What is it about lighthouses, anyway?
What is it that makes lighthouses so iconic, mysterious and romantic? Why are they such powerful symbols in our culture? And why is the idea of an overnight stay in a lighthouse such a compelling and enticing one?
There’s no simple answer to that question, of course. Most lighthouses no longer work the way they once did: they’re often unmanned, and some are no longer used at all. They’ve either been automated, or simply aren’t needed anymore, as we now have all manner of satellite and GPS technology.
Is it the bygone era? Is it the romanticism of heroic acts?
Perhaps lighthouses appeal to our romantic and literary sensibilities. Does their wonder come from their ability to snatch men and women from the dark clutches of the sea? After all, there’s nothing like a real or symbolic saving light in the darkness, to stir the soul and the imagination…
Lighthouses commonly stand where the meeting points between the land and sea are at their most dangerous and violent: places that threatened humans as they ventured more and more to explore the oceans and colonize new lands. They represent danger in a certain sense– and human victory over that danger. There’s a sense of redemption in the image of a sea-battered old lighthouse sending out beacons of hope to lost seafarers.
Who hasn’t seen dramatic old pictures of Brittany’s great lighthouses – and attempts by the ocean to completely swallow them? These iconic lighthouses in France remain compelling tourist destinations, many situated on the “Finistère” coastline that meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines abound with these stirringly beautiful architectural structures, isolated on their stunning rocky outcrops and peaks. No wonder they inspire artists, photographers and travellers of all kinds to visit and admire them.
Perhaps the queen of these is Cordouan, at the mouth of the Gironde Estuary, near Bordeaux. Also known as the Versailles of the Sea owing to its sheer scope and grandeur, it was built under the reign of King Louis XIV, and is the oldest lighthouse in France.
Ways to Visit the Cordouan Lighthouse
You can visit this iconic French structure by boat – and it’s most definitely worth it! This active lighthouse is also home to an onsite museum. There are three departure points for the ferry, all within close reach of Bordeaux. This is an adventure that’s perfect for the intrepid experiential traveller.
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What About Staying Overnight?
Some lighthouses have been retired from ‘active service’, however– luckily for us curious travellers– they’ve been put back into service as rental holiday cottages or bed and breakfast style guesthouses. These are just a few examples of lighthouses where you can stay overnight, all located in the UK and Ireland. There are plenty more, however: sign up for our forthcoming guide below to learn about some of the world’s most magical lighthouses to lodge in.