Northern Ireland: Rathlin Island

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The second of our three guided tours with Wilderness Ireland was a boat trip out to Rathlin Island. This island has a history of being fought over by a variety of peoples and countries. We met out guide, Richard, in the port town of Ballycastle before making our way onto the boat, Aquaholics.

Aquaholics was actually contracted for Game of Thrones, they provided boats and divers for scenes where the actors would be underwater. It was really cool to hear about how things were filmed and what was green screened over later and made to look right for the series using CGI. A number of scenes from various seasons of the show were shot in Northern Ireland.

From Ballycastle we went to view Malin Head, the northern most point of the Island of Ireland before cutting across the straight between Ireland and Rathlin. The Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet in the waters surrounding Rathlin and the waves can get quite high, especially where the air currents crash into the tides.

Sea cliffs of Rathlin Island

As with most places in Ireland there is a myth surrounding the island that lends magic to the place along with the natural beauty. This myth is tied up with a bit of Scottish history in that of Robert the Bruce. Legend says he hid in a sea cave on Rathlin Island, just 14 nautical miles from his homeland and close enough to see on a clear day.

According to legend, Bruce was defeated in battle, going on the run and hiding in a cave. Reaching a low point, he considered giving up his fight for Scottish Independence, until he saw a spider trying to build a web.

However, despite the web failing time after time, it persevered and eventually finished its web. The tale says that Bruce was so inspired by the spider’s struggle that he took up arms once more and eventually drove the English out of Scotland in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Bruce’s Cave

Visitors often visit Rathin to see the puffins with their matching orange bills and feet but there are actually a number of species of sea birds that nest on the cliffs of the small island. They are fast and beautiful to watch as they sore right above the water.

There are three light houses on Rathlin. If you take the ferry to the island you can hike to them but they aren’t close.

  • East Lighthouse
  • West Lighthouse
    • The light for this lighthouse is red and the there is a seabird center with a viewing area.
  • Rue Point Lighthouse
Rathlin East Lighthouse

There is only one town on Rathlin and maybe 90 residents total. We did stop in on the island and have a Guiness at the tavern and explore the town a bit. As per usual in Ireland, it began to rain on us so Keltin and I headed back to the boat. Aquaholics took us to see the cliffs off the main island of Ireland and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The original rope bridge was built by salmon fishermen to get to a spit of rock right off the shore where they fished. The bridge is now maintained by the National Trust. It was not open for visitors when we were there but I believe it has since reopened.

Per our guide this is thought to be a castle but it is just a guard tower. The castle was built closer to the water and has since crumbled into the sea leaving only a memory.

We had a fantastic time with Aquaholics and exploring the wild beauty and seas around Ireland. I’d love to go back and hike to the lighthouses and SCUBA dive off Rathlin. Have you ever visited this part of Ireland? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments. Leave no trace and safe travels!

Thank you KW Photography for allowing me to use your wonderful photos!

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