A little visit to Rathlin Island
On International Women’s Day I headed over to Rathlin Island with two friends from the lovely Glens of Antrim, Fern and Susan. Rathlin is a very small inhabited island off the Causeway Coast, in Ireland’s north east. As our self guided walking holidays become more and more popular, I’ve been keen to add more great walks to our portfolio. The inhabited islands off Ireland’s coast have always held a great draw for visitors. There’s something magical about these places. They’re very much a place apart that somehow reach back in time and connect with our ancientness in a way that’s less obvious on the ‘mainland’.
Homemade scones by the fireside
We were very warmly welcomed to the Manor house after our ferry trip with a warm fire, homemade scones and hot coffee. We were the guests of the newest lady of the manor – the Manor House – Mary O’Driscoll. Mary and her husband have been running the Rathlin Island ferry for quite a few years now and have most recently taken on the role to run the National Trust-owned Manor House on Rathlin. The building was built in the 1730’s but has recently undergone a major refurbishment to bring it up to date and to help the island attract more overnight visitors. This would be a big job for anyone other than the amazing Mary O’Driscoll – in Mary’s inimitable way, she’ll make it look very easy indeed.
The Grand Tour of the Manor House
As soon as we’d finished our scones, Mary gave us the grand tour of the beautifully decorated Manor House. Having taken at least ten photographs, of the island view from the windows, in most of the rooms, I eventually realised that I was just replicating the beauty from every room. This will become such an idyllic spot for all sorts of people seeking genuine time out and for small groups seeking writing workshops, or photography, or yoga and most definitely walking.
Women’s Winter Walking Weekends
Next on the agenda was a lovely walk to the east lighthouse, one of the island’s three lighthouses. We enjoyed great views over to Fairhead and Murlough and also to Scotland and Torr Head. We saw lots of the island’s famous hares (although not the golden one). We read about the history of the island from our guide notes, some of the stories reaching back centuries. I contemplated the kinds of walks I would want to guide on the island and had the idea to offer ‘Women’s Winter Walking Weekends’. How lovely would that be to take a break away from it all in the deep winter? After our walk we headed back to the Manor House to wait for our return ferry and to have more coffee, of course.
Enjoying the best of Irish craic
Mary joined us once more as we relaxed in the lounge. Without all the modern gadgets to distract us (although the wifi was excellent) we sat by the fire and enjoyed the famous Irish craic the old-fashioned way. We told stories and laughed and fixed the world a few times over.
International Women’s Day on Rathlin Island
Our wonderful host Mary had invited us to stay on for the evening entertainment but alas the mainland called us back for all sorts of things. We were very sorry not to be able to stay. Mary had invited all the women on the island (total population c.150) for an evening celebrating the talent and creativity still thriving on the island as a beautiful way to mark International Women’s Day. It was enough for the four of us though, to have just had that time by the fire on International Women’s Day – four women, literally from the four corners of these islands, sitting relaxing and chatting on this little island, far away from all the hustle and bustle of busy lives. Oh how we would have loved to have stayed! We certainly have lots and lots of reasons to return.
Oh… the boat ride back!!
Getting back to the mainland was the only challenge left for the day. I say that because I have just about the worst sea legs humanly possible to have. Anyone with half a stomach would be entirely unfazed but alas this walking fan REALLY likes ‘terra firma’. In calling this post the ‘rocky ride to Rathlin’ I now realise, who was I kidding…. I very much meant the ‘rocky ride FROM Rathlin’. We had taken the slow steady boat in the morning and the full pelt roller coaster version in the afternoon. The next time I visit Rathlin I will likely stay for the week, a) because I want to walk all the routes and to hang out on the island, and b) so I have plenty of time to prepare myself for the journey back!
How you can enjoy Rathlin Island
To visit Rathlin Island, get a ferry from Ballycastle on the Causeway Coastal Route. To add Rathlin to your own self-guided walking holiday, then simply check out our walking holidays. To join us on a ‘Women’s Winter Walking Weekend’ to Rathlin, or elsewhere in Ireland’s north east, contact me via the contact page and I’ll add you to our guest email list – just mention you’re interested in these walking weekends.
However you choose to visit this beautiful corner of Ireland, we can now strongly encourage you to include a visit to Rathlin in your itinerary and even better, make it an overnight stay.