Years ago, our family took a trip to jolly old England. We were looking for something different to do and somewhere different to stay. We landed at a unique lighthouse in a corner of southern Wales. It was the experience of the trip. Where in the world can you see beautiful water views, admire collectibles and walk to a pub via a freshly used cow path? Well, as it turns out, in quite a few places.
The trip planner, a trusty book on bed and breakfast inns around the British Isles, led us to the West Usk Lighthouse situated on the Bristol Channel, near Newport, Gwent, Wales. Designed by Scottish architect James Walker and built in 1821, the lighthouse features a central stone spiral staircase above a former collecting well, now a wishing well. We all had beautiful wedge-shaped rooms with water views. At one time, the lighthouse sat on an island where the Severn and the Usk run to the sea, but since then land has been reclaimed and now the lighthouse sits by the Channel instead.
The West Usk Lighthouse offers unique features such as a flotation tank, a chauffeured Rolls Royce, rooftop hot tub and BBQ facilities, an infrared sauna and various well-being therapies. There is also a Mongolian yurt, an eco-friendly living space, available for meetings and conferences. After being decommissioned in 1922, the lighthouse became privately owned but fell into disrepair and remained so until purchased in 1987 by Frank and Danielle Sheahan. Its unique and cozy style is a must see. Just remember: if you want hot water, you’ll have to pull the cord.
Lighthouse accommodations are featured in many areas of the world. From Maine to Washington and Lake Erie to Marathon, unique and historic inns are peppered throughout the United States. The Big Sable Lighthouse in Michigan will give you a two-week stint as a keeper. Volunteers can sign up to be the keeper of the light and go through orientation to learn their duties. The Whitefish Point Light Station is the oldest operational lighthouse on the far-east end of Lake Superior. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald lies 15 miles northwest of Whitefish Point along with over 200 other shipwrecks out of the 550 known to be at the bottom of Lake Superior.
There are over 50 historic and replica lighthouses and bed and breakfast inns with keeper cottage accommodations in the U.S. alone. Other areas where lighthouses offer a unique visiting experience are Canada, Scotland, the Caribbean, South America, Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Europe. Almost everywhere in the world, there are lighthouses to stay in or tour.
The Lighthouse of Bengtskar at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland has a rich history spanning 100 years. The lighthouse was completed in 1906 after its design was unveiled at the 1900 Paris World Exhibition by architect Florentin Granholm. The unique granite structure boasts breathtaking sea views from the top of the 252-step spiral staircase. After the Soviet attacks of 1941, the lighthouse fell into disrepair and in 1968, the special petrol lamp was extinguished in favor of automated, unmanned operations. After years of repair, the lighthouse was reopened in 1995 and features a lecture hall, chapel, cafeteria and post office on the lower floor. The former upper level living quarters offer conference rooms and accommodations for 24. The Lighthouse at Bengtskar hosts 10,000 tourists per year to see the archipelago’s most famous feature.
Southwest of Istria’s southernmost cape is the islet of Porer situated in the Adriatic Sea, just kilometers away from the mainland town of Premantura. The Porer lighthouse was built in 1833 on this 80 meter cliff surrounded by strong currents and warm and cool water layers. The area is rich in fish and attracts divers from all over the world due to the surrounding area’s historic shipwrecks. Other spots of interest near Porer include the dinosaur tracks of the islet of Fenoliga, the beautiful bays of Unije and the nature site of Kamenjak where there are over 500 species of flora including endangered endemic orchids. The year-round accommodations of Porer are two apartments: one with two double rooms with a kitchen and shower facilities and another with one double room, one bunk bed, a kitchen and shower facilities. The islet takes about a minute to walk but make sure you stay long enough to enjoy one of Porer’s beautiful sunsets.
On the southwest coast of England just six miles north of Land’s End is Pendeen Lighthouse. This operational landmark was built in 1900 and was automated in 1994. This includes the foghorn which sounds when mists move in to the area. Guests are forewarned to bring their earplugs when visiting Pendeen. The lighthouse and cottages overlook the turbulent waters but are separated from the cliffs by a four-foot wall. Accommodations are for four guests with two bedrooms and one bath, a sitting room, kitchen with dining area, hall and washer and dryer. Guests can stick close to home, visit the nearby beaches or drive the scenic, narrow roads of the southwest coast.
Built as a replica of the Thomas Point Lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay, Katie’s Light is a one of a kind experience on Florida’s east coast jewel, Amelia Island. The 3-bedroom, 2 ½ bath facility features a 360 degree deck with wood floors and ceilings throughout. Relax in the downstairs kitchen, dining and entertainment level then take the spiral staircase up to two well-appointed bedrooms for waterfront views. The deck extends over the beaches of Amelia Island and is a romantic place to view sunsets.
Whether your vacation takes you around the world or just out your back door, consider the possibilities of a lighthouse stay. And if lighthouses are too much for you to “sea” opportunities abound in some of the world’s oldest windmills and castles. Stay tuned for part two where we nestle into historic windmills from England to Denmark and back again.