Rathlin Island is located off the coast of County Antrim, it is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland, as well as the closest point to Scotland. It forms part of the Causeway Coast and is the sole occupied island of Northern Ireland and home to a small population of about 145 people but, this is slowly rising. The landscape is somewhat rugged, wild and isolated but, nevertheless beautiful and provides a sense of tranquillity and beauty not to be found elsewhere. The island is totally unspoilt and the views are breathtaking.
A year round ferry operates between the main port of the island, Church Bay and the mainland at Ballycastle, just six miles away, across the Sea of Moyle. There are two ferries that operate on this route, a fast foot-passenger only catarmaran as well as a larger ferry which accommodates both foot passengers and a small number of vehicles, dependent on the weather.
Although small in nature it has a long and intersting history, with many tales of myth and mystery associated with the island. It is here that the Vikings first raided Ireland in 795, according to historic data. Located close to the harbour is the Boathouse Visitor Centre, where visitors can learn about the islands fascinating, dramatic and macabre history, delve into life in current times here and see some artefacts from shipwrecks around the island.
Rathlin Island resembles on upside down ‘L’ shape and measures six kilometres long by four kilometres wide. The tallest point on the island is Slieveard at 134 metres above sea level. It is easy to explore by foot and visitors can enjoy the numerous walks there are, bike rental is available and is another good way to get around. Or perhaps take one of the two buses that operate here. Take the route along the shore to Mill Bay and from here visitors can see some of the resident seals basking or at play, in the waters whilst savouring the magnificent views. There is also the opportunity to explore a genuine working lighthouse, the upside down lighthouse, a totally unique lighthouse, where vistors will get a real insight into light-keeping life as well as amazing views. There are a further two lighthouses on the island. The small harbour villages further add to the charm here.
It is a popular spot with birdwatchers, as the island is home to a vast and diverse species of seabirds, many of whom have made their homes here in the cliffs. There is a renovated seabird centre that opens to the public from Easter. The sheer number of birds nesting here is astonishing and with a set of binoculars visitors can easily see them, with the help of the friendly and dedicated guides. The noise of such a vast number of seabirds at close quarters a memorable experience.
Located off the islands coast are a number of shipwrecks, making it a popular with scuba divers, who come to explore these wrecked ships.
Rathlin Island has a range of amenities to cater to visitors including a pub, restaurant and a gft shop that sells a delightful range of unique Rathlin produced crafts. Take time to visit Breakwater Studio, if features the work of a local artist. The locals are extremely friendly and happy to stop and talk and share stories about their delightful and scenic island.