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.

The Transfer Test

The Transfer Test

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Very thankful today to receive a letter from the Education Authority (Údarás Oideachais) confirming Miriam’s place in Limavady High School for September, as I know that they are bordering on being over-subscribed for this intake.

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Rachel and Leah both got an A in their 11+ and chose to go to Limavady High School, a decision that neither they, nor us, have ever regretted.

Simon and Miriam chose not to sit the Transfer Test.

I remember Rachel, shortly after she received the results of her Transfer Test, cycling around outside the house, with a hen on the handlebars of her bicycle – she just loves the great outdoors. She was very pleased that she had passed.

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Her tune soon changed on the Monday, when she went into school and everyone kept saying “Oh, you’ll be going to grammar school.” She came home crying, because she didn’t want to go to grammar school.

Rachel asked me if she could swop her A grade with some other boy or girl who was distressed because they hadn’t got the grade that they wanted.

Nowadays, anytime that Rachel is home from her degree course at Queen’s University, she pops into Limavady High School, to say hello to the staff. This speaks volumes in my book.

When Leah got her A in the 11+, she was acutely aware that many of her friends had also got an A and would be transferring to grammar school.

Leah got a piece of paper and divided it down the middle. On one side she wrote the advantages of going to Limavady Grammar School, and on the other side she wrote the advantages of going to Limavady High School. Then she told me that she was going to her bedroom to pray.

A while later Leah reappeared and said “Mummy, I think that God wants me to go to the High School.”

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Leah waiting for the bus outside our house on her first day at Limavady High School

In my view, a happy child is a learning child.

We have always felt that Limavady High School values our children for who they are as people, not just for what they can achieve academically.

When problems arose, as they inevitably do, during the turbulent teenage years, these were handled with care and compassion.

Leah’s education was so important to her. The staff at Limavady High School understood this and supported her in her endeavours to continue with her studies even when she couldn’t attend school because of her low immunity.

The staff maintained contact with us and supplied school work, at Leah’s request, during our prolonged stay in Bristol.

On returning from Bristol, Leah was devastated to discover that the Western Education and Library Board would only provide 4.5hrs of Home Tuition to support her in studying for her GCSEs. As an A grade student this was a bitter blow to her.

On hearing about this, the school came up with an arrangement, whereby I brought Leah into school one afternoon a week and she met privately with some of her teachers for extra support. Leah’s Hospital Consultant agreed to this, providing Leah wasn’t in the corridor when the pupils were changing classes, as her immune system was very weak.

The pastoral care that our children have received both in Ballykelly Primary School and in Limavady High School, throughout Leah’s illness and since her death, has been exceptional.

We have been so blessed as a family by the sensitivity shown to us, by the staff and pupils, from both schools.

This time last year we were approached by Leah’s Form Tutor and Head of Year, to say that staff and pupils had agreed that they would like to have a permanent memorial to Leah by creating the “Lighthouse Award” to be awarded on Prize Day. We were really pleased about this.

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It is called ‘The Lighthouse Award‘ after a song by Leah’s favourite band Rend Collective. 

My Lighthouse

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
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence, You won’t let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse
Shining in the darkness, I will follow You
My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse
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

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us, You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms

Graham Norton – a Rend Collective fan?

Graham Norton – a Rend Collective fan?

What is the world coming to – I never expected this Corkonian to be playing Rend Collective?

Here’s the full length version of ‘My Lighthouse’ from Leah’s favourite band, this was played by “Under Construction” at her funeral, as Leah’s coffin was being carried out of the church.

Does this man have kids?

Does this man have kids?

Just before 2pm they put Nic and me out of the room so that they could start the process of putting Leah on the ventilator.

The Doc wouldn’t let me stay with Leah until they administered the anesthetic that would put her to sleep because he said that he needed space to set up his equipment and I would be in his way – does this man have kids?

We left Leah awake and cuddling “Duckie” & “Bristol Gromit”. I thought my heart was going to break saying goodbye to her but I had to hide my emotions for Leah’s sake.

They said that they will call us back in about an hour. Nic, Leah & I have spent the last couple of hours listening to Leah’s favourite praise & worship music on YouTube; mostly Rend Collective Experiment & especially “My Lighthouse” – verse 2 goes

“In the silence, You won’t let go
In my questions, Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are my peace in the troubled sea
You are my peace in the troubled sea.”

We also read from Rainbows for Rainy Days written by Catherine Campbell and Streams in the Desert.