Rathlin Island – Long walk

Friday 21st June 2019 

LEADER: Robert McDowell, Telephone No 028 93373084 (land line)
                                                                                   07711 706022 (mobile)

Walk Duration:                   5 miles/c 2 hours plus breaks and travelling time.

MEETING POINT/TIME: Rathlin Ferry Terminal Ballycastle Harbour at 10.30 am

Outward Journey to Ballycastle:

BY CAR (Note that travelling by public transport is not practicable)

As the distance from Belfast City Centre to Ballycastle is c55 miles, you are advised to allow up to one and a half hours for your actual journey (plus half an hour to collect your sailing tickets).  Take the M2 north, exiting the motorway at the junction which is signposted Antrim/Ballymena/Coleraine.  Take the A26 road towards Ballymena/Coleraine and, on approaching Ballymena (at the Larne roundabout), rejoin the M2 motorway signposted Ballymoney/Coleraine.  After 13 miles, take the road to Ballycastle – the A44/Drones Road.  On approaching Ballycastle, follow the signs for The Seafront/Harbour and park at the ferry terminal car park (far end of public car park just beyond The Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd office).  This car park is free for ferry travellers and there are toilets in the car park just beyond the ferry office. There is also a disabled toilet inside the ferry office.

Outward Journey by Ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin Island:

The Rathlin Island Ferry Company strongly advises all travellers to book their return ferry crossing tickets at least one week in advance of their journey.  Although holders of Northern Ireland senior smart travel passes travel free of charge, reservations are still required.  Return tickets for the 11.00 am outward ferry Ballycastle to Rathlin and the 4.15 pm return ferry Rathlin to Ballycastle can be booked by one of four methods:

  • On-line at rathlinballycastleferry.com;
  • By email to info@rathlinislandferry.com;
  • By telephone to the Rathlin Island Ferry Company at 028 20769299;
  • In person at the Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd office at Ballycastle harbour.

When booking, the ferry company will require a lead name, the number of passengers, a contact phone number and the date/times of both sailings.

Whichever way you decide to book, you must present yourself, along with your senior smart travel pass and any relevant documentation* relating to your booking at the Rathlin Island Ferry Company’s Office at Ballycastle Harbour at least 30 minutes before sailing time – ie by no later than 10.30 am, in order to collect your sailing tickets.*relevant if you booked by (1)or(2).

If you do not have a senior smart travel pass, the return ferry ticket is £12.

Arrival on Rathlin Island:

As the Rathlin Express (fast ferry) journey takes c25 minutes, we should arrive at the harbour at Church Bay, Rathlin Island at c11.25 am.  We will travel the 4 miles from the harbour to the West Light by private bus.  The £5 charge for a single or return journey is the same.  For those who wish to return to Church Bay by bus, there is an hourly bus service from West Light to Church Bay.

When we reach the West Light at c12.15 pm, we will visit the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) Seabird Centre.  Note that there are 101 steps down to the first viewing platform and a further 64 steps to the lower viewing platform (with handrails), from which various seabirds can be seen, hopefully including puffins.  To access the viewing platforms or to visit the lighthouse, for non-RSPB members, there is a charge of £5, while RSPB members are admitted free on production of their membership cards. There is no charge for visiting just the Seabird Centre itself.


We will start our 4 mile walk from the West Light to Church Bay at c1.15 pm.

The walk is well surfaced with a few inclines and declines and should take up to 2 hours.  For those who wish to, we will walk about half a mile from Church Bay to Mill Bay and back where we can observe seals – this should take c half an hour.  There is a small museum/visitors’ centre in this area.


Packed lunches may be eaten in the Seabird Centre and tea/coffee is available for £1.  Walkers will not get back to Church Bay until c3 pm for a late lunch and may eat at:

The Manor House Café and Restaurant

McCuaig’s Bar

The Water Shed Café

The Shop at Church Bay – takeaway only.

Toilets on Rathlin – there are toilets at the Seabird Centre and at Church Bay.

Return Ferry Journey from Rathlin Island to Ballycastle:

We will meet at Rathlin Island harbour at Church Bay at 4.00 pm in order to catch the 4.15 pm ferry to Ballycastle which should arrive in Ballycastle at c4.40 pm.  You will need to retain your ticket for the return journey.


For those who want an early evening meal in Ballycastle, there is a fairly wide choice of eating establishments.  For example, near the harbour there is The Marine Hotel, Morton’s Fish & Chip Shop and The Promenade Café.  On the way through Ballycastle, there is O’Connor’s Bar in Ann Street, The Cellar Restaurant at The Diamond and Anzac Restaurant in Market Street (turn right at the Diamond).