Rathlin Island Walking Tours
with Paul Quinn
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January 2008

This monthís weather has been stormy and travel plans have sometimes proved tricky. In any case thereís only me to worry about since there are no groups coming to see the island. I get booked on the Friday afternoon sailing, but because of the poor forecast, there is no guarantee that Iíll get back the following day.


Not many folk are travelling. The wind is roaring and even before the vessel leaves the slipway, it is pushing from side to side and making grinding noises. Once out of the harbour, up-and-down is added to side-to-side. The rain and spray confine all passengers to the cabin. After what I think is a decent interval, I check for landmarks to determine our progress. It is slower than usual. However, Iím not worried and I have some friends to talk to. There is an invitation to go to their house for a bite to eat, so things are looking up.


The ferry doesnít seem to have any difficulties in docking but I can soon see that things are going to be interesting. Generally I am a foot passenger so I simply walk off. Today I am very relieved to be getting into a vehicle to disembark. The waves are washing around the ramp in a quite unpredictable fashion. If you were unlucky enough you would be wet up to your knees (of course many people are taller than me so they would probably just get their ankles wet). We move off but wait until the driver goes back to make sure that the crew are ok to tie up the vessel for the night. In the glare of the lights you can see the superstructure beating from side to side. But soon all is made safe and we are away.


For the next few hours the food and company are good and I forget about the weather. I get a lift to my caravan at around midnight. The night is black as pitch and I am on my own. Like an Antarctic explorer of old, it is essential that I find shelter without delay. So I am puzzled when I cannot get into the van. What is wrong? Why has the door disappeared? The earth seems to have moved, but not in any sort of nice way. Then the penny drops! The caravan beside my own has shifted in the storm. My door exists but the route to it has disappeared. This calls for some low level balancing and acrobatics, which I manage without further mishap. I get into the caravan and sort myself out, eventually. I make a mental note to be a bit more selective about social invitations in the future.


The next day dawns and the weather has improved. I walk down to the Lower End, where the semi-feral greylag geese are very noisy. There are a few seals at Ushet. Travel back to Ballycastle is uneventful.


The elements continue to play havoc on the island, however, when, at the end of the month, the RNLI lifeboat KATIE HANNAN is grounded when attempting a rescue mission on Rathlin.
© 2008 Paul Quinn. All Rights Reserved. Additional title photography © Andy McInroy