Seven Days in a Lightkeepers’ Houses on the Antrim Coast

Discover the stunning Blackhead Lightkeepers’ Houses, located on the beautiful North Shore of Belfast Lough in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Conserved and cared for by the Irish Landmark Trust, these three houses offer a unique and memorable experience for visitors.

Each house can be booked separately, or all three can be reserved together for larger groups. The houses are situated on the Lightkeepers’ station at Blackhead, providing breathtaking panoramic views that will leave you in awe.

These houses are a testament to Ireland’s rich maritime heritage, and staying here during a storm will allow you to witness the raw power of nature. The charming character of the houses makes them an ideal location for a special getaway.

To help you make the most of your stay, we’ve put together a 7-day itinerary filled with suggestions for things to do while staying at Blackhead Lightkeepers’ Houses. From discovering the area’s history and natural beauty to enjoying local food and outdoor activities, our itinerary ensures a memorable experience at this remarkable destination.

The History of Blackhead Lighthouse

The Blackhead Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1901, stands on the north shore of Belfast Lough. This lighthouse, along with its twin located at Mew Island, played a crucial role in guiding ships safely through the lough during the height of Belfast’s shipbuilding industry. Many famous vessels, including the legendary Titanic, would have relied on the Blackhead Lighthouse to navigate the waters.

Inside the lightkeepers’ houses, visitors can discover various interesting artefacts that provide a glimpse into the daily life of a lighthouse keeper. One such item is the whistle pipe system, which was used to wake up the next person on watch duty. Additionally, there is a tunnel that allows the keepers to travel safely between the lighthouse and their quarters during stormy weather conditions.

The history of the Blackhead Light dates back to 1893 when the Belfast Harbour Commissioners approached the Northern Lighthouse Board with a request to establish a lighthouse and fog signal on Blackhead. Despite some initial resistance, the project eventually gained approval, and construction commenced in 1899 after funding was secured.

Interestingly, the lighthouse’s light character had to be altered from its original design. It was initially set to display two one-and-a-half-second flashes every 30 seconds, but this was found to be too similar to another lighthouse located in Scotland. To avoid confusion, the light character was changed to a single half-minute flash every three seconds.

One notable feature found within the lightkeepers’ houses is the Carnegie Library Bookcase. These bookcases were a gift from the renowned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who sought to help lighthouse keepers combat the isolation and loneliness that often came with their jobs. The bookcases were regularly stocked with books, providing a much-needed source of entertainment and education for the keepers.

Although the Blackhead Lighthouse is now automated and no longer requires a constant human presence, it continues to serve as a vital navigation aid for ships entering and leaving Belfast Lough. Its enduring presence serves as a testament to Belfast’s rich maritime heritage and the unwavering dedication of the lighthouse keepers who once called it home.

​​Day 1: Staying Local in Whitehead and Carrickfergus

There’s plenty to do in Whitehead and nearby Carrickfergus for all ages and fitness levels. Here are some ideas:

  • Guided Tours: Take a private walking tour, e-bike tour, or boat tour to learn about the area’s history and hear interesting stories. Check with the community centre for details and bookings.
  • Lighthouse Yarns: Visit Lighthouse Yarns for courses and workshops on knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, and felting. They also have weekly craft groups on Fridays (knit) and Saturdays (crochet) 
  • Whitehead Railway Museum: Visit this award-winning museum, great for the whole family. Watch restoration work, explore historic carriages and locomotives, and check out the interactive galleries. There’s also a children’s play area and a tea room for lunch.
  • Live Music: Catch the local band Shindig at the pub in Whitehead every Thursday evening.
  • Carrickfergus Castle: Just a 10-minute drive away, Carrickfergus Castle is one of Ireland’s best-preserved medieval castles. Consider taking a tour.

These activities offer a mix of options for your first day, allowing you to explore the local area and enjoy some unique experiences.

Day 2: City Adventure in Belfast

Belfast offers a wide range of activities to suit all interests and preferences. Whether you’re an adrenaline seeker or a relaxed spectator, you’ll find something to enjoy in this vibrant city.

Guided Tours: Start your day with a guided tour to get acquainted with Belfast’s history and attractions.

  • Black Cab Tour: Take a trip around Belfast with a knowledgeable guide who will take you through the city’s turbulent past.
  • Historical Walking Tours: Join a walking tour to explore Belfast’s historical sites and learn about its rich heritage.
  • Foodie Tours: Discover Belfast’s culinary scene and sample local delicacies on a foodie tour.
  • Bus Tour: If you want to see all the main attractions without walking to each of them, a bus tour is a great option.

For more information and to plan your visit to Belfast, check out the Visit Belfast site.

Titanic Belfast: One of the most popular attractions in Belfast City Centre is the Titanic Belfast, a monument to the city’s maritime heritage. The Titanic Experience spans nine galleries that use special effects, dark rides, full-scale reconstructions, and interactive features to tell the story of the Titanic in great depth and detail.

Dining Options: Belfast offers an endless list of places to eat. For a comprehensive list of recommended restaurants, visit the Irish Roadtrip site.

Day 3: The Gobbins Cliff Path Walk

(Beside the Lighthouse)

Spend the morning exploring the stunning Gobbins Cliff Path, which is visible from the Blackhead Lighthouse. This guided walking tour offers a unique opportunity to experience one of the most dramatic coastal cliff walks in Europe.

Key information:

  • Booking is essential for the guided walking tour.
  • There is a cafe on-site for refreshments before or after your walk.
  • If you don’t have your own hiking boots, you can hire them at the site.
  • The site is fully accessible, with wheelchair mobility scooters and buggies available.

To plan your visit and make a booking in advance. 

Some additional activities to consider:

  • Picnic lunch: Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic with stunning views of the coastline.
  • Beachcombing: Take a leisurely walk along the beach and search for interesting shells, stones, or sea glass.
  • Photography: Capture the beautiful landscapes and seascapes around the lighthouse.
  • Birdwatching: Keep an eye out for local seabirds and other wildlife in the area.

The Gobbins Cliff Path walk is an unforgettable experience that combines natural beauty, history, and adventure, making it a perfect addition to your stay at the Blackhead Lighthouse.

Day 4: Forest Adventure at Glenariff Forest Park

Take a scenic drive (approximately 50 minutes) from Blackhead Lighthouse to Glenariff Forest Park, one of the nine Antrim Glens in Northern Ireland. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities and amenities, making it an ideal destination for a day trip.


  • Walking: Explore the various walking trails through the forest, each offering unique views and opportunities to spot wildlife.

Some notable trails include:

  • Rainbow Trail (0.6km)
  • Scenic Trail (8.9km)
  • Viewpoint Trail (1km)
  • Waterfall Walk Trail (3km)
  • Horse Riding: Enjoy the beauty of the forest on horseback, with guided tours available.
  • Picnicking and BBQs: Take advantage of the park’s picnic and barbeque areas for a relaxing lunch amidst the stunning natural surroundings.
  • Tea House: Visit the tea house for a refreshing break and a taste of local refreshments.
  • Glenariff Glen National Nature Reserve: Part of Glenariff Glen has been designated as a National Nature Reserve due to the richness and diversity of its plant life. The rocky gorges of the river support a wide range of mosses, liverworts, and ferns. A historic timber walkway (boardwalk) winds through the glen and alongside the river gorge, providing a spectacular walk through this unique ecosystem.
  • Wildlife: Glenariff Forest is home to many animals of conservation concern, including the red squirrel, hen harrier, and Irish hare. Keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures as you explore the walking trails.

A day at Glenariff Forest Park offers a perfect mix of outdoor activities, stunning scenery, and opportunities to observe the local flora and fauna. Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes, a picnic lunch, and a camera to capture the beautiful memories.

Day 5: Coastal Drive to the Giant’s Causeway

Take a scenic drive along the beautiful Antrim Coast, starting from Blackhead Lighthouse and heading to the Giant’s Causeway. The whole Antrim Coastal Route is 195 miles long, from Belfast to Derry. But for this day trip, you’ll focus on the part from Blackhead Lighthouse to the Giant’s Causeway, which takes about 1.5 hours to drive without stops.

There are lots of cool places to stop and check out along the way:

  • Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: A famous rope bridge over a 20-metre-deep chasm, with awesome coastal views.
  • Dunluce Castle: A pretty medieval castle ruin on a cliff edge, with lots of history and stories.
  • Ballintoy Harbour: A lovely little harbour that was in the TV show “Game of Thrones”.
  • Bushmills Distillery: The oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, where you can take tours and taste the whiskey.
  • Giant’s Causeway: A UNESCO World Heritage site with 40,000 cool-looking basalt columns, formed by an ancient volcano. There’s a visitor centre and walking trails.

Find out more info on the full Causeway Coastal Route.

Tips for your coastal drive:

  • Start early to have plenty of time for stops and exploring.
  • Bring snacks, water, and a picnic lunch to enjoy at a nice spot along the way.
  • Wear comfy shoes and bring a light jacket or raincoat, in case the weather changes.
  • Don’t forget your camera to take pictures of the amazing views and memories.

The Antrim Coastal Route has some of the most stunning scenery in Northern Ireland, and this day trip from Blackhead Lighthouse to the Giant’s Causeway is sure to be a highlight of your stay.

Day 6: Take a hike at Cave Hill Country Park

Head over to Cave Hill Country Park, just a 30-minute drive from Blackhead Lighthouse. This park has amazing views of Belfast from different spots. The Cave Hill walk can be anywhere from 1.3km to 7.2km long, and it can be easy or hard, depending on which trail you pick.

Cave Hill has a famous feature called Napoleon’s Nose, which people say inspired Jonathan Swift when he wrote Gulliver’s Travels. Some big US travel guides even say that visiting Cave Hill at sunrise is one of the most romantic things for couples to do in Belfast.

Here are some tips for your hike:

  • Choose a trail that matches your fitness level and the amount of time you have.
  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good grip, as some parts of the trail can be steep or rocky.
  • Bring water, snacks, and a light rain jacket, just in case the weather changes.
  • Don’t forget to take breaks and enjoy the stunning views of Belfast and the surrounding areas.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, try to spot Napoleon’s Nose and see if it reminds you of Gulliver’s Travels!

After your hike, you can explore more of Cave Hill Country Park or head back to Belfast for a well-deserved meal. 

Some other things to do in the park include:

  • Visiting the Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, perfect for kids.
  • Checking out the Cave Hill Visitor Centre to learn more about the park’s history and wildlife.
  • Having a picnic in one of the designated areas and enjoying the peaceful surroundings.

Cave Hill Country Park is a great place to spend a day outdoors, getting some exercise and taking in the beautiful views of Belfast and beyond.

Day 7: Beach and Paddleboarding

Spend a relaxing day at one of the many stunning beaches in Northern Ireland. The closest beach to Blackhead Lighthouse is Portmuck, where you can also try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with Islandmagee SUP, an accredited paddle school with qualified instructors. SUP is a fantastic way to explore the beautiful coastline and get some exercise while enjoying the scenery.

Another great option is Browns Bay Beach, a popular sandy beach at the northern tip of Islandmagee. This horseshoe-shaped bay is 600m long and offers a peaceful, rural setting with a real “away-from-it-all” feel. The view across the horizon is stunning, showcasing five headlands along the Antrim coast. Browns Bay is perfect for swimming, picnicking, walking, windsurfing, or simply enjoying the great outdoors.

Tips for your beach day:

  • Check the weather forecast and tides before heading out.
  • Pack sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Bring a picnic lunch or some snacks to enjoy on the beach.
  • If you’re planning to swim, be aware of any potential rip currents or strong waves.
  • When paddleboarding, always wear a life jacket and follow the instructions of your guide.
  • If bringing your dog, be mindful of any restrictions and clean up after them. More info here.

Where to eat in the Local area

  • The Lighthouse Bistro: Cosy seaside restaurant in Whitehead, excellent for lunch and dinner. Visit their website for menus and opening times 
  • We are Kings Road is a great spot for coffee
  • The Whistle Stop Cafe: a great cafe in the area.
  • Cups and carriages: Ideal for breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea.
  • The Bankhouse: Located at 12 Edward Rd, Whitehead, with a small gift shop. 
  • Tweedie Pies : Offers a gorgeous selection of breads, scones, homemade pies, cakes, and tray bakes.
  • Fosters Fruit: Great for vegetables and flowers, located on Kings Road, Whitehead.
  • Hara at Home: Irish Landmark Trust has partnered with this Co. Down based food company to offer guests a premium meal delivery service at Blackhead Lightkeepers’ Houses. Visit their website to make your selection for the required date. Please note this service is available for Friday deliveries only.

When to visit

Anytime is a good time to visit Blackhead Lighthouse in Whitehead, Co. Antrim. Every year, Whitehead hosts the Victorian Street Festival and Annual Summer Fair. For details, visit.

The longer you stay at our properties, the cheaper the rate gets, so consider booking an extra night. With so much to see and do in the area, you might need some extra time! To book Blackhead Lighthouse, click here.

Please note that all information listed above is correct as of spring 2024. Remember to check the relevant links and webpages, as booking is required for most tourist attractions and restaurants.

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Booking Conditions


It is possible to reserve dates online at but bookings are not confirmed until a confirmation email is received from the bookings desk.     


Your booking must be for holiday purposes only.  Irish Landmark reserve the right to refuse hire for purposes other than holiday accommodation. When you make a booking, you accept full responsibility for all persons who will use or visit the property during the period booked.  When you book, you agree to indemnify us against all loss and damage arising directly or indirectly to the property and its contents from any deliberate or negligent act or omission by yourself, or any person accompanying you. 


The hiring contract shall be between the Hirer and Irish Landmark and made subject to these Booking Conditions . The Contract of Hire is not effective until Irish Landmark dispatches to the Hirer written confirmation of a booking. 


Irish Landmark reserves the right to increase or decrease the price of unsold holidays at any time. However, such amendments to price will not be applied to holidays already confirmed.   


All prices quoted are based on current prices and rates of V.A.T. at the time of going to press. Irish Landmark is unable to absorb increases in Value Added Tax or any new forms of taxation which may be introduced. Any such increases will be charged as notified and will be payable. 


All bookings can be paid for in full at time of booking. All bookings made within 12 weeks of stay must be paid in full at time of booking. Bookings made more than 12 weeks in advance of stay require a 30% non-refundable deposit with the balance due 12 weeks before arrival.  Irish Landmark shall be entitled to treat any failure to pay by the due date as a cancellation of the booking and will notify the Hirer by email.  The maximum number of payments for a booking will be limited to two – the deposit and balance payment.   A separate payment may be due where an amendment has been made to the original booking.  


Payments can be made by credit/debit card (Visa or Mastercard ONLY).    

Payments for properties in the Republic of Ireland are taken in Euros, payments for properties in Northern Ireland are taken in Great British Pounds. 


Please note that only one voucher can be used per booking.  Vouchers have a strict expiry date. 


Upon receipt of payment by our bookings office, you will receive a confirmation of your reservation.  All charges for the booking will be confirmed in this notification.  Once confirmation has been issued, the Hirer is responsible for the total advertised price of the property and any extras notified.   

AMENDMENTS TO BOOKINGS (excluding cancellations):    

Irish Landmark does not offer a transfer of dates option. A complete change of dates is treated as a cancellation 

CANCELLATION POLICY: We hope that you will not have to cancel your stay, or part of your reservation.  If for any reason this is unavoidable, cancellations must be notified by email to In the event of cancellation (this includes a reduction in number of nights) your deposit is non-refundable and the following cancellation charges will apply:  

Date of Cancellation 

Cancellation Charge 

More than 12 weeks before start date 

The deposit of 30% 

84 – 28 days before start date 

50% of total rental 

Fewer than 28 days 

100% of total rental 

Irish Landmark does not operate a cancellation insurance scheme for any reason, including Covid-19, and strongly recommends that all guests take out full holiday insurance cover.    

PARTY SIZE AND COMPOSITION:  In no circumstances may more than the number of persons listed on the booking form occupy the property overnight.   Irish Landmark reserves the right to refuse admission if this condition is not observed. Bookings can only be made by adults and cannot be accepted from anyone under the age of 21.  Irish Landmark only allows guest stays where the lead guest is aged 21 years or over.   


Upon receipt of final payment, you will receive Access Details and Important Information via email about your rental. This includes the contact information of the Local House Manager, directions to the property, arrival and departure time, etc. However, the specific arrival time must be agreed with the relevant local House Manager at least four days prior to holiday start date.  It is the responsibility of the Hirer to arrive at the property at the time agreed with the House Manager. Irish Landmark reserves the right to levy an additional charge if the property is not vacated in accordance with these terms on the day of departure.  


The number of day visitors will be limited to the capacity of the property – i.e., a 2-person property may have 2 day visitors, etc.   Prior written consent must be obtained from Irish Landmark Trust for additional numbers of day visitors. 

PERSONAL BELONGINGS: Baggage and personal belongings are always at the Hirers risk. No responsibility can be accepted for loss or damage to any car or its contents. 


Only certain Irish Landmark Trust properties accept a dog.  ALWAYS check this before you book.  Hirers who have made a reservation and are taking a dog will be required to read and agree to special terms, which details the conditions of bringing a dog to one of these properties.  Failure to comply with these conditions could result in the guest being asked to leave a property.  The rental cost is non-refundable in such cases.   


Irish Landmark respectfully request that you charge your electric vehicle at the nearest charging point and not at the property.  


The Hirer is responsible for the property and is expected to take all reasonable care of it. Our House Managers work hard to maintain and clean the buildings and aim to ensure that the property is in a satisfactory condition for your enjoyment.  We ask that you leave the property in a clean and tidy condition upon departure, including all equipment, utensils etc. If the property is left in an unsatisfactory condition and additional cleaning costs are incurred, Irish Landmark reserves the right to recover these costs from the Hirer.   All breakages and damage must be reported to the House Manager immediately so that they can be rectified. All breakages and damage are the legal responsibility of the Hirer and the cost of repair or replacement must be paid to Irish Landmark upon demand.   If there are problems relating to the functioning of the building, please let the House Manager know immediately. Please note that candles are NOT permitted at any Irish Landmark property. Smoking is not allowed inside any Irish Landmark property. 


While every effort has been made to ensure that the representations stated on our website, or any printed literature, are made in good faith, neither they nor any oral representations made by employees or representatives of Irish Landmark Trust will create liability on the part of Irish Landmark. 


There shall be no liability for any claim arising from the act, omission or neglect or default of Irish Landmark Trust, its employees or representatives unless proved to be done with intent to cause damage or recklessly and with knowledge that loss or danger would probably result. Irish Landmark’s agents, servants and employees or other representatives have no authority to waive or modify these Conditions other than in writing. 


On rare occasions Irish Landmark may need access to the property for essential maintenance work, should it be necessary, Irish Landmark will give you as much notice as is possible.   There is no need for you to stay in the property since our House Manager can accompany any such visits. 


If you have any complaint during your holiday, please contact the House Manager.  If the matter is not dealt with to your satisfaction, please email outlining details of your complaint.   


Irish Landmark reserves the right to refuse any booking and cancel any booking already made, if in its absolute discretion it considers this to be necessary. Where a booking is cancelled by Irish Landmark, every effort will be made to offer an alternative holiday at no increase in cost.  If the Hirer does not accept the alternative holiday offered, Irish Landmark will return to the Hirer the deposit paid and any other sum paid to Irish Landmark by the Hirer.  Liability for all consequential loss, damage and disappointments is accordingly limited to such return. 


It is the hirer’s responsibility to ensure they book a specific dog-friendly property if they are bringing a dog.  There are specific terms and conditions that to which the hirer must adhere: 

We allow a dog, but only when they have been booked in and paid for. The “Taking a Dog” option must be selected at time of booking.  A charge will apply.  

Our policy is strictly ONE DOG. If you arrive at the property with more than one dog the House Manger is entitled to deny you access to the property.  If it becomes known during/after your stay that more than one dog is/was with you, you may be asked to vacate the property and a charge of €100/£100 per dog will apply. 

You must bring your own crate/bed in which your dog can sleep.  Please also bring bowls, towels, and waste bags for your dog. 

Your dog must be house-trained and kept under proper control.  Dogs are STRICTLY not permitted on beds, sofas, or any furniture.  There is no exception to this rule.  

Before departure, please thoroughly clean the property, paying particular attention to removing pet hair from rugs and soft furnishings.  A vacuum cleaner is available to you.   

If there is evidence that you have not cleaned up adequately after your stay, you will be charged a flat rate of €100/£100.   

You must double-check that the outside area around the property is free of any foul. Dog fouling inside the property is completely unacceptable.  Guests will be asked to vacate the premises immediately if this is discovered.  

Your dog must not be left unsupervised in the property.  We ask that you take your dog with you when you go out.  Please be mindful of any livestock nearby. 


By accepting a confirmation of a reservation from Irish Landmark the lead guest agrees: 


I have read and agree to be bound by the Booking Conditions. 

I agree to be held responsible for the balance of hire for the property due and payable in accordance with these terms. 

I understand that most Irish Landmark properties have no television or internet access; that some have no washing machines or dishwashers; and that many have limited mobile phone coverage. 

I understand that as the Lead Person, I am responsible, before their arrival, for informing all guests of Irish Landmark’s booking conditions, and for their observance of same. 

If I am bringing a pet or having day visitors, I have particularly noted the special conditions that apply in these situations 


Hirers making a reservation over the telephone are deemed to have read all Booking Conditions and agree to be bound by them.   


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Important Notes

1-night stays are not permitted.

Bank Holidays & Special Dates have a set minimum number of nights.

Deposits are strictly non-refundable & non-transferable.

Cancellation Fees will apply if you cancel your reservation.

Terms and Conditions apply to all bookings.

Special Offers and Discounts are not valid against existing bookings.

There are restrictions on arrival and departure dates over the Christmas and New Year periods.
Strictly no arrivals or departures on 24th, 25th and 31st of December.