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Britain's Best Lighthouse Walks

These exhilarating coastal walks will lead you to some of Britain's most dramatic and picturesque lighthouses, often built – quite literally – at the ends of the earth

Standing sentinel on forbidding clifftops, rocky promontories and jutting headlands, Britain's lighthouses kept sailors safe from harm for centuries. These towering structures, built in rugged, remote and often lonely locations, make for prominent landmarks with a unique appeal that are a highlight of any coastal walk.

The red-and-white striped lighthouse at Beachy Head has appeared everywhere, from vintage postcards to Bond films

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1. Tyne and Wear, North East
The stretch of coastline between the Rivers Tyne and Wear is one of the most treacherous parts of Britain's coast. That's why you pass so many lighthouses when walking along the coast path from Roker Pier in Sunderland to Whitley Bay in North Tyneside.

The lights were constructed to help guide ships away from hazardous rocks and shoals on their way into and out of these two great rivers.

Getting there: From Roker Pier, head along the coastal path, passing the iron lighthouse in Roker Cliff Park. Stick to the path to visit Souter Lighthouse, the world's first purpose-built electric lighthouse. Continue through South Shields to catch the Tyne ferry to North Shields.

From Fish Quay, it's an easy route along the coast to reach St Mary's lighthouse, north of Whitley Bay. Perhaps the most impressive of all, St Mary's stands on a very small island, which can be reached at low tide via a causeway.

2. Rattray Head, Aberdeenshire
Rattray Head lighthouse was built in 1895 by the engineers and brothers David and Charles Stevenson, at the behest of the Northern Lighthouse Board. The project was backed by numerous ship owners, who had clamoured for a light on this notorious stretch of coast for years.

Surrounded by the golden dunes of Rattray Head Beach, it is a photographer's dream, especially at high tide when the lighthouse becomes entirely cut off from land.

Getting there: Start out at St Combes and head along the vast beach towards Rattray. You'll need to detour inland slightly to avoid a lagoon, passing over a bridge near the Loch of Strathbeg, Britain's largest dune loch.

Walk between the loch and the beach, keeping a look out for wildlife. Follow the beach until you reach Rattray Head and the lighthouse.

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3. Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire
The rocky outcrop of Strumble Head on the Pembrokeshire coast is well-known not just for its lighthouse, but also for its wildlife. The lighthouse itself is perched on a tiny island just off the coast, linked to the mainland via a suspension bridge.

The birdlife is perched just about everywhere, from sooty shearwaters to arctic skuas. It's not unusual to catch a glimpse of harbour porpoises and grey seals either, and if you're really lucky, you might spot dolphins and orcas.

Getting there: From Gawn Fawr car park, turn right onto the road, looking out for a path on the right that skirts around the hillfort. Cross a road and turn right onto the coast path. Follow the path all the way to Strumble Head.

4. Beachy Head, Sussex
The red-and-white striped lighthouse at Beachy Head is easy to pick out against the chalky white cliffs of the Sussex coast. It is a spectacular sight that has become an icon of Britain, appearing in everything from vintage postcards to Bond films.

This walk also takes you past the Belle Tout lighthouse, now a B&B, as well as giving great views out over Beachy Head.

Getting there: Start from the car park at Birling Gap and look for the red phone box. From here a signed footpath takes you to the coast path. Follow the coast path to the left, making sure you don't stray too close to the edge.

Pass Belle Tout lighthouse and carry on along the South Downs Way to reach Beachy Head. Take your time to enjoy views out over Beachy Head lighthouse before retracing your steps to the start.

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5. Lundy Island, Devon
Rugged Lundy Island lies at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. More than 200 shipwrecks have been recorded along this part of the coast, which is why Lundy has two lighthouses in operation – Lundy South and Lundy North.

They replaced the original lighthouse, now known as the Old Light, which was built on the summit of Chapel Hill in 1819, but wasn't deemed sufficient to keep sailors safe. It has now been converted into accommodation for visitors seeking a unique stay.

Getting there: Take the boat to Lundy, which drops you at Landing Bay. From here, follow the track up the hill to reach the centre of the village. Pass farm buildings and turn left on a path through a field. Keep heading towards the old lighthouse, which you pass to reach the coastal path around the island.

Take a slight detour here towards Lundy South Lighthouse, before retracing your steps and turn left onto the coast path to circumnavigate the whole island. You'll reach Lundy North Lighthouse at the top of the island, which seems to perch precariously on a narrow plateau of rock.

6. Happisburgh, Norfolk
This is the only independently operated lighthouse in the UK, having been saved from closure by a group of volunteers. Built in 1970, the lighthouse marked safe passage around the southern end of Haisborough Sands, a sandbank that lies parallel to the north east coast of Norfolk and has claimed many ships over the years. The pretty lighthouse is the oldest working light in East Anglia.

Getting there: From Happisburgh car park, follow a footpath towards the cliff to join the England Coast Path. From here you can enjoy a walk in either direction, heading towards Sea Palling or up to Mundesley. Both routes offer a great walk along the beautiful north Norfolk coast, and give you a chance to explore the lighthouse either at the start or end of your walk.

Words: Matt Jones
Images: Lundy North (c) Pete O'Shea, Rattray Head (c) Gordon Robertson, St Mary's (c) Ellie Clewlow, Strumble Head (c) Phil Dolby, Beachy Head (c) Neil

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