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Rathlin Island

The RSPB West Light Seabird Centre is now closed for the 2015 season. It will re-open Easter 2016 with improved visitor facilities and the opportunity to tour the lighthouse, as part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland Trail.

A road and track route west across this beautiful island. From harbour-side seals to the clamorous seabird colony, four miles of heath and ancient meadow provide a wealth of wildlife to enjoy.



Nearest Town

Church Bay

Route Type



Antrim Coast & Glens

Grid Ref (Start)



8 miles

OS Map


Route Shape


On/Off Road

On Public road

Grid Ref (End)



A steep ascent from the harbour in Church Bay, then fairly level, tarmac road for three miles. Dismount at the two cattle grids. Rough, unfenced, gravel track for final mile.

route description

Rathlin Island from Church Bay to the RSPB Seabird Centre.

At harbour choose: 1.) Go left, pass shop, turn right at church and ascend steeply to chapel or: 2.) Go right, pass Manor House and toilets, left at McCauig's Bar and left again at crossroads to chapel.

Route bears left and continues to ascend. With its height, there are good views to west - Donegal and north Antrim coast; to south - Ballycastle and FairHead; to east - East Lighthouse and Kintyre.

The road continues through heath and meadow to the nature reserves at the western end of the island. Take care to dismount at the second cattle grid. The road here becomes a rough, gravel track leading to spectacular views from the RSPB Seabird Centre.

getting to the start

Rathlin Island Ferry Service from Ballycastle. Tel 028 207 69299 Booking recommended Route starts at arrival to Rathlin Harbour.


Generally traffic is restricted to Islanders only, so apart from a minibus there are few cars and farm vehicles. Walkers also use this route and there may be cattle on the unfenced stretch through the nature reserve.


Car parking at ferry terminal Cycle hire on island 207 63954 Accommodation, refreshment and toilets at Church Bay. Refreshments and toilets at the RSPB Seabird Centre.

information for People with a Disability

Disabled badge holders may travel with vehicle to island. Mainly public, tarmac road with rough gravel section at end (1 mile). Main viewing area at RSPB Seabird Centre is accessed by 87 steps, but scenic views of the seabird colony can be enjoyed from the road level.

available publications

RSPB 'Step Ashore' trail guide to the Rathlin Island Seabird Centre.

RSPB Northern Ireland Headquarters 028 9049 1547

Cycle hire

Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring
Iron Donkey Bicycle Touring 15 Ballyknockan Rd Saintfield
Phone: 028 9081 3200

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Recent comments

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Took the slower boat over with my then 2yo daughter to do some cycling on the island. She happy sat in her Hamax seat as we travelled down to the southern lighthouse. A short steep climb from the harbour released us onto a very quiet well surfaced road which then turns into a stoney track with the last leg over grass to reach the lighthouse. We also stopped to see some seals chilling out and then back over to the harbour for some sandwiches. After lunch I decided to head the other direction to the west of the island up by the school etc. It is one heck of a climb, especially when at this stage my passenger had conked out and was a dead weight. Once at the top of the climb the peacefulness returns. Ideal for a few hours away from your phone in the peace and quiet. We didn't make the western lighthouse as we'd to catch the boat back. We got the faster one back which meant passing the bike onto the boat instead of riding on like the slow one but worked out well and we look forward to going back.

Aaron F
Funders Outdoor Recreation NI Leave No Trace NIEA DoE HPA
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