By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
If you’re looking for a truly remote getaway, it’s hard to beat a lighthouse hotel–and as an added bonus, they’re eco-friendly too, in the sense that these buildings are kind of ‘upcycled.’ Yep, that’s right: many lighthouses around the world have gone dark due to new technologies, but rather than knocking them down and building new dwellings, conservation societies and private individuals have stepped in to snap them up and convert them into quirky hotels or bed and breakfasts. In some cases, the lighthouses may still even be operational, so potential guests be warned–you might hear the sound of the foghorn as you drift off to sleep!
Getting to the hotels is usually part of the adventure, as many are so remote, they could require a boat ride and because many of them have only a handful of rooms, they book up months in advance. But for 360-degree water views, the sound of crashing waves, and hardly a neighbour in sight, making your way to one of these lighthouse hotels is well worth the challenge.
Here’s a look at some of the best we know of in northern Europe.
Just outside the hamlet of Niton, in the southernmost point of the almost mystical Isle of Wight lies the Landward Cottage. The hotel site – curated by Trinity House Rural Retreats – is comprised of three self-catering holiday rental bungalows which were former lighthouse keepers’ cottages: Landward Cottage, Gurnard and Penda. Each one is rustically cosy with a great view to the small lighthouse and surrounded by vast greenery, which is a magnet for walkers. If you’re seeking peace and tranquility, you will indeed find it here.
The Emerald Isle has always been associated with its fairytale legends, and it seems entirely possible you may see a mermaid swimming beside the stunning Wicklow Head Lighthouse. The structure has safeguarded the scenic coastline since 1781, immersed in the pulchritudinous landscape and scenery of the Irish Sea which surrounds the property on three sides. The Lighthouse has six octagonal rooms carefully constructed in the void that existed within the tower when it was first taken on by the Irish Landmark Trust, who run the place today. This quaint space is charming, but isn’t for those with any mobility issues, as each room is situated on a different floor of the tower.
The 150-year-old Molja Lighthouse is the 47th room of the Designer Boutique Hotel in Ålesunds’ City Centre. When hoteliers Knut and Line Flakk wanted a luminous landmark for Hotel Brosundet, they procured a hundred-year lease to a lighthouse owned by the City of Ålesund. The stunning interiors were designed by Snøhetta, the renowned architectural firm behind The Norwegian Opera and Ballet in Oslo, and the Ground Zero Pavilion in New York. The Molja Lighthouse stands at the end of a jetty, a mere five-minute walk from the other 46 rooms in Apotekergata 5. Downstairs, the designers made an elegant and amazingly compact bathroom. Upstairs, you’ll find a divine circular bedroom with a custom-fitted bed.
Insider Tip: Room 47 is a very special, romantic experience and is often booked for honeymoons.
After undergoing a long restoration, Harlingen is once again a beacon, but rather than calling to ships, it draws adventurous travellers seeking a relaxing oasis. The tower is managed by the lighthouse keeper, who is responsible for welcoming in the two-guest lodging, located high above the old trading town on the borderline between the land and the shallows, about 70 miles northeast of Amsterdam.
Inside, the lighthouse is articulated in three floors: the first is the bath floor with a striking circular shower. The second is the largest living area with a bed, a small sitting area and a worktop with all the facilities for a leisurely stay. At the very top you reach the spot where a lamp the size of a Skippy ball once shone. You can either seat yourself at the table for two under the original copper dome and listen over the VHF radio-telephone to the conversations of the harbour authorities, or you may step out onto the fenced-in platform, surrounding the lantern room, and observe the church towers of the towns and villages in the Friesian hinterland glitter in the last evening light.
The West Usk Lighthouse was built in 1821 by Scottish architect James Walker, and served as a real lighthouse warning ships right up until 1922 when it was decommissioned. It then became a private home shortly afterwards but soon fell into dis-repair and became derelict. However, that didn’t mean it wasn’t used: in the Second World War, it acted as a lookout post. In the late 1960s it was renovated into a private home until 1982 where it fell into disrepair once more. It was ultimately converted in 1989 into an exquisite and exclusive hotel, licensed for up to 23 guests. Despite the lighthouse’s status as a Grade II listed building, it boasts all the contemporary comforts you’d expect at a luxury hotel, such as a fabulous hot tub on the roof, a roof garden for summer barbecues and speedy wifi access everywhere.