Lying off Antrim’s Causeway Coast, Rathlin Island is one of my favourite places to visit in the summer. It has a spectacular array of wildlife, breath-taking coastal views, stunning scenery and there’s always something new to discover.

 Views from the West Light Seabird Centre, credit: Ruby Free 

Even the ferry trip from Ballycastle to the island is an unforgettable experience, with the possibility of spotting gannets and harbour porpoises during the 6-mile crossing. As you arrive you might see eider ducks bobbing in the bay and seals lazing by the water edge. Don't forget to pre-book your ferry with Rathlin Ferry ltd, as crossing availability may be limited during peak times. 

The harbour area is dotted with some lovely local shops and eateries which are well worth taking time to explore, you can find up to date information about what's available here

RSPB West Light Seabird Centre 

The RSPB’s West Light Seabird Centre, which reopened in April, is a 4-mile journey from the Rathlin harbour, and for anyone who isn’t as fit as a fiddle, a privately operated ‘puffin bus’ operates from the ferry drop off point. Bus fare charges apply. Bicycles are also available for hire. The Seabird Centre is perched among the rugged cliffs and offers close-up views of Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony which includes guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, gannets and puffins. For admission costs and opening hours click here

Despite, puffins being listed as an endangered species, one of the best places to see them in Northern Ireland is at the RSPB West Light Seabird Centre. Visitors from all around the world enjoy their antics, as the adult birds take it in turns to incubate their single egg from early May and share the feeding duties until the chick is ready to fledge.

 Puffins at the West Light Seabird Centre, credit Ric Else 

Walks to Discover 

There are also eight outdoor trails to explore across the island. RSPB NI’s new 2.1km walking trail at the Craigmacagan nature reserve, is a 15 min walk from the harbour and is a stunning place to explore. It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for Rathlin’s ‘golden’ hares as you follow the trail through the wild heathland and meadows.

 Craigmacagan Nature Reserve, Rathlin, Credit: Gary Gray 

If you venture on the 3-mile journey to the south of the island, you’ll find our Roonivoolin trail (which means ‘point of the gulls’). This spot offers fantastic views and if you look skywards – buzzards, peregrines and skylarks may well be flying overhead.

With spectacular scenery and an abundance of wildlife, a visit to Rathlin Island is a wonderful day out, with something for everyone. The RSPB Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre is open until 20 September, 9:30am – 5pm (with last entry at 4pm). For more information visit