Belfast Telegraph

Walk This Way: Rathlin Island

By Linda Stewart

The most northerly inhabited island in Ireland, situated 10km off the North East coast of Ireland, Rathlin's wonder lies in the variety of birdlife that graces the shores of this remote and tranquil island.

Because of its geographical position, Rathlin has long had associations with both Ireland and Scotland, and it once lay at the heart of the ancient kingdom of Dal Riada.

Today, Rathlin has modern transport and tourist facilities and a steadily rising permanent population of over 100.

Just 8km east-west and 5.5km north-south, it is home to tens of thousands of seabirds, including common guillemots, kittiwakes, puffins and razorbills as well as a world-renowned RSPB centre, making it a birdwatchers' paradise.

However, as well as enjoying the comical antics of puffins and seals in spring and early summer from the cliffs, walkers can expect to be treated to some magnificent views including Donegal, the North Antrim coastline, the island of Islay and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.

This is a waymarked route around Kebble South, taking in the south of the island with stunning views of dramatic sea cliffs and of Ballycastle beyond.

Directions

Take the ferry from Ballycastle harbour to Rathlin. The ferry goes several times throughout the day in the summer and winter.

The ferry is operated by Rathlin Island Ferries – for travel times, tel: 028 2076 9299 or visit the website at rathlinballycastle ferry.com. It is advisable to book in advance in the summer months.

Follow the road to your left leading west from the harbour. Turn right by the church and up the Church Brae to the chapel.

Follow the road to the left and continue on this for 5km until reaching Kebble Cottage on the right hand side. During the summer months you can get the Puffin Bus from the harbour and ask to get off at Kebble Cottage, just before the seabird sanctuary and west lighthouse, if you would prefer.

To the east and on the opposite side of the road to Kebble Cottage is a rough farm track leading downhill. Green waymarkers show the route of the trail – follow these for the rest of the route. Continue through the field, heading for the cliff top fence. Continue to follow this fence to the right, keeping it on your left hand side for the rest of the walk. The route continues along the cliff top, where you can see sheltered bays, sea cliffs and an arch along the way.

The route passes Bull Point, near to where Richard Branson crash landed his hot air balloon in 1987 on his record-breaking transatlantic flight. Continue from here, still following the cliff top, but now heading northwards towards the west lighthouse and the RSPB bird sanctuary.

Climb the steep slope to arrive back on the road, and continue to the right to arrive back at Kebble Cottage.

This route can be extended by combining it with the Rathlin Kinramer North Walk.

The Backdrop

There are many tales of myth and mystery surrounding Rathlin, and the most famous tells of Robert the Bruce. In 1306, the Scottish King was driven from Scotland by Edward I of England and took refuge on Rathlin.

While he was on Rathlin, it is said that he watched a spider persevering again and again to bridge a gap with its web. Eventually it succeeded. Robert the Bruce took heart from the spider's efforts, raised fresh forces and returned to Scotland to fight for his kingdom. He too, eventually succeeded and in 1314, regained the crown of Scotland.

Rathlin Island represents an extensive area of hard cliff along the exposed northern coastline of Northern Ireland. Impressive vertical sea cliffs and stacks can be seen along the walk, providing stunning views over the water.

Summer is a great time of year to spot a variety of seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and puffins until early August, with kittiwakes, fulmars, shags and gannets about until the end of August.

Further information

For further information on walking or any other outdoor activity, please contact Outdoor Recreation NI at, tel: 028 9030 3930 or walkni.com.

Outdoor Recreation NI in association with Belfast Telegraph have provided this information. Every care has been taken to ensure accuracy of the information. Outdoor Recreation NI and Belfast Telegraph, however, cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions but where such are brought to our attention, the information for future publications will be amended accordingly.

Factfile

Walk Name: Rathlin Keeble Cliff Walk.

Area: Antrim Coast and Glens Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Nearest town/village to start point: Rathlin Harbour/Ballycastle.

Distance: 1.9 miles, circular.

Time: You should leave approximately 1 hour to complete this walk.

Terrain: This walk takes place on open hillside and farm track.

Refreshments: There is a shop on the island where refreshments can be purchased as well as a café, pub and fish and chip shop. Check rathlincommunity.org for facility opening hours.

Access Restrictions: Dogs are allowed – however, they must be kept on a lead as livestock is present.

Walk Developed By: Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Map: Sheet 5 of Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Discoverer Series, available from Land & Property Services Map Shop (lpsni.gov.uk).

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