Information for Visitors
If you are looking for some help with planning your trip to Rathlin then this is the place to be! We can help with travel information, accommodation and eating out. Learn about the Island's history at the Boathouse Visitor centre and get your own Rathlin postmark at the island Post Office.
The Rathlin Development & Community Association has drawn up a code to encourage visitors and residents to be able to have a clean, safe and enjoyable experience of Rathlin Island.
The code is intended to ensure that some of the issues that have caused concern in the past will be addressed, and that island residents and visitors alike can have as enjoyable an experience as possible, during the tourist season and year round as well:
We want Rathlin Island to be a clean, safe and enjoyable place for residents, visitors and wildlife.
- Please help us by:
- Enjoying the Island and respecting its life and work
- Taking your litter home or using the bins provided
- Taking care on the roads - drive carefully, cycle on the left, walk on the right
- Guarding against all risk of fire
- Avoiding damage to walls and fences
- Keeping your dogs on a lead
- Protecting all domestic animals, wildlife, plants and trees
- Respecting the residents’ privacy and property
- Leaving Rathlin as you found it – or better!
- Visiting respectfully
- - and you will be welcome!
There is an ATM in McCuaig's Bar (currently open from 4.00 Mon-Fri and from 2.00 Sat, Sun). This machine charges £1.85 per transaction. Money can also be withdrawn on most cards in the Post Office (see opening hours here). Please note that these machines may not accept your card, and that not all island businesses are able to accept card payments, so it is best to bring cash with you on your visit. The nearest ATM to the ferry office in Ballycastle is in the Spar on the seafront.
In the unlikely event of an emergency, simply dial 999 as you would on the mainland. Rathlin is well served for emergency responses, with a resident district nurse, and volunteer Coastguard, Fire Service and First Responder (defibrillator) teams. The PSNI will also respond if necessary and can be on the island within 30 minutes. There is also a non-emergency police number: 0845 600 8000.
The nurse's station is in the Tithe Barn (the building housing the Richard Branson Centre to the right of the Manor House, through the arch and opposite Rathlin Island Seafoods), with public hours of 12.00-1.00 and 4.00-5.00, Monday to Friday. Saturdays and Sundays and on Bank Holidays, 12.00-1.00. Outside of these hours please call 078 4149 5875. In case of emergency, call 999 or the Doctor Urgent Care phone line on the mainland: 028 2566 3500.
ICE - In Case of Emergency. If you store the word ICE in your mobile phone address book and against it enter the number of the person you would want to be contacted 'in case of emergency' then, should such a situation occur, the emergency services will be able to contact your named person quickly, on your behalf. For more than one contact person enter ICE1, ICE2, ICE3, etc.
Discover Northern Ireland's Rathlin page, Fáilte Ireland's page, and Moyle District Council's tourism website, with pages for the island in general, the Boathouse Visitor Centre, and the RSPB Seabird Centre. The Ballycastle Tourist Office's details.
Rathlin is approximately five miles long east-west, and three and a half miles long north-south. The wildlife and scenery are famously excellent, and there are several beautiful walks both on and off-road. Most of the land on the island is privately owned farmland, and there are several off-road walks on publicly accessible land that we encourage you to enjoy! When walking off-road, please be mindful of the Rathlin Code, and also during the summer, please be particular careful of ground-nesting birds.
There are several popular walking routes on the island, showcasing Rathlin's beautiful scenery, and allowing people to get closer to the island's exceptional flora and fauna. Walk NI has an excellent website, with detailed walk guides and maps for Rathlin walks.
Rathlin Trail walk guide.
Roonivoolin Walk guide.
Ballyconagan Trail walk guide.
Kinramer Permissive Path walk guide.
Kebble South walk guide.
Kinramer North walk guide.
Wildlife and landscape photographer and Rathlin resident Tom McDonnell (Ph: 207 60080/077 2308 7668) offers photography workshops, with opportunities to photograph Rathlin's stunning land and seascapes, seabirds, birds of prey, seals and maybe even the very rare Rathlin golden hare. His photographs are available in the Boathouse Visitor Centre and the Breakwater Studio on the island, several outlets in Ballycastle, and from his website.
An up to date walking booklet for eight fabulous walks on Rathlin Island.
This detailed guide with photos of every stage of the walks points out the ruins and places of interest along the way giving a brief account of events that happened there.
These booklets are available in Island Treasures giftshop, the Boathouse Visitor Centre and Breakwater Studio on the island, and in the Ferry Office, the Tourist Information Centre and McLister's newsagents in Ballycastle, or can be bought direct from the author Nicky Sebastian (028 2076 0028 / email@example.com). More information here.
Rathlin Boat Trips is a local business run by island residents to supply a service to visitors on Rathlin to visit its sea bird colony and other attractions (Ph: 075 4382 6820).
There is a a bicycle hire company on the island run from Soerneog View Hostel (Ph: 207 63954). Bicycles can also be brought over by ferry (booking advisable) - on both the MV Canna and the MV Rathlin Express for only £3.20 return.
Two private companies run minibuses to and from the RSPB Seabird Centre, operating from the harbour during the season, picking people up off the incoming ferries in the morning - £5 return for adults, £3 for children. The journey takes about 20 minutes each way, and the bus companies usually leave passengers at the Seabird Centre for about an hour. If you would like to walk one of the ways, you might want to consider getting the bus up to the Centre, and walking the return leg.
The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre, run by RSPB Northern Ireland, has recently undergone major refurbishment and will re-open to the public just in time for the Easter holidays 2016.
The work has been made possible by a significant investment from the Commissioners of Irish Lights of over £600,000 thanks to funding from the European Union’s INTERREG IVA cross-border Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.
Along with 11 other lighthouses around the Irish coast, Rathlin West Light is one of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland (GLOI), all of which will offer unforgettable experiences and create a deep appreciation of the role of lighthouses and the maritime and seafaring story of the island of Ireland.
The refurbishment has seen a complete upgrade of the visitor centre and, for the first time, it will be possible to access the ‘upside down’ lighthouse built on Rathlin’s cliffs.
In summer, the seabird colony is a real assault on the senses – the sight, sound (and smell!) of tens of thousands of birds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars jostling for space is like nothing else.
These birds spend most of their lives at sea, and only visit sites like Rathlin for the brief summer breeding season. The seabirds start leaving the island to head back to sea from mid-July, with razorbills and guillemots going first, followed quickly by the puffins. The kittiwakes and fulmars will remain for most of August. The birds will start returning to Rathlin from March onwards.
The lighthouse situated at the heart of the colony is a spectacular feat of engineering, clinging to the cliff face with the lantern gleaming red at its foot. It offers visitors a chance to explore this unique, yet fully operational ‘upside-down’ lighthouse, its history, its people and the role of Irish Lights in maritime safety today.
The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre is situated about five miles from the harbour - roughly a 90 minute walk. There are also buses running from the harbour and bicycles available for hire.
The Seabird Centre will be open from 10am until 5pm every day between Easter and September.
Admission is free for RSPB members, £5 for adults and £2.50 for children and other concessions. RSPB NI staff and volunteers are on hand to welcome visitors and binoculars and telescopes are provided for visitors’ use free of charge.
Please note that while the main visitor centre is accessible, there is an 89 step descent to the viewing platform and a similar number of steps down through the lighthouse.