If the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland is still on your bucket list then you should seriously think about adding a trip to Ireland’s most Northernly point. Rathlin Island. Situated just off the coast from Ballycastle in Co Antrim, this beautiful Island is just waiting to be discovered. On a Sunny Sunday morning myself, Mam and Dad headed off from Cavan on the road to Ballycastle. For once I wasn’t driving so it was lovely to sit back and enjoy the country views through Northern Island.
It took us 2 and a half hours to get from Cavan to Ballycastle and when we arrived the pretty little seaside town was buzzing with activity. We parked up at the Marina and went into the ferry office to grab our tickets. There is a fast ferry and a slow ferry over to the Island. The Rathlin express is the fast ferry but it was sold out when we arrived. We bought tickets for the Rathlin spirit that was leaving just half an hour later. Advance booking is highly recommended here. Especially at the weekend. Tickets are £12 return for an adult and £6 for a child. We decided to take a walk down the town to grab a cup of tea before we headed back up to hop on the Rathlin Spirit.
The slow ferry is only 45 minutes accross the Sea of Moyle to reach the Island. The scenery of the North Antrim coast once we left the harbour was amazing. You can see all the way over to Sheep Island along the causeway coast. As we left the harbour in Ballycastle a mist came down and visibility was quite bad on the rest of the trip to the Island. Once the boat pulled into the harbour in Church Bay on Rathlin we couldn’t see the main land at all and it had started to rain! The Island is only 6 miles long and 1 mile wide. We had checked out one of the brochures before our trip so we knew we had a choice of eight walks to take.
When we hopped off the boat there was a bus there that was taking people up to the West Light house and the West Light Seabird Center. The bus tours cost approximately £5 return. If you want to walk up to the west light house its a 4 and a half mile walk. You can hire bicycles from the Seorneog Hostel also. We decided to walk over to the visitor center to see if we could find a cap for poor Dad- he had left his jacket in the car and the poor man was getting soaked. A lovely lady in the visitor centre pointed us in the right direction for our walk over to the East Lighthouse.
The looped walk to the east light house is an easy 3.5 kilometre walk. We set off from the visitor center and took a right at McCuaigs Bar. The walk is well signposted from here and it took us just half an hour to arrive over to the other side of the Island. From here you can see the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland which is only 15 miles accross the sea. Thankfully the rain had stopped at this stage and we enjoyed the rest of the walk down to the lighthouse. We were passing fields of bog cotton here and it was so so quiet.
The East light house has a commanding presence at the corner of Rathlin Island looking out over the sea towards Scotland. The area around the lighthouse is gated as its private land but you can walk straight up to the field in front of it. Marconi established a radio link between here and Ballycastle in 1898. There is an information board here also telling you of the history of the area. In 1306 Robert De Bruce, the Scottish king at the time, took refuge in a cave here. He apparently watched a spider continuously trying to bridge a gap in his web until he succeeded. He took inspiration from the perseverence of the spider and returned to Scotland to regain his crown.
We decided to put down our blanket here and have our little picnic. It was while me and Dad were fighting over the only spoon we had brought for the tea that I realised that there was Puffins on the cliff beside us. Puffin Season on the Island is from April to July. The Island is home to tens of thousands of birds during the Summer. Puffins, Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Fulmars can all be found here. So if you are into birds at all this is the place to go. After eating our fill we heading back onto our walking track and back down the harbour. You pass both Churches on the Island on this walk as well as the schoolhouse. Once we got down to the harbour we took a visit to the Breakwater studio where a local artist, Yvonne Braithwaite displays and sells her beautiful paintings and souvenirs. This is well worth a visit.
On the Island you will also find the Water shed cafe, the manor house cafe and restaurant and McCuaigs Bar. If you want to stay on the Island you will find some holiday rentals on airbnb. We got the Rathlin spirit back to the main land that evening after a thoroughly enjoyable stay on Rathlin. We will definitely be back to discover some more of the Island. We only explored such a small part of it but it was still amazing. I was a guest of the Rathin Ferry company on this occasion so a big thank you to Shona and all the staff here. I have attached some links here to help with your trip. As always- Happy Galavanting! xxx