Rathlin Island Walking Tours
with Paul Quinn
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September 2008

I visit the island on two occasions in September. There are cruise ship visits in the diary and I am holding my breath. The visits have taken more than a little organising and I am very much looking forward to the events themselves. But the weather is resistant to being organised. It would be awful if the liner couldn’t visit or the Z boats couldn’t operate because of poor weather.


I travel over to Rathlin the day before the first cruise. Conditions are settled and uniform grey skies. I see lots of Manx Shearwaters. Yes, I could live with that, but what will tomorrow bring? God must be a cruise ship enthusiast for the day dawns blue, calm and warm and it stays that way throughout the visit. We walk around the central area of the island and see curlew, redshank, turnstone and purple sandpiper on the shore. Talking to the visitors, one of whom is from Maine, US, I find out that kelp, an important resource to Rathliners in times gone by, is still harvested and used in the eastern seaboard of the States. She tells me that it is tough and bothersome to work with. I cannot believe how lucky we have been with the weather. I am too late to catch the last ferry and I am not sure whether I’ll be staying overnight or what. I retire to my caravan and inspect the stock of tinned food. Then a call comes through that a speedboat is coming over from Ballycastle and I can get back with them. So that’s what I do and the craic is great.


I do the same thing again, getting to the island the day before the cruise ship. Today is Sunday and the last model yacht race of the season is being held at Ushet. I will be going for a look. Conditions are ideal: a light breeze and warm too. I know the rules of yacht racing by now but I am not a sporty person in any way and this is no exception. So I am content to cheer on the contestants and congratulate the winners rather than follow every nail-biting move. I get a lift back with a friend and collect my bag from behind a wall where I left it earlier in the day.


Monday brings another exceptionally settled day and the CLIPPER ADVENTURER arrives off Church Bay at the appointed time. The walks are a success and I return to Ballycastle on the CANNA together with the cruise’s events manager. Last time the cruise ship remained moored in Church Bay whilst I speeded home. This time it sails soon after the 5.30 pm ferry and overtakes us on the inside en route to Dublin. It is an impressive sight!
© 2008 Paul Quinn. All Rights Reserved. Additional title photography © Andy McInroy