Alistair HamillLorcan HealyPeter Lennon
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Rathlin Island- the Place for Puffins!

Posted on April 14, 2016 @ 11:02 AM in Walking

Everybody loves puffins! The ‘clown of the sea’ is unmistakable with its black back and white underparts, black head with large pale cheeks and a tall, flattened, brightly-coloured bill. Although most people don’t realise that these trademark bills are only for showing off during breeding season and they sport a much duller beak during winter!

Puffins RSPB

For most of the year, puffins bob about at sea, returning to land in April. Most puffins start breeding when they are five years old and often live for more than 20 years. Some young, inexperienced birds may change mates after breeding failures but most will mate with the same partner for many years.

Rathlin Island, which lies just six miles off the north coast of Northern Ireland and is accessible by ferry from Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, is home to one of the UK’s largest seabird colonies, including hundreds of puffins.

puffins rathlin

Rathlin West Seabird Centre (Andy Hay); Puffin with sandeels (Chris Gomersall)

During the summer these comical creatures share the cliffs at the island’s west lighthouse with thousands of other seabirds, from kittiwakes to fulmars, but they are undoubtedly the star of the show.

Every year visitors from all around the world make the journey to Rathlin and the West Light Seabird Centre, which is run by RSPB NI, to enjoy stunning views of these birds. As well as the visual spectacle, the sound and smell is pretty crazy too! Between April and July the birds are hard at work raising their young (which are known as ‘pufflings’) and by August, the puffins and their charges are back off to sea.

cliffs rathlin

Puffin and Common Guillemot on Rathlin (Andy Hay); Cliff Stacks beside the Seabird Centre

With Puffin season here now is the time to pay a visit to Rathlin where as well as enjoying close-up views of the wonderful wildlife you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the recently renovated Seabird Centre and access the ‘upside down’ lighthouse. Situated at the heart of the colony, it’s a spectacular feat of engineering, clinging to the cliff face with the lantern gleaming red at its foot. Along with 11 other lighthouses around the Irish coast, Rathlin West Light is now part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland trail.

Opening hours of The Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre vary, check before travelling by calling 028 9049 1547 or contact RSPBNI via their social channels - Facebook or Twitter.

is open from 10am until 5pm every day until the end of September and can be accessed via the Rathlin Trail. Admission is free for RSPB members, £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. Please note that while the main visitor centre is accessible, there is an 89 step descent to the viewing platform and a similar number of steps down through the lighthouse.

Rathlin Seabird Centre

Upsidedown Lighthouse; Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre

For more information about the Seabird Centre visit www.rspb.org.uk/rathlinisland.

Don’t forget there’s a lot more of the island to explore too! For keen walkers, I’d recommend taking on the Roonivoolin trail on the southern arm of the island. This ramble through the RSPB NI nature reserve is home to a rich variety of birds and wildlife, from common blue butterflies to wildflowers, soaring birds of prey to Northern Ireland’s only family of chough.  

wildlife rathlin

Clockwise from top left; View from the Roonivoolin trail, Guillemot. (Andy Hay);  Kittiwake pair (Andy Hay)

Visit WalkNI for a full list of walk trails on Rathlin.

Latest comment posted by Raewyn on August 31, 2018 @ 12:01 PM

Visited Rathlin Island yesterday to see the Puffins but wasn't told they had gone. More information at and on the Ferry would be helpful. Bus refused to pick us up on the island. Not a good ... Read more >

Amy Colvin
Amy Colvin  Media and Events Officer, RSPB Northern Ireland

Originally from Fermanagh, Amy’s love of the outdoors stems from many Saturdays spent fishing on Lough Erne with her dad! In her role with RSPB NI, she regularly has the chance to visit some of Northern Ireland’s best spots for wildlife - Rathlin Island being a particular favourite.

M.A.D. MTB Road Trip

Posted on April 12, 2016 @ 12:16 PM in Mountainbiking

A few of the lads from the Mountain Biking Association of Dublin had been intending to head up North for a while to sample of some Northern Ireland's MTB Trail Centres and so one weekend in late February we decided to pack up the bikes and stuff the car with as many spares and winter clothes as we physically could and hit the M1 on Thursday evening after work.

Davagh Forest Trails

We got up to Cookstown in about 2 hours from West Dublin and checked into the Glenavon House Hotel - a very fine establishment indeed with secure facilities to lock-up the iron horses, rooms were great and beds were comfy and the snoring was legendary.

We settled in for a really tasty dinner and some fine beers to wash it all down. The following morning a full fry-up was in order which turned out to be a perfect start to the day.

Glenavon House Hotel Fry

We hopped into the Super-Super-Party-Party-Venga Bus (actually a Kia Ceed estate), cranked-up the tunes and set-off to our first destination of the trip - Davagh Forest Trails.

I’d raced XC in this venue before and loved the place - it’s a remote location but there’s some really nice fast fun trails, great scenery, and some monster rock-slab sections that wouldn’t go amiss in Moab.

Davagh Forest Trails

The trailhead has great facilities, including a skills & pump track to get us warmed-up, so had a quick rip around those to get the tyres up to their recommended operating temperatures.

Davagh Forest Trails

We were a bit stuck for time/daylight so stuck to the Red grade trails and we were all really surprised how good they were, seriously fast, techy with great flow and features.

Davagh Forest Trails

We were horsing the bikes into the corners to see how much we could push it before ending-up in a heap but the answer was that we stuck to the trails like rails and enjoyed it so much we went back to cover all the various sections of the Red trail.

Then it was time for the drive (1:40hr) to a classic favourite venue - Castlewellan Mountain Bike Trails!

Again, this was a venue we used to race XC in several years ago so we were looking forward to seeing the trails there.

Castlewellan Trails

It had rained heavily just before we arrived so it was damp but not raining so we wasted no time inflating the tyres to an exact 25.4 PSI front and rear and then hopping on the bikes and set off around the lake to the Red trails. We sampled some of the Black grade trails but decided that the Red were a lot more fun.

With darkness fast approaching we managed about 2 hours of trail-time and the well-designed and well-built trails didn’t suffer at all from the wicked weather so plenty of speed and grins to be had as we descended the various sections, horsing-out the big gears and keeping the speed up to such a pace that time nearly moved backwards for us.

Back to the car park and the bike wash did a perfect job of cleaning all 3 bikes in the one wash (we’re cheapskates we know) and then it was off to our accommodation, The Kings Inn in Castlewellan town.

The Kings Inn Doc Ward Photography

We received a very warm welcome from the staff there who secured our bikes in a locked room, we gave the bikes a hug and a pat on the saddle and told them they were mighty trusty steeds etc.. and headed up to our rooms to change into our finest dining outfits and then back down to the bar.

The Kings Inn Doc Ward Photography

We had to admit that the Guinness down at the bar was savagely-good stout, we reckon as good as our local in Dublin where we skid into after a spin: The Blue Light - which is high praise indeed as “The Bluer” pours the perfect pint of black.

If the pints were good then the dinner was even better - top notch food served promptly and freshly cooked - lovely nosh altogether. The staff as mentioned were dead sound and had a good oul natter with us.

Then we headed down the town to where we noticed the chippers outnumber the pubs at least two-to-one, the locals must love their chips!  We never got a chance to sample some of the popular fast-dining but we’d defo recommend anyone who has a penchant for burgers and the like to visit Castlewellan - we’re pretty sure that they serve some tasty fried-spuds there!

The following morning we were served a killer breakfast - again all cooked up fresh for us and as much as we could eat - which is a lot - as we’re fierce savages for the fry-up.

Then, the final trail centre of the trip - Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trails!

Rostrevor

Rossi again was a great spot for biking before the official trails were built and is so much better now with the addition of the ride-in-any-conditions trails as well as all the amazing natural stuff up there.

We got an uplift (ate far too much at breakfast for all that pedalling) to the Red trail and did a shocking amount of posing for some snaps at the famous #KodakCorner with each of us telling the other he looked very rad and stoked and the like.

Kodak Corner Rostrevor

Then, it was time to move pedals and wheels so on we went to the descent and had an absolute blast scaring the bejesus out of ourselves trying to hit every bit of trail as fast as we possibly could.

It just kept going and giving so much fun in return for the pedalling, really enjoyed it.

Steve & myself were on the 29’er hardtails (one carbon, one steel) with the alyaminnyum comprising the heart of the other bikes; Markie on the 26’er Yeti full-suss and Paul on his 27.5 Transition bouncer, all fairly different bikes but all were a perfect match for the terrain because everyone had the same sized grin on their faces at the bottom of the hill.

Rostrevor

Overall, we left Northern Ireland really impressed with the biking scene, trails and facilities. The information provided by MountainBikeNI.com was second to none and gave a great sense of what to expect from all the various trail centres, we’ll definitely be heading back up very soon for more of what the North has to offer.

Big thanks and shout out to Chris at MountainBikeNI.com, the team at Tourism Northern Ireland (Dublin) and Damo from ChainReactionCycles for making the trip a whole lotta fun for us!

Latest comment posted by MTB on July 24, 2016 @ 9:13 PM

Very cool! http://mtbtoday.com/ Read more >

Fergal Kilkenny
Fergal Kilkenny  Dublin-based Mountain Biker

Avid mountain biker from Dublin who enjoys digging trails nearly as much as hammering down them. Like most of bikers my age I'm a BMX kid trapped in an oul lads body but couldn't really care less.

Not to bothered on how rotten the weather is to head out on the bike - except snow, I hate snow, it's a novelty for 5 minutes and that's it. No ideas what age I can keep this mighty biking craic going until but I'll let pretend not to notice when I get there...

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