Spiralling above the rocks and crashing waves of the Atlantic, lighthouses have guided seafarers across the nighttime ocean for centuries. They’re a major tourist attraction in Cork, with dozens of incredible lighthouses from Dundeady Island to Bantry Bay. You can even stay in some. We shine a light on must-visit lighthouses in the Irish city.
Rising from the rocks of its headland, Roches Point Lighthouse lies at the entrance to Cork Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the world. First opened in 1817, the original tower was considered too small, leading it to be replaced in 1835 by the present tower which looms much higher at 49ft (15m). Available for holiday rentals, this heritage lighthouse offers a memorable stay. From the summit, look out for the crumbling ruins of an old tower on a nearby hillside and admire the row of pastel-coloured houses huddled together on its seafront.
Constructed in the late 1800s, Ballycotton Lighthouse overlooks the bucolic island of Ballycotton and its sugary-sand beaches. One of only two black lighthouses in Ireland, Ballycotton can only be reached by boat – trips can be arranged with Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours. Enjoy a rollicking journey from the harbour to the island, following the light-keepers’ original path up spiralling stairs to reach its summit. Once you’re at the top, absorb breathtaking views of the island from the lantern balcony.
Built in 1850, the striking white tower of the Ardnakinna Lighthouse remains in use today, emitting two white and red flashes every ten seconds to seafarers. This lighthouse guards the western entrance to the harbour of Castletownbere in Bantry Bay at the summit of a rocky cliff. Located on the blissfully remote Bere Island, 62m (203ft) above sea level, the site is only accessible by a hiking trail and can’t be reached by road. Be sure to explore Castletownbere itself, one of the prettiest natural harbours in Cork.