Ireland Day 5 – Rathlin Island

We are off to Rathlin Island today.

Temperature is a bit coolish right now and it is overcast.this B&B, you are to fill out a breakfast menu the evening before and what time you are going down for breakfast.   So at 8 we go down, and sit in their dining area which is like a solarium with lots of light.   The owner does all the cooking and she has someone come in to do the dishes.   We meet a couple from Australia who are travelling for 9 weeks.   They told us it was flooding back home but nothing they could do about it anyway so they were not worried.  A few other people show up around the time we are to leave.

We head down to the Marina at about 9:30 for the ferry that leaves at 10:00.   It is a 45 minute crossing so we buy our tickets and wait in the waiting area.  Just before we are to leave, a class of about 35 Grade 7 students comes in and are also boarding our boat.  So much for some peace and quiet.

We head out pretty much on time across the Channel and the further we get out there, the rougher the water gets.   The ferry has 2 cars on it as well and we can either go inside or stand outside along the rail.   My experienced ferry companion (Connie) tells me the best place to be is against the railing and to look at the horizon, not the water near the boat..   The boat rises up and down with the waves and some side to side action to keep all your leg muscles working.

Rathlin across the water

As we approach Rathlin we can see the dwellings grouped along the harbor road as well as scattered across the hilltop.   We land smoothly, let the cars off and head out.

The Island is in an L shape, with a 4 mile stretch going to the west and a 2 mile stretch to the south.   It is no more than 1 mile across anywhere.

Looking west

Looking south

The school group gets in the bus that will take them to the bird nesting area to the east, so we go south. We stop at the information centre and talk with the person running it about the island and where we could go, as we can’t see all of it in one day anyway.

replica of Viking buckle as handle on visitor centre

We meet a local (ie retired here) photographer that lives on the island and who takes some amazing pictures of the birds, hare and rabbits that live there.   And yes there are also sheep and cows.

you know what they are

For the people living here the ferry is the only way to get back and forth, and while there is a small grocery store (open 9-10 in the am and 2-4 in the pm), they don’t depend on that for food, but travel across to Ballycastle to buy their groceries.   Everything they need has to travel by ferry.

We decide to travel to the south lighthouse (there are three of them – one on the west, one on the east point and one at the south point), but first we will go back to the small house that serves tea and coffee (it was a cold ride across).   We walk up the driveway and are met by an older gentleman who opens his gazebo sized log building for us to have tea.   He brings us tea with cookies and scones and talks with us about the island.  He is not originally from here either, and he and his wife decided to retire here.   They are heading into Ballycastle on the last ferry to go to a benefit BBQ – hope the weather improves.

After tea we head down the road towards the lighthouse and immediately encounter a series of hills and dips that are the road.

start of road

This could be interesting after all the hills yesterday.  As we go down the road we see some rather tough looking houses, and some even tougher ones that are now stone ruins – dotted all over the landscape.

along the way we see some birds


and a building that use to be a kelp factory that produced iodine

This island was known for being a place used by smugglers, and the Coast Guard used to be stationed here in order to watch for that and deal with it when they found it.   In some spots we see very large structures of many buildings, so at one time there were likely small communities here.

old buildings

Apparently more than 1000 people lived on this island at one time, but now only about 150.   We follow the road past              Lough which is the largest inland waterbody in Ireland.

Looks like a big pond in a low spot between the hills.  No Loch Ness monster though.

As we walk further towards the south lighthouse, the wind gets stronger and stronger and we meet a couple who are on their way back who say it even gets worse towards the end.  At some times, you go to take a step and the wind pretty much puts you into slow – or no – motion.   That makes for a more strenuous walk – which was what we were looking for anyway right?  As we come over the last hill and see the point, we can see the waves crashing against the shore.   There are a couple of ruined stone buildings close to the point, and we understand that when the first lighthouse was built here, they built it in the wrong place and the locals told them it wouldn’t last.

Surprise, the sea smashed it down, so they built another one where the locals suggested.   The lighthouse is nothing really spectacular other than being red and white stripes,

but the water along the coast crashing on the rocks was pretty cool.

We stayed there a while taking pictures before heading back.

bird egg among rocks

We did notice that even though we were at the sea, the smell of the sea is not the same as we have in Eastern Canada.   Much saltier air there.

We walked back up the road with the wind at our backs (that is good Irish luck) and headed for the marina.

When we arrived there we had time to visit an old church that had graveyards dating back to the early 1800’s, with stones that were older as we couldn’t read anything on them.  Some are just rocks sticking out of the ground.

We boarded the ferry, which was a different one than the one we came on.  This one was a fast ferry that was like a catamaran and which would cross in 25 minutes.   That could be interesting.   Big surprise but that class of kids was also on this ferry.   We boarded the ferry and stood at the rail on the left side (port or starboard??) at the rail near the front.   We headed out and it was much windier than the ride across in the morning.   You know what happens to water when you add wind right?   That’s right – big waves.    We were fine for the first 5 minutes or so as we were shielded by the south arm of the island, but as we came around the tip, we had waves coming from both sides – which I believe makes them bigger – and then headed for Ballycastle.

The waves at times were maybe 8 feet or so, and as this was a fast boat, it didn’t wait for the next wave, it crashed into it – that is after it rose on the one in front of it.  So it was rather bumpy with the boat rising and crashing where at one point you needed to keep your legs bent to stay standing.   Needless to say, Connie was less than impressed.   We got splashed a few times by the spray coming off the front of the boat as well as the water coming into the wells along the wall.   All the way across, every girl (and maybe some boys) kept screaming every time we went up – or down – a wave.  Count how many screams that is when every 5 seconds we were either up or down.   Annoying or what?   What is it about girls and screaming anyway?   The ride continued on like this for about 15 minutes at which time we were getting close enough to the marina that they waves died down and the boat sailed normally.   Got to land and were glad for some solid ground.   As it was 3:30 we decided to grab a quick bite and head back towards the B&B.

Along the way we took a detour along the A2 road for about a half mile, and there are ruins of a Priory there.

Priory gates

These were fantastic.    So many stone buildings within a 4 foot high wall that was still standing after all these years.

We walked among the gravestones of all shapes and sizes and took many more pictures of what was there.   The grass had just been cut by someone with a scythe as there is no way to cut it otherwise with all the stone rock and headstones sticking out of the ground.   After that we headed back to our B&B to get changed and head for supper and a search for a place with WiFi.   Ended up at the Central Wine Bar where the proprietor logged us onto her system so we could do some blogging.   It worked for some time, until we lost the signal, and then we shut the computer off and headed back to the B&B.  There was live entertainment that evening, but it starts at 10pm so we didn’t figure we would stay up for that, as we have another early start tomorrow.

Tomorrow brings us to the Carrick-A-Rede Bridge.  Stay tuned for that.

and from Connie

The day was cool and rainy, not quite the weather we wanted as we crossed Rathlin Strait for the island.  The boat ride over was good as we had the slower boat.

I did ok which I’m pretty proud of.  We weren’t too sure what to expect over there but when we got off we went to the boathouse for info.  The fellow was very nice there and we met another man who moved to the Island from Belfast and he is a professional photographer now. Before we started out we found a cute little spot for tea.  A retired man and his wife built a little shed in the back of his property.

He had it nice and toasty in there and he served us tea and scones.  It was pretty cool. We started out on our walk to the eastern lighthouse which is called rue point.  Nice walk along the water and guess what? More hills.  I’m going to have leg muscles like a bodybuilder if this keeps up.  It was quite windy along the way and not a lot of people, although 2 more than we’ve seen other days.  All the time we have been walking we have been pretty much on our own which is good and weird all at the same time.  After treading carefully around cows we made it down to the coast.  It was wild and rugged and I loved it!

There were remains of a settlement there that we enjoyed poking around.  I’m fascinated by history when I don’t have to learn it in school.  After awhile it was time to make the trip back to where we started from as we had to catch the ferry back at 3:00.  Had we known how much there was to see and that it was going to clear up, we would have loved to stay longer.  There are very old churches and graveyards that we explored too.

The boat we took back was a different one then the one we took across.  It was faster and I was pretty much freaking out from the get go. (Lucky Barry).  I held on tight and watched the horizon but when we came around the point it was wild.  Waves splashing us and feeling like the boat was going in all different directions.  The screaming girls didn’t help and at least I wasn’t one of them (at least not out loud).  I was very glad to get back to the harbor.  We went and had coffee and pie (I did) to soothe my nerves.  The amount of dessert I’ve been eating here you’d think I was a basket case all the time.

some of my pictures of the Priory

We spent a really nice time at the Central Wine Bar where we thought we could post our blog but no success.

The wine and appies were good though so not all was lost.  Tomorrow is the rope bridge……YIKES!

About trailsandtrips

I am a consultant in the forestry and environmental fields and spend my recreational time in a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
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One Response to Ireland Day 5 – Rathlin Island

  1. Jess says:

    Have you guys got the travel bug now?! Does your trip make you want to go absolutely everywhere?! Mine did. Glad you’re having a blast and good for you Mom for not screaming like the little Grade 7 girls;). Dad may have acted like he didn’t know you! Happy Fathers Day again and talk to you soon!

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