County Antrim, Northern Ireland
from Walking in Ireland
ABOVE: A ferry in Rathlin Island's small harbor. INSET BELOW: An abandoned fishing boat in Church Bay.
Rathlin Ireland is Northern Ireland's only inhabited island, with about 70 human residents scattered across its 3,500 acres of sheep meadows, cow pastures, and bird cliffs. A tiny village and harbor at Church Bay are linked to the mainland by a ferry that takes 45 minutes to cross the 6 miles or roughly 10 km from Ballycastle; check the Rathlin Island Ferry Web site for timetables and fares. (Unless you're a local or have a permit, you'll need to leave your car in the fenced car park and travel with a pedestrian ticket.)
The most popular walk on Rathlin Island is to the Kebble Nature Reserve at the western end of the island. Unless you prefer walking uphill, take the public minibus from the ferry terminal to the lighthouse, then descend the steps to the observation deck that overlooks the bird stacks and cliffs. A volunteer from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is normally on hand to answer questions, sell books and gift items, and keep the free telescopes aimed at nesting birds.
After you've spent an hour or so at the bird cliffs, you can walk downhill along the road to the village and ferry landing at Church Bay. Total distance is about 5 miles or 8 km, and you'll descend 250 meters or about 800 feet during the 1½-hour journey.
Route card 18 of the Causeway Coast & Glens Walking Tours packet has a map and description of the sights along the way; the road is also shown on Ordnance Survey Discoverer Series map 5.
If you're staying longer than a day, you can stroll from Church Bay to the East Lighthouse at Rue Point on the southeastern tip of the island. (This is the lighthouse where Guglielmo Marconi pioneered the first commercial radio transmission in 1898.) Head north fom Church Bay, and you'll find the National Trust's Ballyconagan Waymarked Trails, which include a World War II Coast Guard lookout post that offers views of Scotland (which is only 14 miles away).
For more information, see:
Walking in Ireland: Resources and Web links europeforvisitors.com
The National Trust operates the Manor House, a converted 18th Century "gentleman's house" with 12 bedrooms and a tearoom that serves refreshments to overnight guests and day visitors. Evening meals and packed lunches are available on request.
Other lodgings on Rathlin Island include the Coolnagrock Bed and Breakfast (3 rooms), the Rathlin Guesthouse (4 rooms), the Soerneog View Hostel (3 rooms), and Kinramer Cottage (two bunkhouse rooms with a total of 14 beds). See Antrim.net's Where to Stay in Rathlin page for contact information.
Daytrippers can spend the night in the historic seaside town of Ballycastle on the mainland; see the "Where to Stay" page at The Causeway Coast & Glens for Ballycastle hotel and guesthouse listings. Our small group stayed at La Mon Hotel & Country Club in Comber, just outside Belfast, since we had an early flight to Cork from Belfast City Airport the next day. We dined at Lisbarnett House, a cozy pub and restaurant in the village of Moneyreagh about 4 miles from Comber and 7 miles from Belfast. (The owner confided that the bar was recently used to host an interview on CNN.)
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