Belfast Telegraph

Foster launches lighthouse tourism trail 

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment

Tourism Minister Arlene Foster today launched a Lighthouse Tourism Trail during a visit to Blackhead Lighthouse, Co Antrim.

The Lighthouse Trail is being supported with £2.2million of financial assistance from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

The first phase of the project involves three lighthouse properties in Northern Ireland - Rathlin West Lighthouse, Rathlin Island; Blackhead Lighthouse, Co. Antrim and St. John’s Point Lighthouse, Co. Down, as well as two in the Republic of Ireland.

Emphasising the importance of support for initiatives that seek to enhance our tourism infrastructure Arlene Foster said: “Many of our local lighthouses are historic and beautiful buildings that play an important role in coastal navigation. Not only do they stand tall as reminders of our proud maritime history but they also offer significant tourism potential. 

“Across the three lighthouses, this project will see the installation of visitor centres and eight luxury self catering accommodation units within currently disused light keeper cottages.” 

Speaking after a tour of the lightkeeper's house in Whitehead, the Minister added: “Blackhead Lighthouse guided many great ships on their journey, none more famous than the Titanic. The self catering cottages have been fully restored to their former glory and they offer visitors a magical windswept retreat with a difference. 

“The lighthouse keeper's house is attached to the lighthouse by a short walkway and there are also a variety of coastal walks for visitors to enjoy. Whitehead is an ideal place for visitors to start a trip along the Antrim Coast and it is also within easy access of Carrickfergus and Belfast.”

Welcoming the project Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body said: “This is an important tourism initiative, which has the potential to create long-term economic and employment opportunities for local communities, on a cross-border basis. The initiative represents a niche form of rural tourism that will help broaden out the tourism season of the entire region. In helping to preserve an important part of our cultural heritage, the project will also create a lasting legacy that will attract both domestic and overseas visitors for many years to come.” 

Yvonne Shields, Chief Executive of the Commissioners for Irish Lights added: “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 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.”

Notes to editors:

1. The INTERREG IVA Programme is a European Union supported Structural Funds Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) which aims to promote greater territorial cohesion between Northern Ireland, the border region of the Republic of Ireland (ROI) and Western Scotland. 

2. The Special EU Programmes Body is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland. It is responsible for managing two EU structural funds Programmes PEACE III and INTERREG IV designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The Programmes operate within a clearly defined area including Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. For more information on the SEUPB please visit

3. DETI acts as Accountable Department for Enterprise and Tourism themed projects under Priority 1 of the Programme, which aims to diversify and develop the economy of the eligible region by encouraging innovation and competitiveness in enterprise and supporting business and tourism development.

4. The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) are the Lead Partner for the Lighthouse Trail Project. CIL is the body appointed under statute to act as the General Lighthouse Authority for the island of Ireland, its adjacent seas and islands. CIL delivers marine navigation and safety services in close collaboration with Trinity House and Northern Lights Board and collectively the three organisations are the General Lighthouse Authorities for the UK and Ireland.

5. To date DETI has provided approximately £27.9million towards 21 Enterprise and Tourism themed projects supported through the INTERREG IVA Programme. This has resulted in a total INTERREG investment of £52.9million. 

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