Lodgings that light up the coast

Lodgings that light up the coast
Three cottages at St. Catherine's beacon near Ventnor, on England's Isle of Wight, can be rented from Rural Retreats.
The lights are on, and somebody's home.

Trinity House, Britain's national lighthouse authority, is rapidly converting its stock of former lightkeepers' cottages into upmarket tourist lodgings. From just three cottages, opened about two years ago in Cornwall, the agency now rents 22 cottages at eight lighthouses in England and Wales.

The latest three, opened in June, are clustered around St. Catherine's Lighthouse near the resort town of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Six more locations will be added in the next year, said Michael Blanchard, spokesman for Rural Retreats, a private company in the Cotswolds that handles the rentals for Trinity House.

The cottages, some as much as 150 years old, housed lightkeepers and their families until automation eliminated their jobs. For the tourist trade, they have been refurbished with modern baths and kitchens, color TVs, phones and central heat — a luxury undreamed of by their former inhabitants, who made do with fireplaces in Britain's frigid winters, Blanchard said.

And yes, the cottages are open all year, albeit at a discount during most of the winter.

At St. Catherine's Gurnard cottage, for instance, weekly rates are about $1,380 for five people in summer, $1,170 in fall and $786 in winter. Prices are lower for double occupancy.

The cottages, of course, are situated on the sea. But they're not for everyone.

Most are in remote locations, although two of them, in Broadstairs, the resort town where Charles Dickens lived about 75 miles from London, are near golf courses.

Then there's the matter of night life.

There is none.

"There's actually nothing there except the light at night," Blanchard said. Unless you drive into town, usually some distance away.

Further, bad weather activates the foghorn, which some may find irritating. "We haven't had a problem," Blanchard said. Nonetheless, earplugs are provided.

On the bright side, you can always find your way home from the pub.

For information on booking the lighthouse lodgings, call 011-44-1386-701-177 or visit