A few quick facts about Rathlin: it is shaped like a capital 'L' (as seen upside down) and is 6km from east to west and 2.5km from north to south. The island is almost as close to Scotland as it is to Ireland. To get there, you take a ferry from Ballycastle, 10km away. You can buy ferry tickets on the day although it is advisable to book ahead for weekends in the summer. Depending on whether it's the fast or slow ferry, the journey will take between 20 and 40 minutes.
|1 x mama, 1 x aunt|
The morning we went was sunny (!), the sea was calm and we had a marvellous view of Marconi's cottage (where he pioneered wireless radio transmissions) and some friendly porpoises.*
The first thing we saw on Rathlin was the village at Church Bay, which consists of a six-pupil school, two churches (one Catholic, one Protestant), a hotel (which houses pub, restaurant, shop and medical centre), a second pub, a post office, a visitor centre and a fish and chip shop. It is entirely typical that an Irish island with a population of fewer than 100 people should have two churches and two pubs.
The cave is only accessible by sea, so this is the closest I could get to a photo of it: I drew the line at lowering myself over the cliffs.
|Bruce's Cave is about 10m down and round to the right|
The Church of Ireland church has, rather beautifully, pebbles inset into its walls.
Its churchyard is also the (multi-denominational) graveyard for the islanders and contains these graves: all sailors who were washed ashore in World War I.
After scones, we got the bus to the West Light, unusual - even unique? - in that it's upside down.
|1 x blogger plus new puffin friend|
|Kittiwakes, razorbills and one peregrine falcon - honestly, they're all there.|
Our last stop was back in Church Bay for fish and chips. I had read that Emma's Chip Ahoy was 'award-winning'. It was suggested, meanly, that the award was for best fish and chips on the island, but actually the award in question was impressive and the fish and chips (fresh mackerel) delicious.
And then - it was time to say goodbye.
*One of our party thought they were sharks ... but the consensus was porpoises
**The Bruce of the story is not some stray Australian who was marooned on the island but rather Robert the Bruce, now best known as yer man the narrator of Mel Gibson's Braveheart ... The real, historical Bruce was king of Scotland in the 14th century. Before he became king, however, he was defeated in battle and forced to hide on Rathlin. The legend is that he fell asleep in a cave while watching a spider struggling to spin a web across the cave mouth. When Bruce awoke, there was a beautiful web - seeing it, he resolved to keep on fighting.