Northern Ireland

Lighthouses set for makeover as EU funding secured

Lighthouse
Image caption St John's Point lighthouse in County Down was under threat of closure just two years ago

The coastline of Ireland is set for a makeover.

A cross-border project to renovate five of the island's lighthouses has secured 2.5m euros (£2.1m) from the European Union.

It is also hoped that the programme will support 60 jobs during construction.

When the buildings are restored, a further 10 people will be needed to work in the lighthouses when they open for business.

Five sites have been selected for the first phase of the All-Ireland Lighthouse Trail project. Three are in Northern Ireland and a further two in County Donegal.

One of the sites in Northern Ireland is situated on Rathlin Island.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) will work alongside The Commissioners Irish Lights (CIL) to create "enhanced visitor facilities" for sea bird watching at the Rathlin West lighthouse.

The five developments in Northern Ireland and County Donegal will add to six existing sites already in operation in the Republic of Ireland.

Project leaders, CIL, own 75 lighthouses. Ultimately they hope to use between 15-20 of these to form a tourist trail around the coast of Ireland.

EU special programmes representative Pat Colgan said: "This is an important tourism initiative, which has the potential to create long-term economic and employment opportunities for local communities, on a cross-border basis.

"The initiative represents a niche form of rural tourism that will help broaden out the tourism season of the entire region...the project will also create a lasting legacy that will attract both domestic and overseas visitors for many years to come."