Located just off the coast of Northern Ireland, Rathlin Island is the perfect haven for those who want to enjoy the pursuits of nature. Even though it is quite small – only measuring six miles long by one mile wide – it has much to offer its visitors. A regular ferry service operates between Ballycastle on the mainland and the dock at Church Bay on the island. Although sailings are more frequent during the summer months than other times of the year, you may experience delays depending on the weather conditions.
There is only one road on Rathlin Island, so you won’t get lost. You can choose to walk around the island if you have plenty of time, but there is a minibus that will take you from one end to the other. The large bird colony is the major attraction on the island and birdwatchers come from all parts of the world to see the native birds that nest at this site.
The Rathlin Island Seabird Centre has a very unique lighthouse. The beacon is at the bottom so the lighthouse is actually upside down. This is because the light can only be visible for a specific distance out to sea according to Coast Guard regulations. From the observation terrace at this bird colony site, you have a very panoramic view out to sea over a cliff that drops more than 300 feet down to the water’s edge.
Archaeological finds on Rathlin Island show that it has been inhabited since the earliest times. Flint axes have been unearthed and the island was one of the first to experience the wrath of the Viking raids in the 10th century. Robert the Bruce hid out on the island for a time in the early 14th century.
During the First World War, a German U-Boat sank the HMS Drake, a British cruiser, in Church Bay. This wreck is one of the popular scuba diving locations in Ireland attracting avid divers from all over the world. As a result, tourism is one of the main industries of the island.
Cyclists enjoy the cycling route of 14 miles around the island that gives them a chance to enjoy the dramatic scenery and get their exercise at the same time. There are also walking tours that are suitable for all levels of walkers giving you information about the plants, wildlife and history of the island.
The variety of accommodations on Rathlin Island will suit all tastes and budgets with hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and cottages to rent. The pub serves meals during the day and is a great place to get to meet the local people.
For your next vacation in Ireland, check out what Rathlin Island has to offer.