ST CATHERINE'S Lighthouse has been closed to visitors and there are no plans to reopen it — a decision that has dismayed the volunteer tour guides.

The Trinity House General Lighthouse Authority, which is responsible for the Isle of Wight landmark, said the visitors' centre was no longer economically viable.

It also said it had been unable to find a new tour operator following the retirement of long-standing tour operator Andrew Booth.

The tours were previously run by a team of 19 volunteer guides, one of whom told the County Press: "Many of the volunteer guides are dismayed by this decision.

"A guided tour of this beautiful and historic working lighthouse has given thousands of holidaymakers and visitors an unforgettable experience, and Isle of Wight tourism will be so much the poorer for losing that."

A spokesperson for Trinity House said: "The company is responsible for the provision of reliable and cost effective aids to navigation, and sees visitor centres as a means of communicating our role in providing for the safe navigation of shipping and facilitating the safe flow of trade by sea.

"A review of our visitor centres has been conducted, taking into account a range of factors, and the decision has been made to focus effort into fewer, more accessible and economically viable locations, where maximum exposure can be achieved.

"St Catherine's Lighthouse has had to close its doors to the visiting public as a tourist attraction.

"The lighthouse remains fully operational but long-standing tour operator Andrew Booth has retired and a successor could not be identified.

"There are currently no plans to reopen the lighthouse as a visitor centre.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew for his excellent work in opening the lighthouse to the public on behalf of Trinity House, and we wish him every happiness in his retirement."

"It is very much appreciated that Islanders may feel a close affinity with the lighthouse.

"They can rest assured that the station itself remains a key operational asset and continues to play a vital role in the safety of navigation for vessels in and passing through the area."