The traditional seaside town of Ballycastle, is located along the stunning Causeway Coastal Route, which runs the length of th North Coast of Ireland. From the harbour side, you can take an excursion across the water to the neighbouring island of Rathlin; the isolated community survives where it can by its own means and is a great rural escape from the bustling crowds and sounds of the mainland. There are two ferries which serve the island, the fast craft takes around 25 minutes and holds passengers only. The slow boat takes approximately 45 minutes but takes vehicles and passengers. Tickets can be booked in advance or before departure at the ferry terminal.
Rathlin sits approximately 7.5 miles from the north of Ireland and 15.5 miles from the Mull of Kintyre. The island is around 6 miles in length and just 1 mile wide. It has a population of around 150 residents, which are largely outnumbered by puffins in the breeding season. There are many shipwrecks around the island, due to a rough straight of water off the island’s shores. Visitors can learn more about the artefacts found in such disasters by passing by the Boathouse Visitor Centre. The island community also comprises of a café, gallery, convenience store and local pub. Aside from the seabirds and native seals, occasionally both whales and dolphins can be found close to shore.
It’s recommended you make an overnight stay, to ensure you encompass the full spectrum of what Rathlin has to offer. There are plenty of walks across the island, through the rugged landscape of grassland, scrub and in-land lakes. Rathlin houses four lighthouses, one at each point of island. The world’s first wireless telegraph was sent from the island’s East Lighthouse, by employees of Marconi in 1898. Meanwhile the West Lighthouse is home to the RSPB Sanctuary, where you will find Ireland’s largest seabird colony gather on the cliffs. Don’t forget to take in the panoramic coastal views whilst you’re there. (However I visited during the late summer months, so sadly no puffins.)
The island also boasts a colourful history of visitors, from Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century to Richard Branson in the 1980s. The famous Scottish king was said to have fled to Rathlin from the enraged English, building his own forces from Antrim and the Scottish Isles on either side. Branson came across the island, when he crashed his hot-air balloon on a trans-atlantic voyage. Rathlin’s people tended to him, bringing him ashore and in return he donated a significant sum of money, which went towards refurbishing the old manor house and funding a lifeboat service for the island.
If you ever find yourself along the Causeway Coast, visiting Rathlin is highly recommended and offers a peaceful rural escape from mainland life. Have you visited Rathlin? If so I’d love to hear you’re thoughts!