A niche new tourism push has been initiated, with the announcement of a new €2.5 million EU-funded 'All-Island Lighthouse Trail' project for Ireland.
The project was launched by Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar, and Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Investment in the Northern Ireland Executive, at one of the lighthouses set for development, which is located at Blackhead, Co. Antrim.
The All Island Lighthouse Trail project, led by the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL), will see key operational lighthouse facilities also made available for specialist tourism accommodation and attractions.
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The Commissioners of Irish Lights operates over 70 lighthouses around the coast of Ireland - many of which present a prime opportunity for tourism development, according to the body. 'All of these working lighthouses play a vital role in marine safety but are now automated and unmanned. Each lighthouse has accommodation attached, in some cases up to 5 houses, that can now be offered to tourists', the Commission said.
Although some lighthouses already offer visitor accommodation and tourist attractions, this new initiative is set to increase the number of locations in what will be the creation of a new lighthouse tourism sector.
Speaking at the launch of the project Yvonne Shields, chief executive of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, said, "Lighthouses by their very nature are connecting points between land and sea. They continue to play a very important role in the provision of our maritime safety services."
"This EU funded project has huge potential because in addition to maritime safety services, it allows CIL to capitalise on the spectacular locations of our lighthouses, harness their huge heritage value and work with local communities in an exciting and innovative way, to deliver economic and tourism benefits North and South."
Minister Leo Varadkar, TD, commented, "I am delighted to be in Co. Antrim today launching this innovative project with Minister Foster, which has great tourism potential. In this Gathering year, it's fitting that these beautiful working lighthouses will also welcome visitors to Ireland, at sea and now on land."
"This is a very clever way of utilizing a precious asset to grow our tourism industry, create new jobs, and provide something truly unique."