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Displaying items by tag: Rathlin Island

Following the announcement to close the Rathlin Island ferry service off Co. Antrim due to "financial difficulty", a new ferry operator has been found to run the route to Ballycastle Harbour.

The final sailing by Rathlin Island Ferry Limited, which ran the route on behalf of the Department of Infrastruture was announced yesterday. This involved an afternoon sailing by the 6 vehicle/140 passenger car-ferry Spirit of Rathlin which departed from the mainland to Church Bay on the island.

The new owner is Dunaverty Limited which will first take over passenger-only ferry crossings from Friday. These 25 minutes crossings will run to a schedule of five return sailings a day.

As for resuming the vehicle ferry service which takes 40 minutes, this will operate once approvals are in put in place.

According to the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) after relevant approvals have been made with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), a resumption to a full timetable of scheduled sailings would commence including the Department’s vehicle carrying vessel, the Spirit of Rathlin.

The new contract announced by the DFI to run the service was welcomed by Charles Stewart of Dunaverty Limited who also owns and operates Kintra Tours.  “I am delighted to have been awarded the contract to operate the ferry service between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle" and he looked forward to working with the Department of Infrastructure on what he described as a "lifeline service".

BBC News NI has more on the development to reinstate the Rathlin Island ferry route serving the 150 populated island which is four miles long and 2 and half miles mile wide on the east side of the island. 

Published in Ferry

The ferry operator which serves Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast has ceased trading due to "financial difficulty".

Rathlin Island Ferry Limited which operates between Rathlin Island and Ballycastle Harbour, in a Directors statement expressed "regret" as it announced that its last sailing (today, 11 January) will depart the mainland at 16.00 GMT.

The company using a fast-craft catamaran and car-ferry, added that an insolvency practitioner has been appointed to place the firm into liquidation.

The six-mile route is where RIFL had operated on behalf of the Department for Infrastructure which Afloat adds awarded a contract to Arklow Marine Services to build a car-ferry. The 6 vehicle ferry, Spirit of Rathlin entered service in 2017.

According to a DFI spokesperson, they were notified on Wednesday that the company was to cease trading with immediate effect.

The closure of RIFL follows strike action by ferry workers over pay and conditions which led to sailings cancelled. In addition weeks of engagement were held between the Department for Infrastructure and the ferry operator about the contract and the company's financial position.

The DFI spokesperson also added that it recognised the importance of the ferry service for the local community.

The Island has a population of around 150 residents.

BBC News NI has more details of the company's closure and response from local politicians. 

Published in Ferry

Ferry workers on the service to Rathlin Island, some six miles of the Antrim coast are to continue strike action this month over a dispute on pay and conditions.

At the weekend, the Unite the Union announced industrial action would be held in January with sailings cancelled on all Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Details of the affected sailings with dates are listed on the operator's (Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd) website. Afloat also adds, the continued disruption includes tomorrow, 10 January which is among 12 days in total nominated with cancelled sailings. The website however states that crew will continue to provide emergency cover to the Island community during the industrial action.

The announcement of further strikes, follows the cancellation of ferry sailings last Thursday on the Rathlin Island (White Church) - Ballycastle Harbour route which can take 25 minutes by fast-craft and 40 minutes by car-ferry. 

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary had called on the Department for Infrastructure to "intervene and ensure workers on the ferry service receive a cost of living pay increase and avoid further disruption".

The Irish News has more to report.

Published in Ferry

The passenger car ferry service to Rathlin Island running from Ballycastle on the Antrim coast have been affected due to industrial action with all sailings cancelled today, 5 January.

Operating the route to Northern Ireland's only inhabited island, is Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd which has advised passengers of the disruption on its website which also informs that their office will remain closed. 

According to BBC News NI, it understands that employees are striking over pay and conditions.

With a population of around 150, islanders are served by Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd on behalf of the Department for Infrastructure.

In response to the strike, a department spokesperson said it "hopes a resolution to the ongoing dispute can be achieved through negotiations between the employers and the union". They added "Emergency cover will remain in place during the strike period" 

BBC News NI has contacted the operator and the trade union Unite.

Usually in January, there are 10 sailings operating per day, with five sailings in each direction and beginning at 08:00 GMT from (Church Bay) Rathlin.

The six-mile journey can take between 25 minutes operating a passenger only fast-craft to 40 minutes using as Afloat adds the 5 car / 1 lorry capacity ferry.

The fast-craft Rathlin Express can take 98 passengers and was introduced in 2009 and the car-ferry Spirit of Rathlin with 125 passengers has been in service since 2017.

Both vessels were custom-built by Arklow Marine Services in Co. Wicklow.

Prior to entering service the newbuild Spirit of Rathlin made a once-off call to Greystones Harbour to carry out vehicle-trials at the slipway.

Published in Ferry

Santa Claus had to make his own way back from Rathlin Island yesterday afternoon (Sunday 19 December) after the volunteer lifeboat crew from Red Bay RNLI were diverted to go to the aid of a fishing trawler.

The 25-metre trawler with six crew on board was six miles northeast of Rathlin Island off the North Antrim coast in Northern Ireland when it requested assistance after its propeller became snagged in nets.

Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby as they had delivered Santa to Rathlin Island during their weekly training exercise.

Unfortunately, it meant that Santa had to take the ferry back to Ballycastle as the lifeboat crew immediately made their way to the trawler and carried out the rescue mission.

As the trawler had snagged its nets round its propellor, the lifeboat crew took the vessel under tow to Ballycastle in a four-hour operation.

Commenting on the callout, Red Bay RNLI coxswain Joe McCollam said: “We were sorry to leave Santa to make his own way home from Rathlin but we knew we were leaving him in very good hands with the local ferry crew.

“The snagged trawler was in some difficulty and the crew were not able to move the vessel. That area can be quite treacherous, and they needed to be brought to a safe harbour.

“Thankfully the lifeboat crew were nearby and able to bring them to Ballycastle. We also heard that Santa had a safe and enjoyable journey back from Rathlin and is looking forward to Christmas.”

Meanwhile, a Glasgow native who moved to Cushendall three-and-a-half years ago and has since joined the lifeboat crew at Red Bay RNLI is preparing to drop everything this Christmas if her pager sounds and there is an emergency at sea.

As the charity launches its Christmas Appeal, Hazel Imrie —who runs a hardware store in the town — is urging people across Co Antrim to help her fellow crew at Red Bay, Portrush and Larne and the thousands of other volunteer crews carrying pagers over the festivities to continue their lifesaving work.

Red Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLIRed Bay RNLI crew member Hazel Imrie with the station’s inshore lifeboat | Credit: RNLI

“I joined the crew at Red Bay in February 2020 just before COVID hit,” Hazel says, “so unfortunately with the pandemic and restrictions, my training was disjointed, and it wasn’t until this year that I could focus on completing my assessments.

“I have always had an interest in the work of the RNLI and I knew when I moved here with my partner, who is from Cushendall, that I wanted to get involved because I could see how integral the service is to a coastal community. I wanted to give something back to the community that I was living in.”

With no prior maritime, sailing or boating experience, Hazel fully immersed herself into the rigorous training involved in becoming a crew member.

“I have valued the support of an experienced team and I have learned so much from others. Everyone has been so welcoming, and the training has been hands on, practical and a really enjoyable experience.”

Now as Hazel prepares for her pager to sound, she says there is a mixture of emotions involved ahead of her first callout: “I am excited but there is also anticipation and concern because you are going into the unknown, but I am also reassured because I know when that call does come, everyone else who turns up is experienced and will support me.”

Like Hazel, thousands of volunteer crew members around Ireland and the UK sign up to save every one from drowning — it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned.

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

Hazel says: “This is my first Christmas on call and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

“We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Rathlin is Northern Ireland's only inhabited offshore island. It has a population of about 150 and lies opposite Ballycastle on the world-famous North Antrim Coast.

Today (9th June) the marina in Church Bay is buzzing with yachts raring to start tomorrow (10th) in the 2021 St.Kilda Challenge organised by Ocean Sailing Scotland, Comann na Mara (Society of the Sea) and the Clyde Cruising Club.

This passage race of almost 200 miles will start five miles off Rathlin, renowned for its strong tides, and finish at the entrance to Village Bay on St.Kilda. The fleet will head out into the Atlantic, keeping the Scottish west coast Islands to starboard, with an option to divert inside if weather requires it. Keeping the UNESCO World Heritage site also to starboard, the passage race will round the archipelago and finish in Village Bay.

St.Kilda lies 40 miles west-northwest of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

The fleet is Golden Fox, Contender, InTuition, Polished Manx, Shenavall, Chorus and Clockwork. After the race, they will move on to Loch Maddy North Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Tagged under

The Rathlin RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) has announced the Rathlin West Light Seabird Centre will re-open on Saturday 29th May in line with the NI Executive's indicative date for visitor attractions. This, of course, may be subject to review.

Rathlin lies about six miles off the North Antrim coast opposite Ballycastle and is reached by the Ballycastle -Rathlin ferry.

The Seabird Centre is four miles west of the Harbour on the site of the unique 'Upside Down' lighthouse. It can be reached by private bus, bicycle or on foot.

There are unrivalled close-up views of Northern Ireland's largest seabird colony and a chance to explore the lighthouse, part of the Great Lighthouses of Ireland Trail. There is a 158-step descent to the viewing platform and lighthouse.

The centre is open daily until 19th September from 10 am – 5 pm (last entry 4 pm).

Published in Marine Wildlife

The good news for lovers of Rathlin is following the latest easing of restrictions by the Northern Ireland Executive, visitors are allowed to travel to the Island from Friday 23rd April.

Rathlin lies nine kilometres across Rathlin Sound from Ballycastle on the north Antrim coast and is Northern Ireland's only inhabited offshore island. The reverse L-shaped island is six kilometres from east to west and four kilometres from north to south. A small 40 berth marina lies in Church Bay on the south side.

Because of its geographical position, Rathlin has long associations with both Ireland and Scotland, and it once lay at the heart of the ancient kingdom of Dal Riada.

Whilst hugely crucial for breeding seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmars, and more recently corncrake, Rathlin Island is also home to a unique 'upside-down' lighthouse at the western end. There are also many and varied walking trails.

Rathlin Ferry

For details and bookings for the Rathlin Island Ferry, contact 028 2076 9299 or email [email protected] between 08.30 – 12.30 and 13.30 – 17.00.

The winter timetable will be in operation until 28th May, and bookings can only be accepted. Information on businesses on the island can be found here

Published in Island News
Tagged under

Portrush RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat launched to reports of a yacht in difficulty off Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland last night (Friday 2 October).

The volunteer crew were in the water just before 9pm, half an hour after paging, and headed to the location of the single-handed yachtsman four miles north-west of Rathlin in moderate to rough seas.

Cox Dave Robinson and his crew arrived on scene at 10pm and established that the yachtsman was able to manoeuvre himself into Rathlin Harbour, on the island off mainland Co Antrim, but requested their guidance.

“The yachtsman did the right thing in contacting the coastguard as he was experiencing some difficulties getting into harbour, and we were glad to provide the support,” said Portrush’s new lifeboat operations manager Beni McAllister.

“We would prefer that people were safe than sorry and would ask that they dial 999 and ask for the coastguard if help is required.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

The Island of Rathlin in the Sea of Moyle off Ballycastle is now open to resident and visiting boat owners and overnighting is allowed. The ferry is also operating.

This popular destination is six miles long, one mile wide, "L" shaped and home to a slowly increasing population of around 140 people. Very strong tides surround the island. The pontoons in Church Bay will take up to 40 visiting boats. Water depth is good alongside but contact the Harbour Master directly for particular up to date hydrographical information.

Harbour Master John Moreton says that “ all visiting vessels must book in advance and will be asked to pre-pay, prior to arrival. This will secure a suitable berthing space and avoid disappointment. Anyone requiring fuel must also book in advance. Visitors are asked to adhere to current social distancing guidance and be aware of other users. Good hand hygiene will be essential, especially around common contact points such as handles and railings”.

A short walk from the harbour is the Boathouse Visitor Centre, where visitors can discover some of the exciting history, learn about present-day island life and see some artefacts from shipwrecks around the island. There are many enjoyable walks including along the shore to Mill Bay where you may see some of the resident seals basking or at play. Cycle hire is another way to enjoy the island or take a bus trip.

From April to July is puffin season so take the opportunity to see them along with many other sea birds.

The Harbour Master can be contacted for bookings at Rathlin on 07724594118 or at Ballycastle Marina on 028 207 68525/ 07803 505084

Published in Island News
Tagged under
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