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Yes I know, I know. Rathlin is not Scotland but it's near enough, and such a lovely place should not be missed out, so convenient for stopping off when rounding the Mull of Kintyre. In the not so far off days you just tied up in the inner harbour next to the lovely Georgian Manor House, but now there are pontoons where you are surrounded by eider ducks, with seals very nearby (you will need the Irish Cruising Club Sailing Directions, the Clyde Cruising Club directions only cover Scotland).
It is definitely a place to have a walk around, and not just around the harbour but to one or more of the three lighthouses (three on such a small island must say something about the tides round here). The main seabird nesting cliff is at the west end of the island, the kingdom of the RSPB, about four miles.
Around 140 people live on the island. The houses are almost all fairly recent but here and there you will find some old cottages. The Manor House belongs to the National Trust, but maybe not still, has been refurbished, and is run as a guesthouse, with a restaurant too but not every evening (ph 028 2076 0046). Beside it is a restored barn and above that the remains of the walled garden. Along the road a bit there is a handy play park, an outdoor gym, an unpromising-looking pub/café — McCuaig's Bar — but actually it does good pub grub, guinness too, and is friendly (0208 2076 0011), a small visitor centre and museum in the old boathouse, and a gift sort of a shop. The community runs a small provisions shop in the Manor House itself but this must suffer from the ease with which the local population can take the fast ferry over to Ballycastle with its much bigger shops.
Along the foreshore is St Thomas', a pretty church built in the early 19th century, light and airy, along with its graveyard with a view. The Roman Catholic church up the lane above is quite plain, but has some nice stations of the cross.
Rathlin was where the first commercial wireless telegraph link was established in 1898, by Marconi, to Ballycastle.
And those old enough to remember, will know that Rathlin suddenly became world famous in 1987 when Richard Branson, the only businessman you have ever heard of, managed to crash-land his hot air balloon after his record breaking crossing of the Atlantic.
Why the cardinal buoy in Church Bay? It marks the wreck of HMS Drake, a first world war armoured cruiser. She was coming back from Atlantic convoy duty when she was torpedoed off the North Irish coast by a German U-boat that got lucky. She managed to limp into the bay, hitting a merchant ship on the way, and then get off all her surviving crew before turning over and sinking — only 18 crew died.
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The harbour from above the play park
A lot of lighthouses for a small island
The Manor House
St Thomas' church
The Manor House