I've hankered to stay in a lighthouse since I was a young girl, my nose buried in countless Famous Five novels. I still can't think of a more exciting prospect of bedding down for the night, perched on a blustery headland, the rough seas lashing salty spray against the windowpanes.
My childhood wish was finally realised, amid the blowy Atlantic westerly winds on our recent stay in the charming Old Lighthouse Upper on Lundy Island.
The Old Lighthouse accommodation on Lundy island is the perfect base to explore the wilds of this tiny island
Each of the 23 Landmark Trust properties on Lundy Island are steeped in history and charm, but none more so than the Old Lighthouse. It's the perfect base to explore the corners of this wild island, a granite rock 10 miles off the rugged North Devon coast. Owned by the National Trust Lundy measures only 3.5 miles in length by a mere half a mile of moorland in width and is a haven for wildlife lovers, nature enthusiasts, avid climbers and those for a penchant for the outdoors. Lundy, with only 28 permanent staff and a distinct lack of mobile signal, offers a real chance to slow right down, breathe in true peace and tranquility and escape everyday life.
Getting to Lundy is half the fun, but a word of warning it can be a rough crossing!
Getting to Lundy is an adventure in itself. Choose between a 2 hour (often choppy) crossing on MS Oldenburg from either Bideford or Ilfracombe or arrive in style on a 6 minute heli ride. Once the boat docks at Landing Bay on the island's South coast, there's a pretty strenuous 10-15 minute climb up the rough road hewn into the cliffs up to the tiny village centre. Less mobile visitors squeeze up and take the rather bumpy ride up in the Land Rover. Once you've reached the village, cheerful staff await to check you in, although you might need to sink a pint in the local pub, The Marisco Tavern, while you wait as it's likely your accommodation won't be ready until later in the day.
This old work horse ferries less mobile visitors up the hill to the village. It's a free service and you don't have to reserve.
Your luggage will arrive at the property before you do - as long as you've filled out your beautiful luggage labels beforehand. Individually colour coded for each property, the luggage labels are a gorgeous vintage design - I fell in love with them immediately and knew from then on, we were destined for a fabulous stay.
I fell in love with the vintage luggage labels which are now the perfect bookmark!
The Old Lighthouse is a 5-10 minute traipse over a couple of fields from the pub. It's one of the most popular landmarks for visitors so don't be surprised if there's a few day trippers there admiring the view.
The Old Lighthouse with our motley crew (not the day trippers!)
The lighthouse quarters are two original flats, upper and lower, which were built in 1820 to house the lighthouse keeper's and the signalman's families. The Landmark Trust have restored the redundant lighthouse and it's keeper's flats beautifully into two separate holiday lets. Our home for the next few nights was the top flat - Old Lighthouse Upper.
After reaching the lighthouse on foot, we couldn't help but race up the 147 well worn steps up the Lighthouse before checking out our accommodation!
147 steps up to the lantern room, where legend has it one of the keepers was too tall to stand!
The Old Lighthouse, at 96 feet high, boasted to be the highest lighthouse in the country at it's time of construction. This prowess proved to be it's downfall as the island is often shrouded in fog on the higher ground (where the Lighthouse is sighted) whilst visibility is clear at ground level. It meant the lantern wasn't effective and in 1897 the Old Lighthouse was abandoned when new lighthouses were built on lower ground on the North and Southern tips of the island.
From the lantern room at the top of the lighthouse enjoy spectacular views across the entire island, and on a clear day, the coasts of Wales, Devon and Cornwall.
We loved the deckchairs at the top - a welcome sight after the demanding climb to the top and the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
Finally, desperate for a cuppa, we sought out our digs, flumping down into deep, cosy chairs in the lounge. Old Lighthouse Upper, sleeps up to five guests in 3 bedrooms, (two twins and a single) and has the edge over the Lower flat by affording outstanding views along the coast. The flat has been furnished to top quality, old fashioned comfort. No sleek modern lines here, only delightfully old pieces of furniture, built to last.
Everything from the crockery to the bed linen oozes luxury. We simply adored (well myself and my Mother!) the huge set of classic blue and white Cornishware stoneware and it pleased us exceptionally to take tea from the cups and saucers in front of the roaring fire after a day hiking the island. Simple pleasures!
The bedrooms are simple in style yet elegantly old fashioned. The beds are ridiculously comfortable with soft 100% egyptian cotton duvet covers. Heavenly!
Can you believe there used to be 11 family members of the keeper living here. It's told that they had to hide children when the Elder Brethren came to inspect the cottages!
The flat is full of memorabilia of Lundy's intriguing past. A bookshelf is rammed with volumes of books about the island, fact to fiction, spanking new to marvellously old, describing almost everything there is to know about about Lundy from it's history of piracy and slaves to it's teeming wildlife (puffins, basking sharks, seals), so Lundyphiles drink your heart out.
Heavenly comfy beds!
The compact kitchen is packed with everything you could possibly need during your stay, from champagne flutes, fresh coffee plunger to cake tins! We were impressed with the small touches - miniature eco bathroom products, a pint of milk in the fridge and comforting hot water bottles all made us feel very at home.
You can order a list of groceries that get delivered to your door from the village store (order minimum of 14 days before your stay). A real Aladdin's cave the one shop on Lundy stocks an unbelievable array of food, practical items and souvenirs at slightly inflated but not outrageous prices.
It wasn't particularly cold during our stay and although the flat had storage heaters, we much preferred to light the fire to amp up the cosy factor after returning through the wild from a hearty pub dinner (you can order smokeless coal at the pub which they thankfully deliver to your door). With tired children and waning energy levels after a full day in the blustery outdoors, it's exactly what we needed - a glass of wine around the fire with good company. It doesn't get better than that!
We were seriously impressed with the logistics of The Landmark Trust - everything runs like clockwork. From making your booking, transportation to the island & the efficient luggage delivery, it was a pure pleasure.
And although the salty sea spray didn't exactly reach our windows, waking every morning to the chatter of bird song, the baahing of contented sheep, and the thundering waves crashing far below, Old Lighthouse - you didn't disappoint. Rather you've hooked me.
If you're seeking adventure, have a thirst for the outdoors, and love wildlife, I strongly recommend a visit to Lundy. And, if you want it to be a memory that lasts forever, one of those special engrained warm memories that make you feel fuzzy inside, book one of the Landmark's exceptional properties, and be one of the few when the boat leaves, and your in paradise.
Old Lighthouse Upper sleeps 5, no dogs allowed, and costs from £267 for a two-night stay. Book well ahead as Lundy is very popular even in Winter. You can book 2-3 years in advance!
You can also camp on Lundy (National Trust members can camp for free!).
Have you been to Lundy? I'd love to hear your stories and which accommodation you stayed in. (I'm longing to try out Tibbets next, the old signal and watch station and the remotest property of the island with no electricity!)
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far