Our Day Trip to Rathlin Island

Our Day Trip to Rathlin Island

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People say that Ireland is a beautiful country and if you could rely on the weather you would never holiday anywhere else. I agree entirely.

Our eldest has been trying to get us on a family trip to Rathlin Island  for the last couple of years, but any time that we planned to go the weather forecast dissuaded us. Rathlin Island lies just six miles north of the seaside town of Ballycastle in Co Antrim. It is also only fourteen miles from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.

Finally this past weekend we agreed on a date, checked and rechecked the forecast, packed the obligatory picnic and off we headed. We phoned that morning to book places on the ferry and to check the parking arrangements in Ballycastle. We were assured that there was plenty of free parking nearby, although finding an actual parking space when we got there proved a little challenging.

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The ferry that took us over was quite comfortable and provided shelter from the elements. We enjoyed sitting together out on deck and admiring the panoramic views across the Sea of Moyle.

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Although I was raised in Cork City, which is at the opposite end of Ireland, I’m familiar with some of the folklore associated with this area, especially the sad tale of the Children of Lir. Indeed I can still recite part of Thomas Moore’s Song for Fionnuala  which I learned at school:

Silent, oh Moyle, be the roar of thy water,


Break not, ye breezes, your chain of repose,


While, murmuring mournfully, Lir’s lonely daughter
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Tells to the night-star her tale of woes.


When shall the swan, her death-note singing,


Sleep, with wings in darkness furl’d?


When will heav’n, its sweet bell ringing,


Call my spirit from this stormy world?

On our arrival at this beautiful Island, I was surprised to see how many people use cars to get about. Lots of people were using bicycles too, these are available for hire on the Island. There is a bus service on the Island also. This is the only inhabited island off the north coast of Ireland. It is an unusually shaped isle – eight miles long and less than a mile wide. The resident population of the Island averages approximately 140 and growing. We had already decided that we were going to walk – at a leisurely pace – for our sightseeing visit.

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Our first stop was the beach – the blend of white and grey stones is very eye catching. Ireland is normally referred to as having ‘forty shades of green’ but this was more like ‘forty shades of white’. This is apparently due to a mixture of limestone and basalt.

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Our son amused himself intermittently by using the Pokémon Go app on his phone. He was amazed at how many PokeStops there are on this tiny island.

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Our youngest daughter is very interested in photography. There was much that caught her eye and inspired her to capture it on camera, as we walked around the island.

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After our picnic lunch at Mill Bay we headed on the Rathlin Trail round past the lakes to the Rue lighthouse. It warmed my heart to see our children enjoying each other’s company, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

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We stopped periodically to appreciate the amazing views.

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Eventually all the walking became too much for the youngest member of our family and she staged a sit down protest. She had to have a little rest before she was able for more trekking.

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For me the highlight of our trip was when we arrived at Ushet Port and saw dozens of seals basking on the rocks. They seemed to really enjoy having an audience. We were careful not to go too close though, so as not to disturb them.

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It was only a short walk from there to the Rue Lighthouse, one of three lighthouses on the Island. This instantly brought to mind the lyrics of one of Leah’s favourite songs, My Lighthouse by Rend Collective:

In my wrestling and in my doubts


In my failures You won’t walk out


Your great love will lead me through


You are the peace in my troubled sea,

oh oh
 You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go


In the questions, Your truth will hold


Your great love will lead me through


You are the peace in my troubled sea,

oh oh
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse


Shining in the darkness, I will follow You


My Lighthouse, my lighthouse (oh oh)


I will trust the promise,
You will carry me safe to shore

(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)


Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
Safe to shore

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We strolled back at a leisurely pace, stopping regularly to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We also called into the Boathouse Visitor Information Centre, where we received a very warm welcome.

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One of the many things that I reflected upon as we walked along were the Katie Morag Stories by Mairi Hedderwick, which I spent many hours reading to the children when they were young. Rathlin Island is quite like how I imagined the fictional island of Struay to be from reading these beautiful books to the children.

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The ferry that took us back to Ballycastle was a slower and more basic version of the boat that we had travelled across in earlier. This ride was definitely bumpier and we were very glad of our hooded jackets as they provided us with some protection from the salty waves that periodically crashed over the side!

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Getting a full nights sleep on a regular basis has proved challenging since Leah died, but that night after our family day trip to Rathlin Island I got eight hours of restful unbroken sleep and I awoke the next morning feeling very refreshed.

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5 thoughts on “Our Day Trip to Rathlin Island

  1. Relaxing, beautiful, family time enjoying God’s canvas..You are blessed. I know about the restless sleepless nights. I am thankful when sleep comes. It is wonderful that you capped off a lovely day with an even lovelier night of Zzzzz😴.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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