Rathlin Island Walking Tours
with Paul Quinn
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October 2008

Other calls on my time mean that my visit to Rathlin this month is a short one Ė not much more than a half day. The time is my own and an informal meeting with a friend is postponed so I roam at will. I decide to walk to Kebble and the road is quiet. The nurse goes past in the opposite direction and, besides that, I see only one other vehicle on the way out. Stonechats are calling from their usual place and are flitting here and there along the boulders in the narrow field alongside the road. The birds of the day are chough. A party of four (parents and two offspring?) are busy prospecting the oats field by the roadside. They donít seem too bothered by my presence at first, so I slowly advance upon them. It doesnít work and they flip over into the next field, where there is a flooded area. One of the birds begins to batheÖ I havenít seen this before. I need to move on and unfortunately this has the effect of pushing the birds out of sight over the edge of the cliffs. Next birds to be seen are also crows. About eight hoodies are making a noise and occupying the fenceposts, and they keep a keen eye on me. I donít return the compliment and on I go.


Often I find my gaze drawn to the area that I am moving along rather than the distance. Mainly this would mean that I see interesting things on vegetation, hedgerows or ditches. But now I check out, just by way of a glance, the tarmac surface of the road itself. Was that a subtle movement a little to my left? Probably only a worm. It seems to be moving in a purposeful fashion and I look a second time. I think it is a leech, but it is a long time since I have seen this animal. It is the same colour as the road surface and it wriggles along, sticking itself at the rear then arching up, releasing at the rear and attaching to the road by a sucker at the front. It measures about 35 mm. Gradually it enters a broad puddle and inches into the murk at the side of the road. It is lost from view, but at least I saw it for a minute or so. When I check it out later, it seems that it is not a medicinal leech (these are rare in the UK) and more likely a type that preys on worms, fish and crustacea. So at least I got by and wasnít sucked dry.


These sightings mean that I change my plan and stop at the camping barn to eat my packed lunch. There doesnít seem to be anyone in the barn. I walk a wee bit further and see that there is a new caravan on the site where a wrecked van lay for as long as I can remember. This is new and I check it out soon after, being nosy. After that I return along the road and continue straight on to Mill Bay for a quick recce before returning to catch the boat back to Ballycastle.
© 2008 Paul Quinn. All Rights Reserved. Additional title photography © Andy McInroy