Rathlin is Northern Ireland’s only inhabited off-shore island and is thought to come from the Irish ‘Reachlan’ meaning ‘rocky reef’. The western end of the island has a dramatic landscape of sheer cliffs and towering sea stacks rising above the Atlantic Ocean. These cliffs and sea stacks provide for a fantastic opportunity to view a raucous breeding seabird colony close up. Watch thousands of auks, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars raising their young on bare ledges. Look for comical puffins nesting in burrows dug into the grassland and watch for the rare, red legged chough soaring overhead.
The cliff top is covered in areas of wet and dry heath providing swathes of purple and yellow in late summer as the heather and dwarf gorse bloom. The lake and surrounding wetland attract nesting waterfowl. Watch for ducks, coots, grebes and snipe. The reserve is full of Irish Hare grazing on the grassland and the lucky observer might catch a glimpse of the legendary ‘golden hare’.
The best time to visit is late spring for orchids and the rare pyramidal bugle, summer for breeding seabirds and waders and autumn for waxcaps.
Toilets are available at the RSPB Seabird Centre (open seasonally) and there are walking trails, picnic tables and interpretative panels. Please note that livestock are present and that dogs must be kept on leads at all times. Sturdy footwear is recommended.
NB. As we do not have exact location information, this is a map of the local area.
Opening times:Open access
Prices:Admission to the reserve is free, however, there is a charge for the ferry across to the island.
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