Rathlin Islands history has been beset by tragedies and loss, but the prevailing pioneering spirit of these islanders persists to present day, whether they are bound here by ancestry or called from farther afield to make this their home. To introduce our guests to this place and its people through a tour, we decided that only a big hearted adventure that exemplified their legendary perseverance, innovation and deep connection to the seascape and landscape could do them justice. It was with this intention in mind that we created our Around the Sound Rathlin Experience.
It was in the midst of the pandemic that we decided to create something special, something unique, something to look forward to. This tour would be something new to offer to return customers and something exclusive which hadn’t been experienced before.
Our journey begins at Ballycastle, the beautiful seaside town which has seen a resurgence of tourist love in recent years, and no wonder, it’s perfectly situated along our stunning Causeway Coast with wonderful views of Rathlin Island that extend all the way to Scotland. The iconic cliffs of Fairhead sit proudly overseeing the busy town. You can get everything you want here, whether it’s Morton’s Fish & Chips, a tasty sit down meal in the Marine Hotel, bespoke Irish gifts and art, or the obligatory seaside ice-cream.
Our Carrick-a-rede Sea Safari has proved a very popular bucket list item on the North coast so we decided to start off with that, a lovely familiar path to tread, or rather waves, following the coast from Ballycastle to the Mermaid’s Tears Waterfall, then on to wave at anyone on Kenbane Head and marvel at this bold outcrop reaching towards the isles of Scotland. At the rope-bridge you can relax and enjoy it from the best perspective as well as getting an up close view of the caves beneath and the Fisherman’s cottage on the island. If the sea is calm take a refreshing dip in the cool turquoise waters.
Now on across the sea to the West Light on Rathlin. This is a truly spectacular sight; the Upside Down Lighthouse built into the cliff (the only one of its kind in Ireland), the clear view out to the wide expanse of sea, thousands of breeding seabirds including puffins in flight, and the fresh salty air. Following the coast of Rathlin into the crook of her embrace you will see interesting lime stone cliffs and learn some of the history of the island, an island set in the heart of the Dalriada Kingdom. You will glide over the crystal clear waters where kelp is farmed before passing by the site of the sunken wreck of HMS Drake as she lingers beneath the water in Church Bay.
Last year when we launched the tour we listed it as 3 hours duration, but it was hard to get some passengers to leave Rathlin Island once they got on, the lure of its pretty harbour, the warm hospitality of the Rathliners, relaxed atmosphere and sometimes the craic that was to be had sitting outside McCuaig’s Pub, was just too strong. So this year we have extended the tour duration to 4 hours.
On the island itself you will have time to explore the harbour area, the hub of the island. Take a gentle stroll down to the old Kelp house and enjoy the spectacular views. Why not bring your own picnic and relax on one of the beautifully situated picnic tables overlooking the beach or stop by the Manor House garden café before exploring the treasure trove of delightful gifts and art work in the Breakhouse Studio.
Whilst on the island please respect the people who live here by taking time to read any rules and wear a mask before entering any of their small businesses. Do not drop litter and do not approach the seals.
Once you can wrestle yourself away from the island and get back on-board don’t worry, it’s not over yet. We take you to see the Rue Lighthouse and hear tales of smuggling shenanigans, then on to Ushet Port where the seals rest before seeing the imposing cliffs of Fairhead on the return to Ballycastle.
If 4 hours isn’t enough and you want to see all three of the lighthouses of Rathlin Island you can extend your Around the Sound Experience to 5 hours to explore the east coast of the island fully. This includes the legendary Bruce’s Cave and East Lighthouse where thousands of seabirds including puffins nest on the ledges and fly out of the cave as it echoes their calls. We call this the premium experience as it includes so much.
On this tour we wanted to bring our passengers some excitement exploring the whole sound of Rathlin, take in some beautiful views, some lesser known sights and offer you a chance to hear some history and stories. It is a authentic local experience giving you a chance to truly connect with the place, make memories with your friends and family and enjoy a day you will talk about afterwards.
This is a tour we’re very proud of. It is a full and enriching experience, designed to be a real adventure on our North coast. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in this unspoilt haven, the wild seas of Rathlin, the lush velvety green landscape and distinctive legendary geological formations that will inspire awe and surprise as they appear on your journey.
For more information or to book call/text Lynn on +44(0) 7845 370231
“In a word “fabulous”, best day trip we have ever been on and we have been on loads, all over the world. Trip from Ballycastle. Timothy was very knowledgeable of the local history of the coast and wildlife. We were fortunate to have amazing weather and saw Puffins, Seals and Dolphins. We had a 90 minute stop at Rathlin, enjoyed our picnic and flavoured the local Guinness. The gift shop at the blue house is full of treasures to purchase. If you are after a fantastic day, then don’t go anywhere else!!!”
(Trip Advisor Review)
“One of the best experiences as a family that we have had. Family of 4 enjoyed seeing the puffins at Rathlin Island. We had g great communication before the trip to confirm arrangements and everything was effortless. Can’t wait to go again – it was one of the best family experiences that we have ever had together. We will remember today for a long time. Great fun, learnt some history, appreciated the stunning scenery and got so close to such fragile nature. Truly fantastic day”.
(Trip Advisor Review)
“Around the sound Rathlin Experience Tour. Great tour of the coastline from Ballycastle to Carrick-a-rede and along Rathlin, Timothy was very knowledgeable on all aspects of the landscape and wildlife. He was very respectful of all animals giving us great views while ensuring they were not disturbed. A fantastic trip. I would thoroughly recommend this tour and skipper”.
“5 star trip Around the Sound. Tim was the perfect guide for our first trip around the Northern Ireland coast; he was knowlegeable but also very entertaining. We felt we were in good hands and learned so much. We did the Around the Sound Tour from Ballycastle which included magnificent views of the coast, caves, waterfalls, a stop at Rathlin and a swim at Carrick-a-rede bridges (the swimmer declared it was a bucket list item she didn’t know was on the list until it was done!). I highly recommend Abhainn Cruises both Lynn and Tim were great to deal with and so helpful”.
(Trip Advisor Review)