Must-Visit Lighthouses Near Cork

Corks incredible lighthouses are a major attraction in the county
Cork's incredible lighthouses are a major attraction in the county | © Enzo Cositore / Alamy Stock Photo
Justin McDonnell

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.

1. The Beacon

Architectural Landmark

White Beacon near Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland
© Johannes Rigg / Alamy Stock Photo

The bizarrely shaped Beacon, a white-painted, torpedo-form structure nestled in the craggy hilltops of southern Cork, is a rare sight. This lighthouse was never actually lit. The white paint was assumed enough to prevent seafarers from crashing into the rocks. Commissioned by British rulers after the Irish Rebellion in 1798, this formed part of a wider coastal warning system. There are similar ‘lighthouses’ dotted across the country’s coastline. Known affectionately by locals as ‘Lot’s Wife’ after the biblical legend of a woman transformed into a pillar of salt, it’s a much-loved symbol of the nearby town of Baltimore.

2. Roches Point

Architectural Landmark

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.

3. Galley Head Lighthouse

Historical Landmark

© Design Pics Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

A shell’s throw from the charming fishing village of Clonakilty, the brilliant-white beacon of Galley Head Lighthouse sits at the headland of Dundeady Island. Available for overnight stays, this lighthouse offers incredible views of Ballydevlin Bay and Streak Head. Galley Head featured the world’s strongest lighthouse rays at the time of its construction in 1875. History unfolded before its eyes in 1915 when lightkeepers observed the sinking of the Lusitania after it was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale.

4. Ballycotton Lighthouse

Architectural Landmark

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.

5. Crookhaven Lighthouse

Historical Landmark

lighthouse, Spanish Point, Crookhaven, County Cork, Ireland
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

Located on the pint-sized coastal settlement of Crookhaven, this lighthouse sits on Ireland’s southwesternmost tip. You’ll struggle to find a location as remote as this, a gleaming white outpost nestled in the rural wilderness of West Cork. First erected in 1843, it was later decommissioned and brought back to life as a guesthouse in 1999. Recently renovated and furnished in a contemporary style, this lighthouse offers incredible views of the ruggedly beautiful Ballydevlin Bay and Streak Head.

6. Ardnakinna Lighthouse

Architectural Landmark

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.

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