Rathlin Island, the only inhabited offshore island in Northern Ireland, rests on the waters between Scotland and Ireland.
Rathlin Island is six miles long, one mile wide, “L” shaped and six miles across the Sea of Moyle from Ballycastle. It is a rugged and picturesque island steeped in a rich history, vibrant mythology, maritime heritage and diverse wildlife.
Rathlin has long associations with both Scotland and Ireland. It once lay at the heart of the ancient Dal Riada Kingdom.
Departing from Ballycastle you will cross the Sound of Rathlin to make a full circumnavigation of the island, allowing you to see Rathlin’s beautiful coastline, shipwreck sites, lighthouses, seals at Ushet Port and Bruce’s Cave.
From April to July is puffin season and as well as Puffins other breeding seabirds include guillemot, kittiwake, razorbill and fulmar. Rathlin Island is also home to Northern Ireland’s only pair of breeding chough and more recently corncrake.
Seals and seabirds are not the only non-human inhabitants of the island. Rathlin is home to the beautiful Rathlin Golden Hare which displays a distinct genetic variation producing individuals with blue eyes. Whilst hare colonies in other locations in Ireland have declined, Rathlin remains a stronghold for Irish hares.
Upon landing on the island itself visitors will find a scenic harbour with a Boathouse Visitor Centre. Here visitors can discover some of the exciting history of Rathlin and its people, learn about present day island life and see some artefacts from shipwrecks around the island. There are many walks on the Island including along the shore to Mill Bay where you may see some of the resident seals basking or at play.
Close to the harbour there is a takeaway The Hungry Seal and public house McCuaig’s where you can relax, dine and enjoy refreshments or even live music. The local Co-Op also offers delicious freshly made snacks to go if you want to picnic on the beach or eat while exploring.
Before leaving Rathlin visitors can peruse the beautiful locally made gifts and crafts in the Rathlin Gift Shop or drop by the ‘Breakwater Studio’ which features the work of local artist Yvonne Braithwaite.