUPB, said: “This EU-funded project is a great example of the use of innovation in the creation a highly significant cross-border tourism initiative. I am confident that the project will attract a new wave of domestic and overseas tourists into the region, which will have long-term positive impacts on the local economy, on both sides of the border.”
The ambitious and imaginative cross-border project will include the preservation and conservation of the island of Ireland’s important maritime and lighthouse heritage. Great Lighthouses is built on a sustainable economic model and the re-invention of individual lighthouses as visitor attractions and unique self-catering accommodation that can contribute to local communities in terms of visitor spend and tourism employment.
Irish Lights today operate over 70 automated lighthouses around the coast of Ireland, all of which continue to play a vital role in maritime safety.