To the lighthouse

Clare Island lighthouse is a wild and windswept retreat whose pared-back design doesn’t compete with the 360 degree sea views.


[FEATDROP5]A [/FEATDROP5]lighthouse stay offers a sense of sanctuary and escape from everyday life. The decommissioned lighthouse on Clare Island’s northeast face presents visitors with a place to contemplate life while surrounded by some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery. On a clear day halos of light pour through the Paul Henry cloudscapes to dance on Clew Bay. Croagh Patrick, Mayo’s holy mountain, is to the east; Currane, the location of the Devil’s Footprints, said to be the cloven feet of the devils fleeing the mountain once St Patrick had banished them, is to the northeast. Bill’s Rock, named after a shipwrecked sea captain found there more dead than alive, is in the line of the setting sun.

The property has changed hands several times since keeper Jackie O’Grady was charged with switching off the light for the last time, in 1968. He wrote The Green Road to the Lighthouse , a memoir of his time there that helps guests conjure up what life was really like. A copy sits in the library.

Goesta Fischer, a German pathologist who has been coming to Ireland since the mid-1970s, bought it in 2008 from Lady Georgina Forbes for €1.05 million and set about reroofing, rewiring, replastering and insulating the wind- and salt-ravaged place.

While underfloor heating has transformed the reception rooms into warm light and cosy spaces, the interior stops just short of being austere.

The kitchen has a Belfast-style sink and cupboards painted a trawler red. A raised open fire overlooks the pitch pine table that can seat up to 10. It was made using 200-year-old floorboards reclaimed from a church in Northern Ireland.

The sitting room has overstuffed sofas, gilt framed paintings and an open fire. An archway takes you through to the formal diningroom-cum-library, which is home to a Georgian table and chairs. The German piano was found in Tolco Antiques on the Headford Road in Galway and transported in a horsebox on to the pier at Roonagh. On the crossing it shared space with a load of gravel, livestock feedstuff and groceries.

“In the bedrooms, where possible, we retained the original flagstone floors,” explains Roie McCann, Fischer’s business partner and an interior designer. “I wanted it to look unfussy.” Each of the six bedrooms has a wood-burning stove or an open fire to add visual and physical heat. Residents will get a supply of turf, piled high on the ferry and imported from the mainland like everything else on the island. Foxford blankets cover the beds. Bar white Venetian blinds, the windows are bare.

One of the bedrooms is called after the last lightkeeper, Jackie O’Grady. Simply furnished, it has a stove, a wrought-iron bed and an old-style kitchen chair, bought at a car-boot sale in Newport.

There are plans to create a cosy diningroom for up to six people in the optic part of the lighthouse tower. The tower will also be open to the public, meaning day-trippers are welcome to visit. This changes the dynamic of the place, opening it up to the public for the first time. From the top the views are beyond compare.

The lighthouse is due to open in June. An overnight stay costs from €350 to €500 per room per night. This price includes the ferry crossing, taxi transfers to the lighthouse, B&B and an evening meal.
tel: 098-64875

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