Destination Inspiration: Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Off the Causeway Coast from Ballycastle, Rathlin Island place to go for a fix of windswept beach walks surrounded by seabird colonies. We’ve got the lowdown on when to visit, what to see and the island’s best bar (hint: there’s only one).


Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland

Why now?

This is the ideal isolation island. With more seabirds than souls (the population of the island is about 150 people), this is where we're heading for a digital detox and complete reboot. Work-from-home burnout? Never heard of her.

Shrouded in medieval myths and Gaelic folklore, this tiny isle hovers 6km off of the coast of Ballycastle and 17km from Scotland, almost like a stepping stone - albeit one for the giants who once frolicked on the causeway farther west.

The coastal views - dolphins are regularly spotted frolocking around here - are the island's main draw and are best enjoyed by bike. Hire one from Soerneog View Hostel or bring your own on the ferry.

As expected, an island this size has little in the way of extracurricular activities, so if you're not a fan of long, blustery walks and birdwatching, we'd stick to weekend breaks in Belfast.

Don't miss

The "upside-down" lighthouse. It's part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland trail and much cooler than it sounds, trust us - and a great viewing platform for those seabird colonies. Head to Mill Bay afterwards to spot seals dozing on the stony beaches.

Where to stay

We're lusting after the views from this one-bedroom loft.

Where to go for dinner

You'll want to have coffee and cake at The Water Shed Café before heading back to your digs to cook up a fish stew laden with the day's catch.

And for a drink…

The one and only watering hole on the island is McCuaig's Bar. It's good craic and serves a mean fish and chips.

Who to take with you

Someone who you wouldn't mind being stranded on a desert island with. Sure, it's not quite Castaway but it's not far off.

When to go

April to July will give you the best chances of seeing Northern Ireland's seabird colony, but if you visit in October, you'll feel as if you have the island to yourself.

Essentials to pack

You practically have to peel this Prada waterproof off us at the moment.

How to get there

The island is reachable only by ferry. Catch it from Ballycastle. Book here.

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