Lighthouses have long been the stuff of stories. They are at once life-saving beacons that guide wayward sailors and offer hope amidst the waves of the thrashing ocean while also standing as haunting symbols that typify isolation, loneliness, and the madness that comes with both.
For many people, the idea of living off-grid on a far-flung island forever at the mercy of the elements would be a nightmare come true. However, for some, the tranquility of remote living and being forever amidst the forces of nature is the idyllic dream they have always longed for. For the latter group of people, living in a lighthouse could well be the perfect setting to turn those dreams into a reality.
Many lighthouses are still active and help guide thousands of ships and save countless lives each year. Others are now inactive but still serve as tourist spots or landmarks and, therefore, require maintenance and upkeep.
We are going to take a look at lighthouses and where you can find them for sale.
Where can I buy a lighthouse tower?
There are hundreds of active and inactive lighthouses across the UK, the most being based on and off the shores of England. The US is the country with the most lighthouses and is home to around 700.
Before making the decision to buy a lighthouse, prospective buyers who have not lived in a lighthouse before are recommended to try renting one first to make sure they are prepared for the work that comes with it.
So let’s jump in and find out more about where all the lighthouses are located in the UK.
Where are the lighthouses in the UK?
There are over 400 active and inactive lighthouses dotted across the UK and Ireland.
England lays claim to the lion’s share, with around 150 lighthouses, some of which are still in use. Ireland (Republic and Northern Ireland) has the next largest number of lighthouses, with around 120.
Scotland is home to over 100 active and inactive lighthouses, while Wales has about 50.
Which country has the most lighthouses?
The US is the country with the most lighthouses, with around 700 dotted around the country.
Home to approximately 150, Michigan is the US state with the most lighthouses.
So, if there is one place in the world where you are likely to be able to find a lighthouse for sale, your best bet is Michigan, USA.
How much does a lighthouse cost?
As with regular lighthouses, the cost of buying a former lighthouse varies widely. The price largely depends on the state of the lighthouse and its location.
You can find old dilapidated lighthouses for as little as £10,000. Whereas a well-looked-after lighthouse in an idyllic location could cost closer to £1,000,000.
How do you buy a lighthouse?
The best way to buy a lighthouse is to find a specialist estate agent online. There are websites dedicated to the sale and rental of lighthouses, with buildings listed from across the world.
As we mentioned before, it is a good idea to try renting a lighthouse before making a purchase. You can also find both paid and voluntary jobs with organisations such as the Northern Lighthouse Board Headquarters that give you the opportunity to experience life on a lighthouse.
That way, you can see if the lighthouse lifestyle really is for you or not!
What kind of accommodation do lighthouses have?
When we think of lighthouses, most of us immediately conjure the image of a cosy lighthouse keeper’s cottage with an entire Scottish island for ourselves to roam.
However, the reality is that lighthouses come with all manner of accommodation types and are almost as varied as regular houses.
A lighthouse keeper’s house could be a renovated cottage that offers comfortable living quarters for an onshore lighthouse that is well connected to local amenities. But it could also be a worn-down ruin many hours from the nearest signs of civilisation.
Some former lighthouse keeper’s accommodation might be connected to the main body of the lighthouse, while others could be a small cottage a few minutes’ walk away from the tower.
Are lighthouses still operated by lighthouse keepers?
Most lighthouses in the modern world are now automated. In the US, for example, all the lighthouses are automated, with the one exception being the Boston Light in the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. There remains a keeper there, but they are largely there for touristic purposes, and they serve as tour guides of the island and the lighthouse.
There are also lighthouses in Asia and Oceania that have lighthouse keepers. But much of their duties are done voluntarily, and they predominantly work on the maintenance and upkeep of the buildings.
The last manned lighthouse in the UK was the North Foreland Lighthouse in Kent, which became fully automated in 1998.
What is life like living in a lighthouse?
Life in an old lighthouse isn’t like regular living. Even if the lighthouse is no longer in use, there are duties and lifestyle changes that you will have to get used to, and the work required to maintain former lighthouse keepers’ cottages (which are often listed buildings) can be as hard as keeping the lighthouse itself.
Lighthouses are popular visiting points for tourists and other visitors. Most lighthouses – especially former ones – are historical landmarks that attract guests on a regular basis.
If you live in a lighthouse, whether it is still in use or not, you are the de facto tour guide to anyone that comes to take a look. Some lighthouses even have a museum or gift shop attached to them, and if they are protected, you will need to be in charge of managing them.
Electricity generation, water, and food
Because lighthouses tend to be in remote locations, they usually require an electricity generator for power.
Some lighthouses don’t have electricity for anything other than the light itself, so you will have to find new ways of ensuring you have the power you need to live the kind of life you want to lead in the lighthouse.
Similarly, most lighthouses are not connected to the water mains. Therefore, you may be required to build a running water system that is also filtered and offers clean drinking water that is safe for consumption.
And there is the added detail of food storage. A remote lighthouse on an island is always going to be at least a boat trip away from the nearest shop. So, unless you take up residence in a lighthouse that is on the mainland and well connected to local amenities, you will have to stock up on enough food to keep you alive until your next venture to civilization.
If you buy a lighthouse that is still in operation, then you will have to rise to whatever demands you have agreed to take on as the new resident.
This could be as simple as ensuring the lighthouse is well maintained and kept in order. Or you could be required to keep the generator healthy, change the bulbs, or – as we saw earlier – serve the tour guide of the island and the lighthouse.
Even if the lighthouse is no longer in use, many of the buildings are protected or listed, and it will be up to you to ensure the required maintenance duties are performed to keep the lighthouse presentable.
If you want to buy a former lighthouse tower, your best bet is to search in the US, as it is the country with the most lighthouses. England is the UK nation with the most lighthouses, and you can find specialist bulletins and estate agents online who deal with lighthouse buildings.
Before taking on the responsibility that comes with owning a whole lighthouse station, you should first either rent one or find paid or voluntary lighthouse work. Then, once you have experienced true lighthouse living, you will know if having your own lighthouse is definitely for you.