Going to the Birds: A Trip to Rathlin Island

Want to get close to nature? Plan a trip to Rathlin Island, 9.7km (6 miles) off the coast north of Ballycastle. The tiny island is 6km (3 3/4 miles) long, and less than 1.5km (1 mile) wide and almost completely treeless, with a rugged coast of 60m-high (197-ft.) cliffs, a small beach, and crowds of seals and seabirds in spring and summer. Once you get there you'll realize that it's not quite as isolated as it seems -- it has a resident population of 100, plus a pub, a restaurant, and several guesthouses, should you miss the last boat to shore. This is a favorite bird-watching spot, especially in spring and early to midsummer when the birds are nesting. Given that there's little else to do here except to take in the scenery, it's no surprise that the island's biggest draw is bird-watching at the Kebble National Nature Reserve on the western side of the island, and the RSPB West Lighthouse Viewpoint (tel. 028/2076-3948; free admission, by appointment only, Apr-Aug), where you can spot guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills, and colorful puffins.

Boat trips operate daily from Ballycastle pier; crossing time is 50 minutes. The round-trip fare is £11 for adults, £5.50 for children, free for kids 4 and under. The number and schedule of crossings vary from season to season and from year to year, and are always subject to weather conditions, but there are usually several crossings a day. It's best to book well in advance online or by phoning the ticket office (tel. 028/2076-9299;

On the island, a minibus (summer only) will take you from Church Bay to the West Light Platform and the Kebble Nature Reserve for roughly £3.50 adults, £3 children, round-trip. Bicycles can be rented from Soerneog View Hostel (tel. 028/2076-3954) for £10 per day.

For more information, call tel. 028/2076-3948.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.