A loop walk from the harbour at Church Bay leads to Rue Point and the lighthouse, the southern tip of the island. Returning on the Roonivoolin Trail around Ushet Lough the route rejoins the road to return back to the harbour.
Leaving the main harbour at Church Bay the route follows a small tarmac road south, past a number of small lakes and eventually down to Rue Point with its lighthouse. From here the path climbs up along the cliff to join the Roonivoolin Trail before heading inland past Ushet Lough to rejoin the road leading back to the harbour.
It is advisable to book the ferry to Rathlin Island in advance as they can be busy especially at peak times. The crossing takes approx 40 mins.
The highlight of today’s walk has to be the feeling of isolation at Rue Lighthouse and the return along the spectacular cliff path section on the Roonivoolin Trail. There are panoramic views towards the mainland and over to the Mull of Kintyre. The varied habitat offers opportunities to see a wide range of birds such as Peregrine, Little Grebe, Lapwings, Skylark and the rare Chough, as well as seals on the coast.
You will encounter little or no traffic on the road sections on Rathlin Island. There are a few steep climbs and descents on the cliff path at Roonivoolin but most of the route is on the level. Take care on the cliff path, especially in strong winds or poor visibility as the drop is high. If in doubt take one of the signposted wooden stiles over the fence and follow the path a short distance inland to reach the road.
The small town of Ballycastle has a number of shops, cafes, restaurants and bars where you can stock up with food and drink. There are also supermarkets, banks and cash machines, pharmacies and a tourist information centre at the harbour. Most of the amenities are actually in the town centre although there are a few in the harbour area.
There are no facilities on today’s walk once you leave the harbour at Church Bay on Rathlin Island. There is a café, shop and pub, but opening times are variable.
Points of Interest
Situated in the Moyle Sea 6 miles from Ballycastle, Rathlin Island is the only inhabited island in Northern Ireland. It is 6 miles long and one mile wide. With stunning views of the North Coast, Scotland and beyond Rathlin is home to numerous species of wildlife, notably the Arctic Puffin and Golden Hare.
Rue Point & Lighthouse
This rocky point is the most southerly place on the island. It is marked for shipping by an 11 metre high black and white lighthouse built in 1921.
Good boots or walking shoes are recommended as the terrain is variable on this walk. Walking poles can be carried if you prefer, as there are a few steep climbs and descents on the cliff path section. Irish weather can be unpredictable and also wet so it is important to be prepared at all times. Waterproofs should be carried as well as a hat and gloves and maybe an extra layer just in case. In the summer sunscreen is also recommended.