Try a lighthouse for that unusual weekend break

Try a lighthouse for that unusual weekend breakCork, Ireland  - Anyone keen on a mystical getaway should book now for what could turn out to be a genuinely spooky break in Wicklow Head lighthouse on Ireland's east coast, about an hour's drive south of Dublin.

The octagonal, stone tower is one of 15 properties across Ireland, restored by the Irish Landmark Trust, which are available to the public as self-catering holiday accommodation.

Guests should however expect a wait of about one year owing to the popularity of the offbeat vacation venue.

Read a couple of ghost stories and settle down for a cold, wintry night in one of six beautifully-restored, octagonal rooms while the wind howls outside. The accommodation, complete with four-poster beds, is arranged vertically, adding to the exclusivity. But, when in the grip of a spooky tale, think twice about that midnight snack. Climbing all 106 steps to the kitchen was a bit dampening.

The octagonal tower was originally one of a pair built in 1781 as a landmark to end confusion among mariners who wondered whether they were further north on the east coast at Howth or Hook Head. However, its hilltop location and the fact that it was originally lit by lanterns containing tallow candles confused mariners in dense fog. Lightning struck the tower in October 1836, gutting it entirely.

Eventually, a third, new lighthouse was built lower down on Dunbur Head and is the one now guiding mariners. Lighthouse keeper, Brendan Conway and his wife Miriam raised their family there.

"I only have good memories of it. It was a beautiful, unique place to live and we had carloads of visitors every Sunday as a result," Miriam said.

Ireland's lighthouses have been automated since May 1994, the year in which Brendan retired. He was later asked back to perform regular maintenance duties which he still carries out.

The Irish Landmark Trust acquired the abandoned tower in 1996 and set about restoring it.

"I never thought we would be renting out the old lighthouse," said Miriam but in the course of doing so the couple has made friends with guests from Germany, Canada and other countries.

The lighthouse is by no means draughty since the arched windows are set in walls one metre thick, allowing visitors to enjoy the Irish Sea and the surrounding landscape in safety and warmth and spot the regular beams of light from the other tower. Hues of blue and white give it a slightly Mediterranean feel.

The tower is located in Wicklow county, which is renowned as "The Garden of Ireland", so guests can combine culture and heritage and enjoy the magnificent coastline and mountains. Other nearby attractions include the scenic vale of Avoca, the historic Powerscourt House and Gardens and Glendalough.

For more information, see Bookings can be sent to Tel: 00353-1-6704733, Fax: 00353-1-6704887 (dpa)