At some point we realized that all of the kids would be off school here in a couple weeks and everything would start getting super busy. We’d talked about visiting Northern Ireland’s only inhabited island for a while and so we made an impromptu trip to go see what we could find.
The ferry to Rathlin Island leaves from Ballycastle, a nice town on the North coast. You can find timetables on this website. We arrived just in time to catch the next departure and got seats on the roof for our 25 minute journey. Our 2 year old enjoyed the view and waved “bye bye” to Northern Ireland as we sailed away. The baby, on the other hand, must’ve been trying to compete with the wind and waves because he sure was making his voice heard!
Once we landed, we decided to pop in and get some food at McCuaig’s Bar. Arriving a bit before the lunch rush, we had most of the place to ourselves! Any feelings of awkwardness from bringing our children into a pub (totally normal around here) were quickly dispelled by looking at the pub’s only other customers at the time, another family with two young kids 🙂 Our fish and chips were delicious by the way! I should note that there is an ATM inside just in case you need cash.
This is when we stumbled on a nice playground and let our 2 year old run off some steam. Swings, a see-saw, slides, etc made him really happy! There’s even a few picnic tables inside the enclosure so you can bring/eat your own food.
After getting some wiggles out at the playground, we hopped aboard the Puffin Bus for a trip up to the sea bird viewpoint. It was maybe a 20 minute journey and the driver stopped along the way to point out interesting “fun facts”, like the hill that is said to be a viking burial site! Rathlin Island is supposedly the first place in the whole of Ireland where Vikings settled.
We entered the viewpoint through a Visitor’s Centre (they had water and biscuits available, too!) and took some photos of the gorgeous view we saw!
You know that bird poop smell? That’s what filled our noses over here. BUT, it didn’t take away from the stunning panoramic coastline views!! There were binoculars available for use and a kind employee offered a child’s pair to our toddler. He was absolutely thrilled and LOVED “taking pictures” of the birds. All the black and white dots on these rocks show the vast variety of seabirds that the island receives every year. We learned about puffins, fulmars (in the albatross family), guillemots, kittiwakes, and razorbills. I’ve never been super interested in birds but it was fascinating to see so many and ask questions of the knowledgeable staff members.
Instead of taking the bus, there were several groups of people who chose to hike or cycle up to the viewpoint. If we’d had the foresight, we would’ve checked with the bicycle rental company to see if they offered bike trailers for children. Next time we visit I hope we can walk one of the 8 hikes and/or cycle too.
We caught the Puffin Bus back to our starting point and admired the coastline for a while longer. We didn’t see them, but supposedly you can watch seals splashing in the sea during the summer!
We had a wonderful day trip to Rathlin Island and it would be fun to go back! We even saw accommodation; I think this would make a great overnight trip.
After riding the ferry back to Ballycastle, you can round out your day with a Maud’s Ice Cream and more playground time (both within walking distance of the ferry car park!)