Gallery: To the lighthouse: the perfect post-Covid staycations (Harper’s Bazaar (UK))
There’s a certain fortitude in lighthouses. Their stark staying power against the fiercest elements makes them destinations that are at once welcoming and inaccessible. Unlike other structures that rise and fall with a change in the wind, lighthouses hold a quiet dignity, standing fast amid the surrounding chaos. With their remote locations, serene surroundings and promise of glorious views, they make the perfect post-Covid destinations. Here are a few of our favourite lighthouse retreats…
Table of Contents
1) Clare Island Lighthouse, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland 2) Wicklow Head, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland 3) Rua Reidh, Gairloch, Scotland 4) Eilean Sionnach, Isleornsay, Scotland 5) West Usk Lighthouse, Newport, Wales 6) Llandudno Lighthouse, Llandudno, Wales 7) Belle Tout, Sussex 8) Whitby Lighthouse, Yorkshire
1) Clare Island Lighthouse, Co. Mayo, Republic of Ireland
Clare Island was the home of Ireland’s legendary pirate queen, Grace O’Malley, a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and according to her biographer, the “most notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland”.
Though Clare Island Lighthouse post-dates Grace O’Malley – being built in 1806 – the immersive lighthouse experience in the Tower House suite (situated in the actual lighthouse tower) brings you closer to the island’s buccaneering heritage. The lighthouse operated for just seven years before its lantern was destroyed in a fire; after a new one was fitted, bad luck chimed once more when it was hit by lightning in 1834. Still, it soldiered on, and after 159 years of faithful service, the lighthouse was intentionally extinguished on 29 September 1965. Now a luxury hotel, it exudes a certain majesty as it looks out over Achill Island.
While you’re there, be sure to visit St Brigid’s, an ancient Cistercian abbey where the O’Malley Tomb can be found. Look up and admire the rare, mediaeval frescoes on the ceilings that depict scenes from Irish folklore. Invade O’Malley’s stronghold, Granuaile Castle. And after a long day retracing the island’s pirating past, stop off at the Sailor’s Bar & Restaurant for something to sustain you on your adventures.
2) Wicklow Head, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland
Wicklow Head (from the Viking word ‘Wykylo’, meaning ‘Viking’s Loch’) was one of two lighthouses built on the headland in 1781 to prevent sailors’ confusion with neighbouring beacons. Before electric light and the automation of lighthouses, its octagonal tower was lit with 20 tallow candles reflected against an enormous, silvered mirror.
In 1996, the lighthouse was taken over by the Irish Landmark Trust, which restored and renovated the tower, converting it into unique self-catering accommodation. Be warned: the 109-step climb to the kitchen on the top floor is not for the weak-kneed.
In Wicklow, visit the 18th-century Wicklow Gaol, then take a walk through the Wicklow Mountains National Park – nestled in the heart of which you’ll find Wicklow’s finest restaurant, the Wicklow Heather. Enjoy a day out in the breathtaking Glendalough (‘Glen of Two Lakes’), and gasp at the splendour of the Glenmacnass Waterfall.
3) Rua Reidh, Gairloch, Scotland
The great Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson hailed from a family of lighthouse engineers. The ‘Lighthouse Stevensons’ (as the dynasty came to be known) spent 15o years changing the shape of the Scottish coastline, leaving behind them a fleet of architectural and engineering magnificence. Robert’s father and uncle designed Muckle Flugga on Unst, whose theatrical remoteness inspired the
Treasure Island map. And it was Robert’s cousin, David Alan Stephenson, who built Rua Reidh in 1912.
If you scamper down the cliff, you’ll discover charming rock pools, sequestered bays and dramatic crags. Trundle along the undulating cliff paths until you reach Camus Mor beach. Here, you may spot Minke whales, basking sharks, otters, porpoises and seals. If you want to see the wildlife up close, you could always take the Gairloch Marine Wildlife Cruise, or the Walking and Wildlife Adventure. Visit the famous WWII Arctic Convoy base at Loch Ewe, and visit Scotland’s only working perfumery, the Perfume Studio. Gaze at Victoria Falls, so named in honour of Her Majesty’s visit in 1877. Eilean Donan has to feature on your itinerary as one of the most photographed castles in Scotland.
4) Eilean Sionnach, Isleornsay, Scotland
The idea of being marooned on some remote island fills most people with dread; but retreating into tranquillity at Eilean Sionnach is an experience worth relishing.
Eilean Sionnach is another feat of the Stevenson family; it was first illuminated in 1857 and stands on a secluded islet just off the south-east coast of Skye. Though Virginia Woolf’s
To The Lighthouse was inspired by Godrevy lighthouse – the view’s prominent feature from her childhood holiday home, Talland House – the novel was actually set on the Isle of Skye. You too, can attempt the Ramsays’ journey to the secluded lighthouse – except yours should be more fruitful. After crossing the Skye Bridge from the Kyle of Lochalsh, you’ll travel over to the lighthouse by boat from the Isle Ornsay Pier.
Once there, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do and see. There’s the Old Mann of Storr, Dunvegan Castle, the Talisker Distillery and the enchanting Fairy Pools. Should you wish to immerse yourself entirely into a realm of magic and wonder, you’re well placed to take the Hogwarts Express from Mallaig over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
5) West Usk Lighthouse, Newport, Wales
Rumour has it, it was from this very lighthouse that the first glimpse of WWII action was caught in Britain while West Usk was being used as a look-out post.
Being wider than it is tall, this lighthouse flaunts a different – if not quirky – layout and design. The Grade II-listed building is now over 190 years old and is filled with character, history and charm. After a day spent walking through the Cwmcarn Forrest Drive, horse riding at the Springfield Riding Stable or enjoying a round of golf at the world-famous Celtic Manor Resort, you can return to an entire menu of spa treatments and therapies or a dip in the rooftop hot tub.
The lighthouse and its surrounding land once belonged to the aristocratic family that lived in Tredegar House, which is now part of the National Trust and makes for a pleasant dose of culture on your doorstep. Any admirer of Wordsworth will find it hard to resist the romantic pull of the nearby Tintern Abbey ruins that were made famous in his
Lyrical Ballads (1798).
6) Llandudno Lighthouse, Llandudno, Wales
The Llandudno Lighthouse was erected within the grounds of the Great Orme Country Park by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company in 1862. The original wood-panelled hallway that still exists was built to give the keepers’ families some space and privacy from one another; now, it provides the same for its guests, as a charming Victorian-style hotel.
If you’re not a fan of heights, don’t look down from the dining-room’s tall windows, which command a dizzying view of the 325-foot drop below. From the suites, you can spot the Isle of Man to the north and Puffin Island in the west.
When you’re not keeping an eye on the horizon, you can take a stroll in the Great Orme grounds, explore Llandudno’s seaside resort, where Lewis Carroll supposedly penned some of
Through the Looking Glass, or attempt to reach the hidden cave beneath the lighthouse, Ogof Llech (the ‘Hiding Cave’), believed to have once been the Welsh aristocrat Thomas Mostyn’s secret fishing lodge.
7) Belle Tout, Sussex
After almost two centuries of petitioning for a lighthouse along this particularly perilous stretch of coastline, Belle Tout was constructed in 1832. By 1902, however, it had been decommissioned, and a new lighthouse was built at the base of the cliffs. Between 1902 and 2008, the lighthouse passed into different ownerships, used as target shelling practice during WWII by Canadian troops, and moved back 17 metres due to the impending threat of erosion.
The product of careful renovations, Belle Tout opened in 2010 as a bed and breakfast. Its rooms are playfully themed according to the building’s nautical heritage: The Captain’s Cabin, Old England and Keeper’s Loft.
The Beachy Head Pub and the Plough and Harrow are two excellent local pubs at which to while away your afternoons or to soak up the evening’s excesses. Visitors tend to explore the area either on foot (try the Beachy Head walk) or by bike (visit the nearby bike rental and sharing station).
8) Whitby Lighthouse, Yorkshire
It was from Whitby’s harbour that Captain Cook embarked upon his voyage of discovery to Australia aboard
HMS Endeavour in 1768. Ninety years later, the architect behind the West Usk Lighthouse also designed Whitby’s white octagonal tower.
As you’d expect with any seaside town, the fish-and-chip shop competition is pretty fierce. One of Whitby’s oldest fishmongers is Fortune’s Kippers, whose legacy is almost older than the lighthouse.
Beyond Whitby’s jolly fishing village reputation, a menacing, Gothic shadow looms over it in the form of Whitby Abbey, Shelley’s inspiration for
Dracula. Clamber up the 199 steps and then recover your energy with fondant fancies at Botham’s of Whitby (confectioners since 1865) or a spot of lunch at the Magpie Café.
While overseas travel might have eluded many of us this year, we don’t have to travel as far as you might think to see some of the world’s most unmissable spots. Lonely Planet has published its Ultimate Travel List 2020, naming the UK home to more of the planet’s must-see places than anywhere else.
© Getty Images
From the Lake District to the Brecon Beacons, see 20 of the highest ranking attractions in the UK
Our often grey but beautiful island stormed the rankings with more spots than any other country in the world. In total, 34 UK attractions appeared on the chart of 500 travel experiences – a welcome slice of news given that staycations are, for obvious reasons, one of the only forms of getting away from it all this year.
The list proves that staying on British shores doesn’t have to be compromise. While Petra, the ancient city in Jordan, was crowned top of Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List, Britain was well-represented. The Lake District was the highest ranking UK attraction to feature at number 40, followed by the British Museum at 56 and the Welsh Coastal Path at 82.
The longlist was compiled from all the highlights found in every Lonely Planet guidebook over the years. Each attraction and sight recommended by Lonely Planet authors was included, before being whittled down to a shortlist. Everyone in the Lonely Planet community was then asked to vote on their 20 top travel experiences, resulting in a score for each entry and a definitive ranked list of the top 500 places to see around the world.
© Photos by R A Kearton – Getty Images
Ceibwr Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
See a list of 20 of the highest-ranking UK attractions and sights below:
40. Lake District, England
56. British Museum, England
82. Wales Coastal Path, Wales
102. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
116. Jurassic Coast, England
153. Brecon Beacons, Wales
161. Snowdonia, Wales
170. V&A Museum, England
172. West Highland Way, Scotland
212. Glen Coe, Scotland
219. Seven Sisters Chalk Cliffs, England
224. Loch Lochmond, Scotland
227. Stonehenge, England
238. Skara Brae, Scotland
248. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Scotland
267. Bath’s Roman Baths, England
283. Tower of London, England
291. St Paul’s Cathedral, England
302. Scotland’s Northeast 250, Scotland
314. Christchurch Oxford, England
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