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16 October 2014

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Antrim Armagh Down Fermanagh Londonderry Tyrone
Portrush Causeway Coast Rathlin Glens of Antrim Slemish Mountain
Rathlin Island clipWatch Video Rathlin Island map


Key Points

A few miles off the north Antrim coast, we come to the rugged beauty of Rathlin Island. It's home to around a hundred people who can trace their connection to it back for centuries.

The seas look peaceful today, but more than 40 shipwrecks lie beneath the waves. They include the HMS Drake, which was torpedoed here during the First World War.

The cliffs of Rathlin, which rise in places to nearly 500 feet high, play host to one of the biggest colonies of seabirds in the UK. Guillemots and kittiwakes nest in their thousands along its coasts. Razorbills, fulmars and puffins also live offshore.

One of the most unusual sights on Rathlin is the West Lighthouse. Its light, which is red instead of yellow, is at the bottom of the tower instead of at the top. It's one of three lighthouses on the island, and members of the public can only view it from the air or sea.

The East Lighthouse has been a friend to passing mariners since 1856. But it also has a deeper link to history. It sits above the cave where Robert the Bruce sought refuge in1306 after his defeat by the English in Scotland. Legend has it that he saw a spider struggling to reach the roof and was inspired by its efforts to return home and defeat the English armies at Bannockburn.

Rathlin is so close to the Mull of Kintyre that its ownership was disputed by Ireland and Scotland until 1617.

Church Bay is so named because St Comgall established the island's first church in 580. Another was founded 50 years later.

Today, Church Bay is a bird watchers' paradise. You can see eiders, ringed plovers and oystercatchers. A short distance along the coast are colonies of grebes, tufted ducks, moorhens and coots.

Rathlin's white cliffs are made from the same chalk, or pure limestone, as those on the mainland. There are also outcrops of basalt.

But what you see here isn't just a stretch of sheer coastline. It's an important nature reserve containing tens of thousands of birds, some of which belong to distinctive or rare species.

The cliffs of Rathlin play host to one of the UK's biggest colonies of seabirds.

The East Lighthouse sits above the cave where Robert the Bruce sought refuge after his defeat by the English in Scotland.

St Comgall established the island's first church in Church Bay in 580.

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