Just over 20 years ago on the Kentish coast, Dermot Cronin was retired as Britain’s last lighthouse keeper when automation took over.
Many others were decommissioned and now operate as highly unusual self-catering or bed and breakfast establishments.
Here are six of the best…
North Foreland lighthouse was home to Dermot Cronin, Britain’s last lighthouse keeper
Marking the junction of the Dover strait and the Thames estuary, you can now stay in Dermot Cronin’s former cottage at the base of the North Foreland lighthouse. Chic and breezy inside and with an enormous lawn, it’s just a ten-minute walk from the Captain Digby Inn, an infamous haunt for smugglers of yore.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Take a 15-minute drive to Margate to visit the striking new Turner Contemporary gallery.
DETAILS: From £395 (two night minimum stay), ruralretreats.co.uk.
Hunker down: St Abb’s lighthouse is a good spot from which to watch the birds of the Berwickshire Cliffs
Puffins, razorbills and guillemots flock to the Berwickshire cliffs, which are part of a National Trust nature reserve. This cottage, next to the St. Abb’s lighthouse, is a wonderfully snug and cosy spot to hunker down with a single malt and watch gannets dive bomb the turbulent waters at speeds of up to 60mph.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Coldingham Bay’s glorious sandy beach is in walking distance
DETAILS: From £344 (seven-night min stay), scottish-cottages.co.uk.
Rosy: Sally Port Cottage in Cornwall is well known as the home of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock
The observation tower and terrace are major draws of Sally Port Cottage, a Cornish south coast outpost that, for children of the 1980’s, is best known as the home of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock. Still a fully operational lighthouse, on wilder nights electronic fog sirens still blare out from here to warn passing ships. Don’t worry, the owners provide earplugs by the beds.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Explore nearby St. Mawes Castle, built by Henry VIII to guard the coast from French and Spanish invaders.
DETAILS: From £536 (two-night min stay), ruralretreats.co.uk.
Belle Tout is close to the meadows and woodlands of the South Downs National Park
Breakfast at the Belle Tout lighthouse is served in the former lantern room with panoramic views over the South Downs and Beachy Head to accompany your full English. The Keepers Loft is the pick of the six rooms. You need to climb a ladder to enter the bijou space complete with a double bunk bed and en-suite shower miraculously squeezed in.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Make a day trip to saunter through the tranquil woodlands and meadows of the South Downs National Park.
DETAILS: From £160 for two, B&B, belletout.co.uk.
Secluded: The Old Light Tower is on tiny Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel
Looking out over Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, the Old Light Tower is a granite behemoth with sash windows, huge fireplace and dark wood furnishings. At the top of the tower are deckchairs; for star gazing or sunbathing.
WHILE YOU’RE HERE: Take children in search of the 27 ‘Lundy Letterboxes’; you’ll need a treasure map from the island shop to start.
DETAILS: From £316 (four-night minimum), landmarktrust.org.uk.
The Old Higher Lighthouse is close to Durdle Door and has its own pool
Once owned by Marie Stopes, The Old Higher Lighthouse, a Grade II listed lighthouse on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, is perfectly placed for exploring the nearby labyrinth of smugglers caves. There’s also an outdoor pool.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE: Durdle Door, unarguably Britain’s most beautiful coastal sea arch, is less than an hour’s drive away.
DETAILS: From £424 (two night min stay), oldhigherlighthouse.com.