A wild islandBirds soar across the sky. Waves crash against the cliffs. The wind whirls the crisp sea air right under your nose, as seals bark playfully from their rocks below.
Standing at the harbour of the rugged Rathlin Island, the first thing you will notice are the sounds of the wildlife. Here where the birds run the show and fields of flowers bloom, you are at one with nature on this stunning island.
Rathlin may be home to only around 150 people, but it is bursting with curious residents: as a conservation area, tens of thousands of seabirds call Rathlin their home. Head to the Rathlin Seabird Centre, and from the spectacular viewing platform observe the magic of puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes in their natural habitat. Visit in the spring or summer months to see the full colonies, and you might see birds raising their chicks on the cliff edges! And while the birds steal the show here at Rathlin, there are plenty of other residents who may catch your eye – colonies of seals love to lounge on the rocks, and you may even spot an Irish hare or minke whale if you’re lucky!
A storied past
This remote island is the perfect setting for a great story, and Rathlin has more than its fair share. It was here that King Robert of Scotland was exiled in the 14th century, and where he re-found his courage; while sitting in a cave pondering his next move, he witnessed a spider's determination to repair its broken web, and was inspired to return and reclaim his throne. And the Sea of Moyle (which you cross to reach Rathlin) was where the tragic Children of Lir spent 300 years as swans; back across the sea at Ballycastle, you can visit a beautiful sculpture dedicated to the children.
Beneath the surface
The waters of Rathlin have many tales lying beneath the surface: a popular place for wreck divers, Rathlin Island has over 40 shipwrecks dotted around its coast. Three of the most famous; the HMS Drake, SS Lugano and HMS Brisk, were sunk during World War I, with the HMS Drake having the title of a listed monument to that war.
Throughout history, many have visited this quiet island, so chat with the friendly locals and they will be sure to give you a tale or two about their home.
Even though the island is relatively small, its unusual "L" shape means it’s home to three different lighthouses, each with its own unique appeal. The East Lighthouse, the oldest of Rathlin’s lighthouses, sits high above Robert the Bruce’s Cave. On your path to Rue Lighthouse, you’ll meet friendly seals as a paved track leading over the craggy rocks brings you to the striped wonder. And the West Lighthouse, beside the seabird center, has an especially unusual feature – it is known as Ireland’s only upside down lighthouse!
Take a walk on the wild side
At only 6 miles (9.7 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide, walking is the best way to explore Rathlin's natural wonders, and there are a variety of trails to suit all interests and fitness levels. The Kinramer Trail will take you along dramatic cliff tops, where you can see the basalt columns that make up the cliff face on the mainland. The Kinramer North Walk will lead you through the Kebble Nature Reserve where you can find orchids in bloom, hares grazing and seabirds raising their young. Or follow the Ballyconaghan Trail to the north coast of the island, where on clear days you can see across the Atlantic Ocean all the way to Scotland.
Rathlin Island highlights
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