Blackhead Lighthouse in Whitehead features in a new European Union-funded tourism initiative designed to draw more visitors to the area.
Great Lighthouses of Ireland, which was recently launched by the Commissioners of Irish Lights, seeks to create a deep appreciation of the role of these distinct buildings and in the seafaring story of the island of Ireland.
Out of the 12 locations included, Blackhead is one of three in Northern Ireland; the others are Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre and St John’s Point, Co Down
Brian Connolly, of Tourism Northern Ireland, said: “Great Lighthouses of Ireland provide some of the most scenic coastal viewing points while offering a fascinating insight into our rich maritime heritage.
“Our lighthouses have a wealth of stories, myths and legends that can now be enjoyed by our visitors who can visit or stay overnight depending on the offer. This experience also integrates well with Northern Ireland’s strategic coastal driving routes, the Causeway Coastal Route and Mourne Coastal Route and the future opening of the Gobbins Visitor Experience, which is located near Blackhead Lighthouse.
“Great lighthouses of Ireland and its offer presents a valuable opportunity for an enhanced visitor experience which will encourage visitors to stop off, explore more and spend more time and money in the local visitor economy.”
The Irish Landmark Trust offers accommodation at Blackhead Lighthouse. The houses come complete with antique furniture and seafaring curios true to their maritime past, including the whistle pipe system used to wake up the next watch.
Blackhead would have guided many famous vessels during Belfast’s golden age of shipping, including the ill-fated Titanic.
The cross-border project is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA cross-border Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
Partners include the Commissioners of Irish Lights, the Irish Landmark Trust, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, Forbairt Fhanada Teoranta (Fanad Community Group), Mid & East Antrim Borough Council. It is also supported by Tourism Northern Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.
Lorraine McCourt, director of the SEUPB, speaking at the launch, said: “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 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.”
The initiative 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 operates over 70 automated lighthouses around the coast, all of which continue to play a vital role in maritime safety.