Rathlin West Light
A trip to Rathlin West Light on Northern Ireland’s picturesque Rathlin Island, offers wildlife, memories and more.
With Rathlin West Light reached by boat, the seafaring excitement begins as soon as you leave the shores of Ballycastle. The island is not only home to this unique lighthouse, but also one of the largest seabird colonies in the UK. Every year thousands of seabirds return to breed here including guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes, fulmars and puffins. The sights and sounds of so many seabirds at such close quarters is an experience you’ll never forget and the RSPB NI team will be on hand to help you identify these winged wonders. On the idyllic island, Northern Ireland’s only pair of breeding great skua may also be spotted close to West Light.
Known as Ireland’s only ‘upside down’ lighthouse, be sure to take a tour of it and embrace the views from its cliff-face vantage point to get a real insight into lightkeeping life.
Whether you love wildlife, are a bit of a history buff or simply want to experience life on an island and feel the wind in your face, Rathlin West Light is the place for you.
A quick history
- The lighthouse was built into the cliff face between 1912 and 1917. A special pier and an inclined railway from the pier to the cliff top had to be built to facilitate the lighthouse’s construction.
- The light was first exhibited in 1919.
- Lightkeepers lived in the lighthouse until it was automated in 1983.
- The lighthouse’s fog signal, dubbed the ‘Rathlin Bull’, could be heard from more than 30km away. It was removed in 1995 after 70 years of service.
Did you know?
- Rathlin Island is only 11 miles (18 kilometres) from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland.
- Robert the Bruce, the famous Scottish King, is said to have taken refuge in a cave on Rathlin during a fight against the English in 1306. He was inspired to keep up the struggle for Scottish independence by a spider in the cave, which tried again and again to spin its web.
- Over 250,000 seabirds return to breed on Rathlin Island every year. Fulmars, a grey and white seabird related to the albatross, can live for up to 40 years. Guillemots, which only come on land to nest, can dive to a depth of 180 metres underwater.
- It is one of 65 lighthouses operated by the Commissioners of Irish Lights around the coast of Ireland and continues to provide a vital role in maritime safety today.
Rathlin Island, Ballycastle, Co Antrim
15 April-20 September, 9.30am - 5pm (last entry 4pm).
The West Lighthouse will be closed for essential maintenance but will reopen later in the season.
RSPB Members - Free
Children and other concessions £2.50