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RATHLIN ISLAND

Mother & Child
Ms Cecil & baby with Manor House in background









FACTFILE
Situation

Co. Antrim, 9 km. from Ballycastle, 22.5 km. from the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland

Size

11 km. x 1 km

Highest Point

Population

100

Access

Ferry a daily crossing from Ballycastle from Easter to September and for the rest of the year there is a crossing three times a week.

Accommodation

Bed and breakfast

Facilities

Post-office, school, shops and pubs; also a resident nurse and priest

Main Industries

Part-time farming & fishing

Services

Wind generated Electricity, Water

Attractions

Scuba diving, fishing, bird watching

   
Further Information

Ballycastle tourist office Tel : 028 57 2076 2024 ballycastle@nitic.net

A Little bit of Background

Rathlin Island is the only Island in the north of Ireland. It has a first-class harbour recently finished. The good news for the first year of the RATHLIN ISLAND TRUST includes the erection of three WIND TURBINES called the three CHILDREN OF lIR, supplying mains Electricity to the whole Island and employing two Islanders.The Manor House which once belonged to the Gage family and reportedly costing at least 30.000 has been purchased for the use of the Community. The work of renovation has already commenced eventually costing over 70.000 providing ten new jobs. And all this in the limited space of the first year of existence of the Rathlin Island Trust upon which the whole development of the island has been based.Top

Bird life

The cliffs are home to tens of thousands of seabirds whose incessant murmuring sounds like the inside of a beehive. The best place to see them is at the Kebble Nature Reserve at the west end of the island. Sheer volcanic rock-stacks are crowded with razorbills, guillemots, manx shearwaters, fulmars, kittiwakes and puffins. The best time to see the birds is early summer when they come ashore to breed. By the end of August, most of the young have fledged and the birds return to the open sea. Fulmars are the only ones to stay all year round. Buzzards nest on Rathlin and there are many waders on the small reed-fringed lakes. you may even see a kestrel or peregrine falcon hovering overhead. Curlews and snips nest in the marshy bordering some of the meadows.Top

The People

The 33 families on Rathlin are independent minded people. Their houses stand apart from each other rather than clustered in groups as on many Irish islands. some are farmers, maintaining good herds of cattle and sheep; others fish for lobster around the island's coast. The islanders can help you identify all the birds and wild flowers, most of which seapinks, milkweeds, bedstraw, treemallow, and of course, whins and broom.Top 

Some History

The caves in the cliffs have magnificent interiors, some iridescent with reflected light, some with walls and pillars of white limestone. Most of them can only be reached by boat. The most famous is Bruce's Cave, beneath the East Lighthouse. Robert the Bruce hid here in 1306 after his defeat by the English at Perth in Scotland. According to legend, the dispirited warrior watched a spider repeatedly trying to reach the roof of the cave by its thread. Eventually it succeeded. 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again'. he concluded. With renewed determination, he returned to Scotland, defeated his adversaries, and gained the Scottish throne at the battle of Bannockburn. Rathlin's history is a tale of battles, massacres and troubles, brought about by its strategic position in the North Channel, between Ireland and Scotland. Francis (later Sir Francis) Drake landed guns here in 1575 and battered down the fort of Bruce's Castle, possibly built by John de Courcy. Only a ditch and part of a gate and wall remain. A hill in the middle of the island, called Cnoc na Screedlin, ' The hill of Screaming', got its name following a gruesome incident in the island's history. A large force of Campbells landed on Rathlin in 1642 and slaughtered the MacDonnells. Their womenfolk looked on helpless from this hill.Top

Things to look out for

Pirates and smugglers had bases on Rathlin, and a ruined house, called the Smuggler's House, near the South lighthouse, has cavities in the wall probably used for hiding contraband. Like the West Lighthouse, the south is unmanned and controlled from the East Lighthouse. In the Stone Age Rathlin had an axe factory, and axe heads of porcellanite,  identified as Rathlin-made, have been found in many parts of the British isles. The factory site is at Brockley. In Early Christian times, Rathlin's remote position provided a safe haven for monks but the peace was rudely shattered in the ninth century, when the Vikings came to plunder. There are traces of a monastic settlement at Knockans. The most noticeable ruins on Rathlin are those of the cottages inhabited when  the population was much larger. But there is a prehistoric mound-fort called Doonmore, near the Stone Age settlement at Brockley. The monks of Knockans (or their successors) have left a stone 'sweat house', a form of early sauna bath. East of the harbour is a Celtic standing stone. More recently, one of the greatest technical advances in history was demonstrated on the island. Marconi, the discoverer of wireless, was commissioned to establish a wireless link between Rathlin and Ballycastle and in 1898 his assistant, John Kemp, successfully completed this task. Near the East Lighthouse there are still cement blocks bearing the name 'Lloyds', the remains of Kemp's wireless mast.Top

Fishing

Fishing is one of the islanders' livelihoods, particularly lobsters, and you can arrange a trip with one of the local fishermen. Conger eels are plentiful around the wreck of the cruiser Drake which was torpedoed in World war I in Church Bay. All summer, mackerel are plentiful, with shoals of herring in the evenings. Pollack are big and their hunts are well known - Rue Point, the sandy-bottomed bays on the east side, and old piers in Church Bay. Strong tackle is advised, but plaice, dabs, flounder and other flatfish can be caught with light tackle. Out form the shore there is great angling for cod, haddock, skate and other big fish. North of the island sharks have been reported. Deep-sea angling boats may be hired at Ballycastle, Ballintory, Portballintrae, Portrush and Portstewart.Top

Scuba Diving

All round the island there is excellent scuba diving with scenic drop-offs and scores of wrecks! Diving trips are organised by Tommy Cecil (himself a diver)  Tel: Rathlin (028 57) 63915Top

Getting to Rathlin

Easter to September: daily crossings by boat. Sept-Easter : a limited service operates. For further details contact the Tourist Office, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. Tel : 028 57 2076 2024
The mail boat Iona Isle leaves Ballycastle around 10.30 am all year round every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and carries 50 passengers. A one-way ticket costs  5, return  9. The mail boat usually returns to the mainland the same day, weather permitting. (028 57) 63915

The Rathlin Venture, which carries 70 passengers, can also take you across for the same price. Contact the Tourist Office or the boatmen direct. 
Accommodation :
-
Rathlin Guesthouse (028 57) 63916 / 7  
                             
- Rathlin Centre (028 57) 63915

Northern Ireland Telephone numbers all begin with 028 from within UK & NI, 048 from the Republic of Ireland and + 44 28 internationally.

 

 

Copyright Island Trust  2002

Milltown Park, Dublin 6. (01) 269-8411