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About Rathlin Island

Southern cliffs of Rathlin Island

Image: Andy Hay

Rathlin Island, lying off Antrim's Causeway Coast, has a rare, untamed beauty. The wildlife is evident before you step ashore – the ferry crossing presents many opportunities to spot auks, gannets and gulls with even a chance of porpoises or dolphins.

Seals and eider ducks laze around the harbour at most times of the year. On the journey from the harbour to the RSPB's new Seabird Centre, whether travelling by minibus, on cycle or on foot, look out for wheatears, peregrines, stonechats, skylarks and lapwings. Our work to create ideal habitat for choughs has paid off, and they have now returned to breed after a 20-year absence.

At the Seabird Centre, get close up views of Northern Ireland's biggest seabird colony with puffins and other seabirds jostling for space as they congregate in their thousands to breed from May to July. Staff are there to provide helpful assistance, binoculars and telescopes.

At the southernmost tip of the island, Roonivoolin is important for wildlife, especially choughs which feed here, but lapwings, corncrakes, snipe and Irish hares all benefit from targeted management of this land. Over the past 40 years, the fortunes of these species in Northern Ireland have fared badly as changes to farming practices resulted in drastic declines. Lapwing numbers declined by more than 60 per cent. Corncrakes have all but disappeared and only one pair of choughs remain. Choughs were extinct in Northern Ireland for nearly 10 years and bred again on Rathlin Island in 2007 after a 19-year gap.

Financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, NI Environment Agency and RSPB members has allowed purchase of this land for wildlife conservation and the provision of a public walking trail. Access to the Roonivoolin walk has been granted by kind permission of local landowners.

Opening times

10 am to 4 pm daily from April to the end of August.

Entrance charges

Free, but donations to help us continue our work here are welcome.

Information for families

Children's binoculars are available to hire and there is child-friendly assisted telescope viewing.

Information for dog owners

Access for dogs under control and on lead is permitted.

Contact us

  • Tel: 028207 60062

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 55.30192,-6.28398
  • Postcode: BT54 6BT
  • Grid reference: NR282092
  • Nearest town: Ballycastle, County Antrim
  • County: County Antrim
  • Country: Northern Ireland

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