Historic lighthouse hopes for bright future ahead as tourist attraction

THE doors of the Loop Head lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic in west Clare were opened to the public yesterday for the first time — 341 years after the first lighthouse was built.

Yesterday, ex-lighthouse keeper Brendan Garvey said the move to open the lighthouse as a tourist attraction was ideal.

He closed the door on the lighthouse on March 28, 1991 before the system was automated.

Mr Garvey was first appointed lightkeeper at Loop Head lighthouse in 1953 and worked there at four different four-year intervals until 1991.

The Carrigaholt man said yesterday: “I lived there with my wife Kitty in the 1960s. We were newly weds at the time.

“We had two children while I was stationed there and it was a great place for a young family.It is a beautiful part of the world.”

The quarters occupied by the Garveys and other former lightkeepers at the lighthouse is to be part of the new attraction.

Director of services with Clare County Council, Ger Dollard, said yesterday: “The opening of this historic landmark to members of the public is a first step in realising the tremendous tourism potential of the West Clare peninsula.”

The opening of the lighthouse is part of a joint initiative amongst Clare County Council, Shannon Development and Loop Head Tourism.

The lighthouse at Loophead was first established in 1670 and the current tower-style lighthouse building was constructed in 1854 and was operated and maintained by a keeper who lived within the compound.

The lighthouse is to open to tourists on a trial basis for July and August.

Mr Dollard said: “This trial will enable us to establish valuable information on visitor patterns in the area and the view of the public on further expansion of the tourist offering at Loop Head.

“In the autumn we will be continuing to work with our partners in Shannon Development and Loop Head tourism to arrive at a consensus on the future development of the tourism product,” he said.

Clare mayor, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) said yesterday: “The opening of this historic landmark to members of the public will help attract even greater numbers of people to the Loop Head Peninsula, which is not only one of the most scenic locations in Ireland but also is steeped in maritime heritage.”

According to Cillian Murphy, chairman of Loop Head Tourism, “The wild and rugged Atlantic coastline, contrasting sharply with the sheltered Shannon Estuary, truly sets a breathtaking backdrop to this lighthouse.”

Tourism product development executive with Shannon Development, Ruairi Deane, said: “We believe this is another major step in enhancing west Clare’s tourism product offering.”

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