Northern Ireland Highlights & Hidden Gems

Rathlin Island

  (+44) (0)28 2076 0079 07 Oct 2016

Overnighting on NI’s only inhabited island holds more than a touch of the Robinson Crusoe's. Stretching seven miles from tip to tip, Rathlin’s distinct L-shape lies just six miles from Ballycastle and 15 miles from Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre.

The island may be one of those places you see on a map and think ‘I keep meaning to go there’, but with regular ferry crossings, several accommodation options and such a fascinating story to tell, our advice is just do it.

Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. operates several daily crossings connecting Rathlin with Ballycastle making it a very streamlined and affordable trip. Sailing time is 25mins on the passenger-only Rathlin Express and 45mins on the larger MV Canna which also carries a few vehicles – though, thankfully, tourist cars are not allowed on the island.

The Manor House looms large on arrival at Church Bay. This beautiful late Georgian whitewashed dwelling is owned by the National Trust and run on a B&B basis (currently closed and awaiting new operators so check ahead). The views are, unsurprisingly, phenomenal, with its ten rooms fronting the harbour and looking out towards the NI 'mainland'.

Beyond Manor House, food is available at McCuaig's Bar (with pool table and free WiFi) and the Harbour Cafe. A few more B&B, self-catering and hostel options cater for all budgets.

Rathlin may have around eighty residents, but the population is significantly swelled in the summer months with the arrival of tens of thousands of seabirds. From May to August, puffins, guillemots, gannets and kittiwakes call its craggy cliffs home. Two minibuses (payable) run daily from the ferry to the RSPB Seabird Centre at the West Lighthouse.


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What other islands are?
norn iron,
Rathlin is not the Norths only inhabited Island
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