To the lighthouse / Vers le phare

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

It is hard to say what I liked most about our recent weekend in an Irish lighthouse. 
Was is the excitement of winning this 2-night stay in a Facebook competition with the Irish Landmark Trust?
Was it the freedom of our first child-free weekend in well over a decade?
Or was it simply the allure of staying at a working lighthouse?

Lighthouses are endlessly captivating. And it seems I am far from the only one finding them fascinating. Everyone we have met since our getaway has asked the same question – ‘Did you get to stay in the actual lighthouse?’

The answer is no. St. John’s Point lighthouse was never designed for living in, so we stayed in SJ Clipper, one of the two cottages built for the keepers and their families, metres from the tower.


Il est difficile de décider ce que j’ai préféré de notre escapade récente dans un phare irlandais.
Etait-ce l’excitation d’avoir gagné ces deux nuitées dans un concours sur la page Facebook de l’Irish Landmark Trust ?
Etait-ce la liberté de notre premier weekend sans enfant en plus de dix ans ?
Ou était-ce simplement la perspective de séjourner dans un phare opérationnel ?

Les phares sont des bâtiments fascinants. Et il semblerait que je ne sois pas la seule à les trouver passionnants. Tout le monde nous a posé la même question : “Avez-vous dormi dans le phare même ?”

La réponse est non. Le phare de St. John’s Point, Co Donegal, n’a jamais été conçu pour être habité. Nous avons donc séjourné dans SJ Clipper, un des deux cottages attenants, construits pour loger les gardiens de phare et leurs familles.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark TrustSt. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

With the acorns left in the capable hands of their auntie Paula, Brian and I drove off for our first romantic getaway in eleven years.

It is a long way to St. John’s Point, or Killybegs lighthouse, as it used to be known. Turning off the N56 shortly after the village of Dunkineely, Co Donegal, the narrow, bumpy road winds its pot-holed way along the long finger-shaped peninsula, stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean, to the lighthouse at the very bottom.

As the sun was setting over the Slieve League cliffs further west, we pulled up outside the lighthouse. House manager Gerard welcomed us into the cosy cottage that was to be ours for the weekend.


Laissant les graines de chêne entre les mains capables de leur tante Paula, Brian et moi sommes partis pour notre première escapade en amoureux en onze ans.

La route est longue pour arriver au phare de St. John’s Point, ou phare de Killybegs, comme il était naguère connu. Quittant la N56 peu après le village de Dunkineely, la route étroite et cahoteuse serpente tout au long de la péninsule effilée, de dos d’âne en nid-de-poule avec l’Atlantique de part et d’autre, jusqu’au phare à son extrémité.

Comme le soleil se couchait sur les falaises de Slieve League à l’ouest, nous avons atteint le phare. Gerard, le concierge, nous accueillit dans le cottage douillet qui serait à nous pour le weekend.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

SJ Clipper is incredibly spacious, yet it feels like a warm cocoon. Tastefully furnished in a mixture of quality new pieces and charming vintage finds, the place oozes understated luxury, boasting all mod cons, with an added sense of history. 

There is no TV, no wi-fi, only the gleaming white lighthouse, the ocean, and the sea air outside the sash windows.

Living heritage

Throughout the cottage, the thick granite walls are painted in muted period colours that match the wild seascapes outside. The snug living-room, with its simple open fire, engulfs you in its warmth, without ever feeling stuffy. A barometer invites guests to try their hand at weather forecasting, like the lighthouse keepers of the past.

In the beautifully handcrafted kitchen, with its sea green wooden doors, the original red terracotta tiles were retained. No detail was overlooked, down to the matching silverware in the cutlery drawer. Something of a rare occurrence in Irish holiday homes.

In the huge bathroom, formerly a third bedroom, the large roll top bath tub with traditional chrome feet looks nearly lost. 

SJ Clipper sleeps 4, in one twin room looking out to the now overgrown family garden, and one double bedroom facing the lighthouse itself. At night the light flashes faintly behind the curtains for 1½ seconds every 6 seconds. Out at sea, it can be seen as far as 14 nautical miles away. 


St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

SJ Clipper est étonnamment spacieux, pourtant on s’y sent comme dans un cocon douillet. Arborant un mélange élégant de beaux objets neufs et de meubles chinés pleins de charme, il exsude un minimalisme chaleureux. Tout confort, avec un cachet historique indéniable.

Il n’y ni télévision, ni internet. Seulement le phare blanc éclatant, l’océan et l’air marin derrière les fenêtres à guillotine.

Patrimoine vivant

Dans tout le cottage, les murs épais en granite sont peints dans des tons sobres qui rappellent les paysages sauvages de l’extérieur. Le salon, doté d’une cheminée toute simple, vous enveloppe dans sa chaleur, sans jamais paraître étouffant. Sur le guéridon, un baromètre invite à essayer de prévoir la météo, comme les gardiens de phare d’antan.

Dans la superbe cuisine aux façades vert d’eau, entièrement réalisée sur mesure, les tomettes rouges d’origine ont été conservées. Aucun détail n’a été négligé, jusqu’aux couverts assortis dans le tiroir. Une chose rare dans les locations de vacances en Irlande.

Dans l’immense salle de bain, aménagée dans ce qui était une troisième chambre, l’énorme baignoire à pattes de lion chromées paraît presque perdue.

SJ Clipper peut accueillir quatre personnes, dans une chambre à lits jumeaux qui donne sur le jardin envahi de mauvaises herbes, et une chambre double en face du phare. La nuit, le faisceau intermittent éclaire faiblement les rideaux pendant 1,5 seconde, toutes les 6 secondes. En mer, il est visible à 14 milles marins par temps clair, soit 26 km.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark TrustSt. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

My favourite piece in the cottage was the Carnegie Box. In the sitting room, beside the oversized armchair, the unassuming little cabinet immediately caught my eye.

In 1901 a wealthy business man, Andrew Carnegie, donated millions of dollars to create 1,200 libraries in English-speaking countries, including Ireland. The Commissioners of Irish Lights borrowed books from the Carnegie libraries in Dublin and sent then around all their lighthouses. They were kept in a Carnegie Box and were much loved by the keepers and their families.

With ‘Commissioners of Irish Lights’ stamped on one door, and ‘Carnegie libraries for lighthouse service’ on the other, it now houses a pair of binoculars, a coastal bird identification chart by FSC, and 4 information sheets – History of the lighthouse, Lighthouse Keepers, What can you see?, and the original plans of the structure.


Dans le salon, à côté du grand fauteuil en velours, une petite armoire modeste attira immédiatement mon regard : la bibliothèque Carnegie.

En 1901, un riche homme d’affaires américain, Andrew Carnegie, finança la construction de 1200 bibliothèques dans divers pays de langue anglaise, dont l’Irlande. Le Service des phares et balises emprunta des livres aux bibliothèques Carnegie de Dublin et les distribua dans tous les phares. Rangés dans l’armoire Carnegie, ils étaient très appréciés des gardiens de phare et de leurs familles.

L’armoire Carnegie de SJ Clipper contient désormais une paire de jumelles, outil indispensable du gardien, un dépliant d’identification des oiseaux marins, et quatre fiches d’information sur l’histoire du phare, les gardiens qui y furent postés, les plans d’origine, et ce qu’on peut observer de St. John’s Point.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

Following an unhurried breakfast the next morning, we ventured outside into our back yard. The vast lighthouse grounds, severely overgrown behind high granite walls, feel more than a little desolate. For those guests who don’t fancy the bumpy drive down, there is a small helipad beside the station.

Still, cars come and go – St. John’s Point is reputedly one of Ireland’s best diving spots. 


Le lendemain après un petit déjeuner tranquille, nous avons exploré les dépendances immédiates. L’immense enclos du phare, envahi par la végétation derrière ses hauts murs de granite, paraît un tant soit peu désolé. Pour les visiteurs qui souhaitent s’épargner la route cahoteuse, il y a un petit héliport à côté du phare.

Pourtant, des véhicules vont et viennent. St. John’s Point a la réputation d’être un des meilleurs lieux d’Irlande pour la plongée sous-marine.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark TrustSt. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

While hiking on the cliffs of Slieve League later that day, ‘our’ lighthouse was clearly visible in the far distance. On our late return that evening, the reassuring light was already on. 


Lors de notre radonnée sur les falaises de Slieve League pendant l’après-midi, “notre” phare était clairement visible au loin. A notre retour tardif ce soir-là, la lumière rassurante brillait déjà.

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

Were we the first ever guests in SJ Clipper? Our entry was the only one in the still blank visitor book. Regardless, it was a real honour to stay in such a unique holiday home. Thank you Irish Landmark Trust for the amazing work you do preserving Ireland’s fascinating heritage!

It was only 36 hours of blissful freedom, but we came away refreshed and rejuvenated. Next time though we might bring the acorns along…


Etions-nous les tout premiers visiteurs au cottage SJ Clipper ? Toujours est-il que notre entrée était la seule dans le registre encore vide. Quoi qu’il en soit, ce fut un véritable honneur de séjourner dans un lieu aussi unique. Merci à l’Irish Landmark Trust de préserver ainsi le patrimoine fascinant de l’Irlande !

Il a suffi de 36 heures de calme et de liberté pour que nous revenions reposés et revigorés. Mais la prochaine fois, les graines de chêne viendront avec nous…

St. John's Point, lighthouse, phare, Donegal, Ireland, Irlande, Irish Landmark Trust

 

 

Visitor information

Irish Landmark Trust
11 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
Tel: +353 01 670 4733
Email: bookings@irishlandmark.com
Facebook @theirishlandmarktrust

Six Irish lighthouses have been redeveloped as self-catering accommodation by the Irish Landmark Trust. Since 1992, this registered charity has conserved and taken care of 31 quirky, eccentric, and distinctive buildings across Ireland; St. John’s Point Lighthouse is one of the latest additions to their offering.
It might not feel like your holiday is anything but a relaxing indulgence, but when you stay in an Irish Landmark property, you’re part of a community that’s keeping heritage alive.
Irish Landmark Trust can be supported by booking a stay in one of their properties, or by becoming an Irish Landmarker and donating to support their work.

St. John’s Point, Co Donegal, one of 70 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) around the coast of Ireland, continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today. 
This is a harbour light to guide ships in Donegal Bay, the largest bay in Ireland, and to mark the entrance to Killybegs Harbour. 
The tower, built of cut granite and painted white, is 14 metres high (30 metres above sea level). It was designed by Inspector of Lighthouses George Halpin, it started operating in 1831. The last keepers left in 1932 when the station was automated. In 1962 the light was converted to mains electricity, with a diesel generator standby.

St. John’s Point is also one of 12 Great Irish Lighthouses. This all-Ireland tourism initiative developed by CIL offers visitors from home and abroad the chance to visit or stay in a lighthouse, to find out about their history, to appreciate the spectacular natural world around them, to discover the technology at work in lighthouses today and to meet the people who are passionate about these unique places.


Irish Landmark Trust
11 Parnell Square
Dublin 1
Tel: +353 01 670 4733
Email: bookings@irishlandmark.com
Facebook @theirishlandmarktrust

Six phares irlandais ont été convertis en locations de vacances par l’association caritative Irish Landmark Trust. Depuis 1992, elle a pris en charge et restauré 31 propriétés uniques et pleines de caractère du patrimoine bâti d’Irlande ; le phare de St. John’s Point est le dernier projet ajouté à leur catalogue.
S’il vous semble que vos vacances ne sont qu’un moment de détente bien méritée, sachez qu’un séjour dans une des propriétés de l’Irish Landmark Trust contribue à la préservation du patrimoine vivant d’Irlande. Vous pouvez soutenir l’association en réservant un séjour dans une de ses propriétés, ou en effectuant une donation.

St. John’s Point, Co Donegal, est un des 70 phares opérés par Commissioners of Irish Lights, l’équivalent irlandais du Service des phares et balises. Il continue de jouer un rôle primordial pour la sécurité en mer.
Sa lumière guide les navires dans la baie de Donegal, la plus grande d’Irlande, et marque l’entrée du port de Killybegs.
La tour de granite peint en blanc mesure 14 mètres de haut et se dresse à 30 mètres au-dessus du niveau de la mer. Conçu par l’inspecteur de phares George Halpin, le phare fonctionne depuis 1831. Il fut automatisé en 1932, date à laquelle les gardiens quittèrent les lieux. En 1962, le phare passa à l’alimentation électrique, avec un générateur diesel en cas de panne.

St. John’s Point est aussi un des douze Grands Phares d’Irlande (Great Lighthouses of Ireland). Cette initiative touristique développée par Commissioners of Irish Lights permet aux visiteurs d’Irlande et d’ailleurs de visiter ou de dormir dans un phare, de découvrir leur histoire, d’apprécier la faune et la flore qui les entourent, de comprendre les technologies utilisées dans les phares, et de rencontrer des gens passionnés par ces bâtiments uniques. 

 

Disclaimer – I won this 2-night stay at St. John’s Point Lighthouse in the 12 Days of Christmas – Advent Calendar competition, run in December 2016 by Irish Landmark Trust on their social media channels. All opinions are my own.

NB : j’ai gagné ce séjour de deux nuits au phare de St. John’s Point lors du concours 12 Days of Christmas – Advent Calendar, organisé en décembre 2016 par l’Irish Landmark Trust sur ses réseaux sociaux. Toutes les opinions sont les miennes. 

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22 Responses to “To the lighthouse / Vers le phare

  • OMG! What an amazing place to spend some time. It is so beautifully decorated and designed. I just love lighthouses. Thank you for sharing this with us on #ablogginggoodtime
    Imperfect Mum recently posted…A blogging good time #48

    • It was a magical place to unwind, so atmospheric! Thank you for hosting #ablogginggoodtime x

  • OMG I love the idea of staying in a lighthouse! I’ve found a few others I want to stay in in California and I think I found another one in England. I love this one though! It feels so vintage! Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    • The Irish Landmark Trust have no fewer than 6 lighthouses available as holiday accommodation around the coast of ireland. You’d be spoilt for choice! Only one I believe, Wicklow Head, lets you sleep in the actual lighthouse, with a silly number of steps to reach the kitchen at the top 🙂

  • What a wonderful prize to win! I love lighthouses, we live 2 mins from one, they have a romance all of their own – the call of the sea, the stories they feature in. What a fantastic stay I would totally love this! #FarawayFiles

    • How lucky are you to live 2 minutes from a lighthouse?! We are 5 minutes from the sea here, but no lighthouses around. Like you I love them, and winning this weekend away in late December made my Christmas 😉

  • Katy Clarke
    7 months ago

    Based on reading your posts over the past few months Annette, I think this would be the perfect romantic escape for you! What a beautiful and historic lighthouse. Thanks for sharing with us on #farawayfiles

    • You have got to know me well Katy 😉 It was fabulous indeed. So thankful for this fantastic experience! 🙂

  • Oh wow, this looks absolutely stunning! how unique for time away! I’ve always loved lighthouses and would love to go to one! #ablogginggoodtime

    • It was indeed a stunning place to stay in, and a fabulous escape! I love how the Irish Landmark Trust have made it so much easier to stay in a lighthouse. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  • Have you read the book/seen the move the Lighthouse Between Two Oceans? You story reminds me of it. It looks beautiful and what a special treat to win the competition! There’s something quite romantic about the idea of solitude spent on/near a lighthouse. I love the bath tub! My husband and I get obsessed with visiting lighthouses around New Zealand.

  • This looks like a wonderful escape, Annette! I’ve also wanted to stay in a lighthouse too and this one has been furnished beautifully. I like the idea of no TV nor WiFi either – the perfect escape. Lovely share for #FarawayFiles

    • It was the perfect escape, Clare! I can’t say I missed TV and wi-fi, because I didn’t, not one bit! Who knows, you may well stay in a lighthouse when you visit Ireland, and kill two birds with one stone, as they say 😉

  • What a cool experience! I can’t believe you won it in a FB competition – I never do those things but am now seriously reconsidering! Lighthouses have always intrigued me too. #farawayfiles

    • I rarely enter Facebook competitions too. I entered that one late on Boxing Day, and I found out the next day I was the winner. That made my Christmas! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • You’ve reminded me how much I want to stay in a lighthouse. Actually, I’ve always overlooked the lighthouse cottages but maybe I shouldn’t as your little cottage looked great, so much character and detail. Sounds like you had a great little escape!
    #farawayfiles

    • I was a bit like you, more interested in staying in the lighthouse itself than the attached cottage. But this is where lighthouse families used to live, and it was fabulous to experience that, it felt so genuine. That said the Irish Landmark Trust have one lighthouse, at Wicklow Head in Co Wicklow, where guests can stay in the actual tower. Thank you for popping over 🙂

  • Oh my goodness – how charming is this – what a unique place to stay! And good work on finagling the kid free zone! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, cheers from Denmark, Erin

  • Mary Macken
    7 months ago

    This is wonderful. Beautiful words and exceptional photography. We are booked for a few days at this lovely place in early August. Lighthouses are SUCH special places. My appetite is truly whetted . I applaud greatly what The landmark Trust is doing; these great examples of our built heritage need to be preserved.

    • How fabulous that you’re going to spend a few days in this very special place, Mary! I’m already dreaming of going back. Totally agree with you that the Irish Landmark Trust are doing an exceptional job restoring and preserving these beautiful buildings with so much history. Thank you for your comment 🙂
      Annette

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